Maybe I'm Amazed
By Simon Barget
The next module was art but I never really knew what we had one lesson to the next. I was busy watching all the girls; I was watching some of the guys too, making sure they weren’t getting too close to the girls really. I was jealous and suspicious of their closeness. It was quite amazing the speed with which I could go from really liking Ethan Grant, thinking he was such a cool dude, to being triggered and salty that he had overstepped the mark with Carly and the other girl whose name I forget. When I tried to get a closer look at the guy who was with Carly, they leaving the class together, getting along stormingly well, shoulder to shoulder, because I couldn’t initially see who it was, it was almost like I couldn’t believe it could be him since: didn’t he owe me his loyalty, and didn’t this mean some unspoken agreement that he wouldn’t go after the girls I had my eyes on. I mean he must have known who I liked because wasn’t it obvious? And they seemed so ensconced in conversation to the detriment of the rest of us, oblivious to us all, and that happiness was my pain, and they seemed so grown-up, and I was so left out, but yet the longer it went on, the more I felt I had to intervene, and quite pathetically, like a child, I tried to get Carly’s attention, but not in an overt, sensible way but in a more, obtuse, cryptic embarrassed way, I started saying things at a volume she would only just about be able to hear, but then as I said them I convinced myself that she certainly could hear them and when she paid absolutely no attention, I felt even more hurt. I had somehow pulled myself out of the equation.
There was also a bit of me in all this that was trying to mould and secure my position as one of the cool kids, but when I saw Carly and Ethan and a couple of other too leaving that classroom arm-in-arm all grown-up and full of camaraderie, my bubble had been burst and I felt small and let down. I say this because you can’t underestimate the importance the pecking order exerted on me, how I was constantly monitoring where I was, how much of my energy was directed towards being popular and cool.
I am ashamed by how much I continued to try and get back what I felt I had lost as far as Ethan and Carly was concerned. I felt dropped by Carly, like I’d fallen from a great height. I wandered down the corridor from one classroom to the next, not knowing where our next lesson was, happening to walk into one of the really big classrooms on the main corridor, and then finding that people were announcing that this was art class, and that when they did so, it seemed to ring a bell that I did in fact have art next.
The teacher was Lolly, enigmatic, well at least that meant he was easy-going to the extreme, a bit facile sometimes in the way he seemed to want to emphasise how laissez-faire he really was, but underneath it all, a nice guy. He had a pony-tail in that ugly style that was fashionable for a time in the ‘80’s. I mention him because I felt slightly better when I laid eyes on him, I remembered how I had a talent for art, and I wanted to do it and learn it, but then I have to admit that the thought entered my head that if this was art, then I’d have an opportunity to get back on Carly’s good side, that I would be able to impress her and that I wouldn’t have to continue to face this situation of her being close to Ethan or at least seemingly not remotely interested in me.
Settling down in lessons was always sporadic. There were always people shuffling and standing, not enough chairs, no one knowing where they should be sitting. I got my art stuff out. I had a big sheet of A1 paper, I had some pastels, I had my fabric pencil case but before I could even set them down at the table I must have heard music because when I next looked up I saw a keyboard right at the front of the room, which room now seemed to extend far further forward than I’d once thought -- it was more like an ampitheatre now – and people were taking turns to play their best piece, to show off what they could do on the piano.
It was an amazing turn of events. I had forgotten about music completely and had to do a double-take, but I was such a force at piano, and this would be my chance, Carly would be blown out of the water and not only that, I’d get to play in front of quite a large audience, none of whom even knew how good I was.
The weird thing was that the first people who played, played the very tune that came to my mind. One played that berserk Liszt Etude that starts with arpeggios streaming all the way up and down the piano, the next played a sweet Beethoven Solfeggio my sister used to play. They started convincingly enough but as they continued I saw that they were at that level where they might have had lessons up to a certain point, say age thirteen, but at some point had hit that perennial block, had been unable to go deeper, unable to conquer it, trumped by the difficulty of it, so that what they played was littered with half-pressed notes played too quickly, played rushed so that they could get it over with as quickly as possible.
The really weird thing though was all these students suddenly crawling out of the woodwork able to play a bit of piano.
I had in mind to play something contemporary since it had been a long time that I’d played a classical piece. As critical as I had been of the others, I didn’t want to put myself in the same boat, I understood how well a piece could be played, but it had been so long since I had that I would never have been able to give an accomplished performance or at least one that gave account of how good I actually was. I decided that I would play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Wings and that I would sing along as I played it, yet almost as soon as I had made this determination, a guy sat down at the piano and started to play it, not only was he singing along and playing it exceptionally well, he was performing it in exactly the same way I would have done had I been sitting there in his place, playing exactly the same chords and notes, modulating his voice in the same way. If anything, he was better than I would have been, his voice, clearer and more precise.
I had mixed feelings. The wind had been taken out of my sails but I was also quite moved by his rendition and I felt compelled to run right up to him at the front of the hall to congratulate him. Perhaps there was something controlling in my behaviour, a part of me that wanted to make sure he knew I held dominion over the piece and that it was under licence only to him. In any case it was quite a distance to get there, and when I did, he was already making his way back up one of the flights of stairs on the other side of the auditorium so that I had to run just to catch up with him. I kept calling but he didn’t turn round.
At the last moment he did, with a very bizarre discomfiting look on his face. He did not look the same as I imagined he had done having seen only his rear. From the back he had been just a grey middle-aged man, he had had greying hair, clearly visible from my original vantage point, white-skinned certainly, perhaps with a tiny bit of youth creeping out from something in his posture, from the way he had his shoulders lifted, or the way he made subtle jerky movements in time with the music. But when he turned round to me I was surprised to find he was not only young and vibrant and black, not very dark-skinned but black nonetheless, but that he looked like a R&B star, he had a thin, lizard moustache, his eyes were glinting, his skin seemed polished and aglow, he was wearing some sort of black and silver space-like jumper, and when I tried to congratulate him, instead of receiving my praise with good grace, he made these bizarre unrelated facial expressions, exaggerated expressions that made it seem like he was high or drunk, or even like he was mocking my praise, mocking me ultimately, until all of a sudden he grabbed me by both shoulders and tried pulling me close.
“You’re a good looking guy,” he kept repeating.
Although admittedly a little buoyed by this confession I was far more discomfited by the fact that he was coming that close to me and riding roughshod over my original intention completely which was to discuss his use of the song. I’m not sure which of the two irked me more I had not expected that the person to know and sing the song I had chosen to sing was not one bit like me. I was taken aback that he was completely different, that our sensibilities didn’t match one iota, but I managed to pull myself away and slope back to my seat before deciding now what I would perform.
I was seriously thinking of just going ahead with ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ for the hell of it. The problem was I couldn’t think of anything I knew as well as it that I could sing along to. But I would have a few moments to reflect on it before it was my turn and maybe I’d come up with something.