I never asked to be discovered.
They kept me buried out of sight.
Though mystery lay before me uncovered,
heaven and earth could not unite.
Leon of SolitaryThinkers, January 2015
Music was my first and biggest calling.
I was four years old.
An uncle brought me for my birthday this children’s keyboard piano, the most promising present I ever received. I slowly unwrapped it, carefully took it out of its box, looked at it for a while wide-eyed with my heart pounding in my ears, and then hugged it in mysterious recognition, like it was whispering to me the most beautiful future magic. I still remember its pungent plastic smell that day; it was a rather primitive electric instrument, even by 1974’s standards, but what a revelation those next days were; a blissful one for me, an annoyance they just had to put up with for my troubled parents. The explosion of my father’s physical health problems (his mental ones had been long there) was only four years ahead, and my mother’s only ten. Without having taken any lessons, without having seen anyone play any instrument in front of me, I started rendering correctly whatever music was being heard from our black-and-white television set; with only one hand, but nailing the notes, duration, rhythm, everything with just a little experimentation. As soon as they switched off the TV, I went on playing variations of what I had heard and trying melodies of my own.
Two floors down from us in our apartment building, lived a famous pianist. This man was an internationally acclaimed classical conductor, a composer for piano, violin and voice, and also a music educator who promoted many talents during the latter half of the twentieth century here in Northern Greece. Moreover, he was a friend of my parents, but only until he discovered me and got discreetly kicked out of our lives.
His practicing for his concerts always gave me the goosebumps in our neglected apartment where I was kept caged until my thirtieth year. Especially in the summertime when all windows were open, our whole neighbourhood was flooded with his majestic grand piano sounds that made my heart soar and sink at the same time. My parents would look at me sideways, hating my overflowing emotional world, hating themselves for not being able to control it. I didn’t care. My mother always saw red with this, to the point of physically assaulting me to rip passion out of my soul, but she only got tufts out of my head. Without ever moving to strike her back, which for her was but an even more infuriating sign of egocentric defiance, I let her have her way and walk away snorting and swearing with my hair clenched in her fists and limping with one shoe because she had hurled the other one at my face, while I continued breathing in with relish and despair this maestro’s virtuosity goldening up the stifling mellowness of the seaside city summer evening air.
I was four years old.
A few weeks after I had unwrapped my uncle’s magical present, this short man with the intense eyes who was a bundle of passionate, restless energy like me although he was exactly my broken father’s age, almost half a century older than me, happened to drop in fleetingly to let my parents know about the developments on a practical issue regarding our building. They were done discussing it very quickly, and he was about to leave, when …
What is this?
Just as he was reaching for the door out, he stopped in his tracks. He hadn’t realized I was there and he didn’t ask my parents anything, only gave them a rhetorically inquisitive look as he rushed tiptoeing with a raised forefinger towards the source of this melody that had just started coming from my room.
He didn’t enter; he just stood there frozen behind me for a minute, staring at this kiddie sitting with his back to the half-closed door and improvising on his simple keyboard like nothing else in the world mattered. My parents saw him frown in approving concentration, his fingers twitch like they were already guiding mine, and when he slowly returned to them and finally broke his silence, they heard him announce to them solemnly that no time should be wasted in promoting this great talent, that he is taking me under his wing in his conservatory as soon as possible, during the next few days.
“Alright Yorgo, thanks. We’ll see”.
He moves away reluctantly like an angel who feels that he will not be allowed to guard a soul in need, our apartment door closes behind him as he enters the old squeaky elevator, and my mother goes “Whaaat? My son; MY son will be touring the world giving concerts before he is even ten? Over my dead body!”
So it was me who had to die. A karmic enemy of hers I was, incarnated into that pious society to be considered by her as an absolutely essential, eternal child for her maternal role; her only role. Her husband didn’t allow her any work outside the home; my father’s income was more than enough. His mother, sister and aunts, none of whom he was on peaceful terms with, were all holders of piano diplomas with distinctions, but he himself could play nothing but a few tunes, although he had spent years studying the piano himself.
