Spectral looking and fueled by nothing, Ms. Perkins walked towards me and I almost gasped at the condition of her face. Neither sunglasses nor clumps of makeup could cover the discoloration surrounding her eyes. Still, she was as lively as ever as she told me why she needed a ride to the doctor. I see her only about once every two years but I make an effort to keep in contact. Hanks of her grey hair were the only distraction from her shocking appearance and demeanor, which was both dependent and aggresively active at once.
My mother met Ms. Perkins in C-Town grocery store when I was ten years old and seduced her into giving me and my sisters piano lessons for practically free. We didn’t learn until months later that she was a seasoned piano and violin playing prodigy who once had a salable name- Gloria Perkins.
I slogged away at piano; practiced for hours. I wasn’t musically inclined like my younger sister but I was diligent in my studies. By high school I was uncontrollably peeing on piano stools at musician competitions (this actually only happened once) and by college I was playing in church during the spring breaks. My college essay was titled “Gone Chopin for Music” and I even played a few times for friends at my university until one day when a student at Brown made me realize that I was, in fact, not good enough to be playing near a student at Brown.
Ms. Perkins’ feet were always shod in cute shoes (even though the lessons were held in her own home) and she wore broaches that she hand-made. I wish I still had the broach she designed for me. It didn’t stop there. She is also a brilliant painter. The art gene is riddled throughout her body. It really is all she has. I think I remember her referring obliquely about a man she dated but it must not have been a real love since I never caught her looking off into space, daydreaming…missing. She wore makeup, yes. Always wore makeup. But this was not for a man, it was for us. So much so that the one time we went to her house unnannounced, I recall she didn’t even open the door .
She lives in the same house she grew up in. By spurning tv and other gadgets, she tricks herself into living in the past. She often references her performances as if they occurred a few days prior when in fact they were decades ago. Years ago she owned dogs but as they died she replaced them with cats. It was her tawny cat that greeted her at the front door when we returned from the doctor’s appointment.
Despite her grievances, she’ll probably live until her hundreds, I predict. Mostly thanks to her life as a nonsmoker, teetotaler,and as a person so far removed from anything unrelated to the arts. So, when all these gimmicks that we live everyday go the way of the dodo, Ms. Perkins would have known no different as she never paid attention to them in the first place.
” Affairs of the heart come and go, and so do life and death…but music just continues.”- unknown
Ten-year-old violin prodigy Gloria played with the National Symphony Orchestra
Ms. Perkins now (almost 90 years old)