forbidden music.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

It’s late when I leave the library tonight. By the time I finish writing and gather my notebooks together – stuffing them inside my backpack – the moon is out, the streetlamps are on, the campus is quiet. Pulling my scarf close to my skin, I hurry along the street, towards the coffee-shop where I’m meeting a few classmates to discuss a literary journal we're putting together.
               
It is freezing. A woman waiting at the bus stop in front of me tries to light a cigarette. She shields the flickering flame with her cupped hand until - a flash, a flash – it’s lit. The smell of smoke winds towards me as I turn the corner, heading down the hill towards George Street. Red and white lights from cars speed past. Their reflections bounce onto, and then slide off, the black walls of the building on my right.

 
Men's voices, a little way behind, on the other side of the street, start shouting – swearing at each other. Instinctively, my fingers fasten around the phone in my pocket. I start to walk faster, trying heat up. But this air is icy. From the train into Glasgow this morning, I noticed snow on the mountains, and now my knuckles are stinging. My nose is stinging. My neck.

It’s because of this – the cold, the creepiness, the dark etc – that, when I see the lights are still on in the building beside me, I move towards the door and – pushing it open, my wrists clicking a little with the weight – slip inside. Warm air on my cheek. Dim yellow light. The door swings shut behind me, muffling the sounds of the street.


This building – I start walking again, slower now, not feeling such a need to rush – joins into one of the oldest buildings in the university. I walk past the front desk – it’s empty – down a small flight of stairs, through a set of double doors, and I’m here: the Royal College. 

Stone staircases, marble tiles, stained glass windows, peeling wallpaper – this building has always been my favourite in the university, because of the stories it seems to whisper at. If I go down enough levels, if I take the right turnings along its labyrinthine hallways, I know I can leave the building on the ground floor. That’ll take me out to George Street, and keep me out the cold for a while. Brilliant.


I start heading down a long corridor lined with dark blue lockers. My shoes squeak as I walk. The lights seem duller than usual. I glance behind me, biting my lip. Usually there’s the sound of footsteps in this building, the conversation of cleaners, the odd “mad-scientist”-looking lecturer darting about in a white lab coat. But – I check the time on my phone – the place is deserted. I’m starting to wonder whether I’m even supposed to be in here this late when, all of a sudden, I hear something. I stop walking. I listen, frozen to the spot.

Music.

There is music coming from a room close by. I hold my breath, trying to catch the sound. Piano music. It keeps stopping and starting. Someone seems to be practicing. All thoughts of ‘am I allowed to be in here?’ vanish as curiosity takes over. Where is it coming from? I start walking again – my heart beating a little faster – moving in the direction of the song, following its sound. It leads me along a narrow corridor and up to an enormous wooden door.



I tiptoe closer, vaguely aware that if someone were to catch me, to open the door suddenly and - blinking, furrowing their brow - find me, lingering here, I would be stuck for words. I wouldn't know what to say, how to explain myself... 

I put my ear close to the wood. It’s definitely coming from inside this room. The door is ajar, and I peek through the crack, trying to see inside. I can’t see much: a high ceiling, a balcony, wooden floors, long rows of desks laid out. It looks like it’s set up for an exam. In fact - a memory triggered - I think I had a Victorian Literature exam in this room a few winters ago. But I can’t remember there being a piano in the room. I still can’t see it. The musician remains hidden.

I stay here, in this dark hallway, for quite a while. A line of yellow light slipping out from the doorway, landing on my shoe. A warm glow growing inside my chest. I stand here, just listening. Just being.


When I head back out into the night, I can’t seem to stop smiling. The cold doesn’t seem so biting. The dark a little less ominous. I can’t put my finger on what it is about this small discovery that has made me so happy. But that’s how I feel. Happy. Quite inexplicably happy.

It feels as though I’ve stumbled across something important. Something beautiful. Something secret.


(*p.s. A tiny clip of the music is meant to appear above these words. If you're reading this on mobile, find it by clicking: here. 

Pictures by Yelena Bryksenkova. The dreaminess in her pictures kind of links in with the words...)



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