Revenge with a capital R.
Revenge is one of those strong words that carries an enormous bag of emotional suffering. The dictionary describes it: As carrying out a bitter desire to injure another for the wrong done to oneself or to those who seem a part of oneself.
I sat there on the park bench shaded from the hot summer sun by an elegant straw hat I had just purchased. In that moment of time revenge precisely described my emotional feelings. I felt my blood flowing rapidly through my veins as though I had been in a hot steam bath. I looked down at my hands. They were both tightly bound in bandages, I could hardly move my fingers. The treatment had been a long and tiresome process. The doctor told me it would take another month, possibly two months before I would approach any normality in my fingers mobility. They had been badly burnt. Revenge.
I was born in a world of music. My father was a conductor with a modest reputation. This position suited him as he had no ambition of being well known and joining the masters of their profession on world tours surrounded by admirers and clapping hands, No, he was lost in his music; living in a world of sounds that were between this earth and God. I can see him now sit in the shade of the cedar tree in our garden lost in music, intoxicated by the sound. Often he had no idea I was trying to catch his attention. Thankfully, my mother was the musical teacher at the local school and was quite prepared to live with somebody lost in music. So it was only predictable that I caught the musical bug, Although I feel convinced a certain influence could be found in my baby's bottle and early toys that were chosen because they emitted musical sounds. At a very early age I was introduced to the piano. I never question why I wouldn’t like this magnificent instrument. I just did. So began my life as an accomplished piano player. After a few years it became a friend who I could talk to and tell it my secrets, somebody who understood me, where I could travel with to secret places and lose myself. In periods of sadness or happiness it always responded with the appropriate music. My mother told me she could feel the mood of my soul through the piano’s sound when I played.
My younger years consisted of three hours of piano a day. I often gave recitals at my school. Carefully watched and commented on by my father.
I was a good student and had no difficulty in entering a university that was recognised in the musical world. Both my parents accompanied me there for opening day.
Within three weeks I had found my soulmate. I use this word with trepidation as I am sure of its exact meaning. Does it mean a lifelong love for somebody to cherish and protect, or the meeting of somebody who is in complete harmony with your inner thoughts. In my case, my soul mate meeting was that I had found somebody who’s life revolved around music, who understood its meaning, its beauty and how to play an instrument that reflects this. His choice was the violin. The first time I heard him play, I cried. He was an odd young man with long blond hair falling down his back. He always wore a waist coat of many colors with a silk scarf tied around his neck. I am sure the female students found him attractive and handsome. He seemed to ignore them. There was a rumor that he was seeing an older woman that had a house off campus. The day he first heard me play the piano he came straight up to me and asked me if I would have a coffee with him. I did. We talked of nothing else but music, its meaning, its seductive powers, and the road to travel to improve your place in the musical world. I realized he was very ambitious to be considered one of the world’s great violinists. Practice, practice was too trite a reply, the secret was to develop your emotional understanding of the music being played and let it travel down your arms to your fingers. This violinist in front of me having a coffee, was from what I heard, had a very distinct talent.
It was another three weeks before we officially introduced ourselves. His name was Nathaniel and mine was Richard. We spent the afternoon talking about our families. When I told him about my family, their professions and that I was always surrounded by music and came from a comfortable existence. He turned to me and said. “Richard, I have a very different background. My father was a violin maker with a well established reputation. When I was seven years old he had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed for life in his right arm and to a large extent in his right leg. He had to close his business, sell our house and we descended into a spiral of misery. Gone were those glorious days of spending hours with my father helping him in his workshop, learning to play his instruments and listening to music. Now my life consisted of talking about money, helping an invalid and worrying about my mother working all hours of the day to afford my violin lessons that they insisted I had. My mother used to tell me the only thing my father lived for was to hear me play the violin, he knew I had a special talent. My parents are still alive living a modest life centered around me. I came to this university on a scholarship, and with a determined goal of repaying my parents for all those years of hardship they sacrificed for me.” He paused, looked through me. “The cards of life do not always fall in the places desired.”
It was at that moment we both knew we had formed a friendship for life. I extended my hand, and he grabbed it.
During the next three years I saw a lot of Nathaniel, we spent several hours playing together. He played in the university’s orchestra but not in the position of concertmaster, a matter that deeply annoyed him. I occasionally gave a piano recital. I remember after one of these performances Nathaniel asked me a series of questions. “ Do you ever feel a deep sense of anger, hatred, jealousy or a burning desire to be destructive? At first I was taken back by this outburst..
But on reflection I replied. “No to all. I have no reason to.”
He replied. “You play beautifully but in my opinion you would reach another level if you suffered from all those disconcerting emotions I mentioned. At times I have great difficulty in controlling these emotions. I desperately try to hide these outbursts. I sometimes frighten myself with these periods of losing control. That is why I have few friends on the campus. I have a friend off campus where I can freely express myself. Once in control after these black periods I feel my violin playing reaches another level. In fact when I feel a surge of anger or jealousy I immediately take my instrument and play something. It has a great calming effect.”
