Sunday
Feb022014

The Glass Piano

Rebecca Meacham


 

The Königsbau, Munich, 1848

Q. Tell me about the taste.

A. One winter day Father took me riding. The sky, the pines were blanketed in white: Just for you! Father said. It was our special time. Of all my siblings, I remain unsullied. My gowns, my horse, my skin, all that passes my lips: white. Father sends men to the Orient to fill me up with rice. To your question, it did not taste like the puddings or the barely baked crackers or the innards of bread I smear, like a dog, with the white rinds of cheeses. I must abide my appetites, but after: I would scrub to the bone were it not for the red mess between.

We stopped at an inn. Its whiteness pleased me until I saw its brown trim, insidious as mouse droppings. Father joked: We require repast to weight Princess Alexandra’s belly—a breeze could loft her like a feather to the sky.

It is true I yearn to breathe the purity of clouds.

The innkeeper wrung her grimy apron. She had nothing for me. I shivered at the threshold while inside, Father took his fill. The roof was daggered with giant teeth. Salivating. The filth would devour us. Yet I was valiant. I touched the tip of one great fang. It broke into my hand. The tooth was cold, light: so clean. I placed it in my mouth. A tooth for a tooth, I thought. I crunched, swallowed. Never before had I felt so full.

To your question, that is how it tasted: each key was a cold, clear pain that turned my body into song.

 

Q. But your delicate throat! How did you consume it?

A. It was there, where you stand. I was twelve. A man’s voice, like yours, was asking a question. Pain seized me, the rug bloomed blood. When I looked up, the glass piano was gone, my belly inexplicably burdened.

 

Q. A glass piano in your stomach must be difficult to bear.

A. Quite the contrary. It keeps everyone on tiptoes, peeking in like distant moons. No foul fingers reach to comb my hair. No sausage-sweating servant leans to whisper in my ear. When Mother begs entry, I concede. She worries I will shatter.

 

Q. How do you keep it quiet?

A. How does a lady hush her minuet of footfalls over marble floors? To your question, I step sideways, slowly. I eschew corsets. I withhold. I sit on velvet cushions with the patience of a spider.

How I wish its splendid sound could drown the murmuring mob. Father’s new mistress defiles us. The air chokes me—their smoky torches, her sour skirts, her scent smeared on his beard. Everywhere I turn, drumbeats: Abdication.

Still, its clarity lies muffled beneath my fetid flesh. I cannot kneel, yet I pray: Release me. Let my organs turn to glass, my teeth to ivory, tongue to string. Let my every utterance become a note of grace. Let my clamors crystallize. Let me open. Let me play.