They did have to keep up some appearances and prove themselves worthy as encouraging parents, but they resisted manically, although the music would not die in me. Three years later, I was accidentally discovered by two scouts for a choir, who came one day and tested the voice of every child in my primary school. They chose only three children, me and two others. Those were enrolled in this choir and started touring Europe, I never.
Six whole years after that first hysterical “Whaaat?”, when I was already ten and no concert pianist or singer, but at least over my constant high fevers, they took me to this unofficial music school behind our neighbourhood’s church, where a few Christian musicians were offering free lessons to the disadvantaged, late in the evenings. I don’t know how this decent-looking couple managed to squeeze me in there by convincing people that they were unable to spend a dime for me. The person who was offering piano tutoring to a whole group of five or six children two times a week, was a bored middle-aged fellow who each time sent one of us kids to fetch his dinner in a plastic bag from a dirty nearby restaurant, and spent half of our time in that bleak room with the vertical piano chomping on his really greasy and stinking raw-onion-stuffed gyros pies over our heads. I showed no enthusiasm for those horrible lessons, a year of them was all I could take, and that settled it for good: my parents triumphantly announced to their supposedly-because-of-me ever-shrinking social circles that I had no interest in becoming a musician whatsoever or a social being at all for that matter. So I died again at eleven, I started denying food and didn’t even want to enter adolescence. Plutonia, whom I would meet more than a decade later, was going through very similar oppressive experiences all along in her equally destructive non-family.
I am forty four now.
I honestly don’t know where these decades have disappeared. The constant struggle for bare survival is such a draining business, and I have suffered too much with the suppression of my creative potential, not only in music, but in writing, too.
I would have suffered even more in some respects if I had succeeded. With this highly charged profile of mine, my absence of any clear limits between my psychic energies and those of any environment I am moving in, I would have completely lost myself in the expression of my gift and the admiration of others, I would have become addicted to all sorts of substances against my quite ascetic profile, so I guess I am grateful to my parents and all their severe internal issues in retrospect. All problems are here for a reason, I mean it and I know it is true, I am not saying this to console myself or any heart sister or brother who has suffered or is suffering in similar ways as you read this. We have all landed in this world for a while to tread a heavy educational path. My mother left this world twenty, my father fifteen, this maestro five years ago. I am still here, and without all this pain, I don’t think I would have unfolded as a person with any worth mentioning level of understanding for the pain of others. I am using a keyboard right now, it’s not a grand piano’s and I cannot make a living even with translation or writing anymore, but you blessed people do listen to my deepest soul, and this fills me with a gratitude I cannot contain.
Still, I fail a lot in expressing it. I would so love to connect more with you and really listen to you and start writing healing poetry with you, but our lack of prospects and a host of hostile circumstances show no intention of letting us continue being here. We cannot make it without a lottery win, as ridiculous as this idea seemed to me when I was younger and thought I lived in a Western country where I could succeed based on my efforts and unfolding abilities. Our running on empty with Plutonia is unbearable at times, and it gets too hard for me to muster whatever will is left in me to stand by her strongly enough. She too is losing hope, because we are getting more and more abandoned after the curiosity of her German relatives was satisfied. They too are tortured people in their own internal ways, and they cannot possibly pay off our debts and drag us up to the heart of Europe as long as we don’t have any money of our own. A little more on these non-developments [here].
So please forgive me beloved friends when I disappear or appear unavailable. My loving thoughts are always with you, I cherish each one of you with all my heart and this blog belongs to you, too. I am deactivating comment moderation so that at least you can be hearing from one another as soon as anyone posts here. Please be very kind to yourselves and know that whatever you are feeling or not feeling, you are never, ever alone. Please follow your heart’s passion knowing that energy never gets lost, and that each one of our dreams we cannot realize here, is stored safely in the aether for another time and place. I keep on passionately working for this time and this place. Hang in there everybody. I love you.
Enjoy the gloriously uplifting sadness of my fellow Leo Sun singer Tarja, and always fare well on your blessed journeys which are also parts of mine.