I suspected my music tutors were psychiatrists in disguise. It was all in code, Mrs. Osborne’s idea. They told me,
“Slide to extended fourth.”
The cello’s neck choked me; I never held it right. The Tuesday tutor would twist me like armature wire, and I would stifle discomfort. Their corrections meant other things, that my manners were out of place, that I had poor taste in company, that my posture had curled up like a broken string. Somehow, without me having said a word, they knew I had dreams of other boys in class, that I imagined their hands tuning my own.
Mrs. Osborne would stand in the doorway, hand crossing the air to the music. She would shake her head on each mistake; that wasn’t it, I would try again. The tutors said,
“You can make mistakes.”
“Music is forgiving.”
“With practice, you improve.”
She always would be in that doorway; I stopped facing that way so I wouldn’t know, but then I imagined it. She must have watched me sleep too, noted on the murmurings as I dreamt, and passed them along to the tutors. Each song I played was likely of her choosing, the minuets of families, she thought, each note paired in the familiar way. Mrs. Osborne was not an experimental creator, and we, her children, would be perfect. “He will get in the way of practice,” she said, when I befriended a violinist. The tutors, they said their codes, their corrections. Mrs. Osborne wouldn’t admit any mistake.
I never saw the violinist again, so I played, once, facing her again, and let my arm dip to see her scowl. I smiled at the Friday tutor, trying to show affection for his guarded face. Mrs. Osborne ran forward, intervening,
“Bow straight, bow straight, bow straight.”