Our university years ended with a concert, the full orchestra and I played a solo piece. My parents came so did Nathaniel s, his father in a wheelchair. Later that night my parents invited Nathaniel and his parents to dinner. Naturally we talked about the future and possibilities of having a career in music. Both sets of parents were most helpful. It was on that night we, the university students, decided to share a flat together.
It was about a year later when I realized our sharing of the flat was not proving as successful as it appeared on the surface. Nathaniel recently always appeared in a bad mood. He was playing in a well known orchestra in their violin section as a member but not in the prestigious position of first or second string instrument. I knew this irritated him. He was frustrated that he was not more recognized as a truly talented violinist deserving respect. He was having difficulty breaking through the musical world’s glass ceiling. He might have been jealous of me as I was obtaining more and more prestigious recitals. Although we lived together we only had a few friends in common and our musical commitments rarely coincide leaving little time for us to be together.
This particular morning I was sitting in the kitchen having breakfast when Nathaniel entered and said he would have a boiled egg for breakfast. He filled a saucepan and place it on the lit stove. He turned to me and asked me if I had been awarded a place in the concert for the Queen next month.
I replied. “Yes”
I could feel the tension, maybe of jealousy pervading the room. Nathaniel didn’t reply but turned to the stove to watch the water boil. I sat there finishing my breakfast. Suddenly an uncontrollable angry voice said.
“If you are born under a favored star you always reap the benefit”
I put both hands on the table to stand before I gave him my response
He turned from the stove with the saucepan full of boiling water and without hesitating poured the boiling water over my hands. I screamed and fainted.
I woke up to the face of a doctor dressed in a white coat.
Where am I?
In a hospital, your friend brought you here saying he found you in the kitchen. Apparently you had knocked over a pan of boiling water that had split on both of your hands. You are suffering from second degree burns. It's mildly serious. It's treatable but you may have some lasting effect but we will do our best. We intend to keep you for a couple of days under observation. We have phoned your parents.
Where is my friend?
He left once we had contacted your parents.
Tears swelled up in my eyes, the doctor extended his hand to comfort me saying, “It will be alright son we are all prone to stupid accidents,”
“You see doctor, I am a concert pianist. My hands are my livelihood.”
“Oh! don’t worry now we will take special care of you.” He left, giving me a touch on the shoulder.
I lay there in a state of profound despondency. I was not suffering any violent pain, all I saw was both hands were heavily bandaged. But my thoughts for the first time in my life started thinking about revenge and loathing. It saddened me as Nathaniel and I had a deep relationship with music. We had played my happy hours together lost in the sounds we created. Why had he done this diabolical act, jealousy? And why did he tell the doctor he found me on the floor in the kitchen. Do I ever want to see him again? With that thought I fell asleep.
I woke to find my parents there with sympathy, flowers and comments about how careless of you. They had of course spoken to the doctor who assured them I was in good hands and all we could do at this stage is to hope no lasting damage has been done. I am not sure why but I decided not to tell my parents the truth of what had happened. It was my problem and I had to deal with it.
The next day Nathaniel came to see me. I lay there. He stood there. We just looked at each other. I opened the conversation. “If I could, I would get up and give you a big beating.”
Nathaniel took a little time in answering.
“Richard I lost complete control of myself, it was when you said you would be performing at the Queens concert. A powerful surge of savage jealousy rose up in my body. I had only one blinding desire to destroy something, that something was you. I then lied to the doctor to cover up my shame and to avoid getting the police involved.”
He paused, no doubt, to allow me to reflect on his words. He walked over to the window to collect his thoughts. He turned from gazing out over a parking lot and said. “About a week ago I was offered a post as the musical professor in a German University I had no intention of accepting but after my behavior to you yesterday I have accepted their offer this morning and will be leaving for Germany in four days. In the next two days I will cancel the lease on the apartment. I imagine you will want to spent some time with your parents. I feel sad our friendship has ended this way, I am the only one to blame. I will not see you again. Your presents results in a too painful memory. Goodbye, recover quickly the world needs your music. He left.
I lay there stunned by his speech. I was still eaten up by the desire for revenge, but at the same time saddened as I had thought he was my soul mate. As Nathaniel predicted after my two days of hospital life I went home and spent some time with my parents. It took about two months before I could put my fingers on the piano keys. The hospital and home had done wonders caring for my hands. Three months later I had totally recovered from the accident. In fact my fingers seemed to want to express a darker side of human nature. I wrote a piano piece entitled revenge. It was an instant success and put me on the ladder to becoming a world recognised concert pianist.
I was touched, but I had a deep desire for vengeance, when some days later I received a letter from Nathaniel in Germany.
My salute to a Grand Master.
I am happy here and at peace. The dark side of my nature is under control. Your piece called revenge was truly magnificent. It proves the point I made all those years ago.
David Nutt 26/06/2023