Chopin said it wasn’t raindrops. He meant the A-flat that forms the Prelude's backbone, the steady “tap tap tap tap” that never ceases even as it swells, softens, fades. George Sand heard her lover play this piece beneath a tin roof, the watery “tap tap” of a Mallorca storm competing with Chopin’s sublime non-imitation.
One hundred and seventy-five years later, I am kneeling on a bench, my left ear pressed against the wall. I can hear you playing on the other side. Sleet coats the windows, but the A-flat is warm. It throbs like a pulse, and its heat passes through me. I can feel your heartbeat in my chest.
No. It's not your heartbeat.
It is a word in Chopin’s Polish: “tak.”
It means “yes.”
“Tak tak tak tak.”
I shiver in the drafty hallway. The slatted bench digs into my knees. I imagine the piano that fills the tiny practice room. A radiator whistles. The icy rain hurls itself upon the roof. I can see your face, flushed. I cannot tell what you are asking me. But I answer, softly, “Yes.”
Lucy Alexander is a writer and neurologist who lives near Boston. She confesses that it was her tendency in college to lurk outside music practice rooms, listen, and daydream.