eastwind journals – June 4, 2021

By Bernie V. Lopez,

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(This story was inspired by an anonymous Internet article.)

Ivan, a Croatian cellist with long hair and shabby clothes, dragged a cumbersome cello to a busy Zagreb subway station and started playing. People rushed in and out ignoring him.

He played at the same station every day, ignored all the time. He started playing for himself. He played his favorite tunes continuously, not caring if someone was listening. One day, Vladi, a 12-year-old boy and his mother, watched him from across the other side of the track. Vladi screamed at Ivan to get his attention, then waved his hand. Ivan waved back.

Vladi ran to Ivan at the other side of the track without his mother. Without a word, he listened as Ivan played his favorite tune. The cello ‘wept’ in a haunting love song. The cello being a powerful instrument, could fill the cavernous subway station from end to end, even without any microphone or amplifier.

VLADI – (After the tune ended.) Wow. Nocturne, by Borodin.

IVAN – (Surprised.) Hey, how come you know the tune?

VLADI – My mom is a music teacher. She plays classical everyday until it’s oozing out of my ears.

IVAN – Do you know Meditation from Thais.

VLADI – By Massenet. Love it. I see myself in the beach, walking alone at sunset.

Ivan plays Massenet. The cello groans and moans. Vladi starts to weep. For one hour, the cellist does a solo concert for the boy.

VLADI – Ooops. I gotta go. Mom’s waiting. See you tomorrow.

Next day, Vladi brought a portable chair. Everyday, Ivan played for him for an hour. A few times, an old man or a young girl would linger for a few seconds. So Vladi had an idea. He brought a hat the next day and started getting coins from passengers, who were polite enough to give even though they did not listen. Before he left, he opened the cello case, and poured about two kilos of coins in. Every day, that was this ritual of hat and cello case.

VLADI – I told Mom I want cello lessons. Will you teach me?

IVAN – How can I say no?

VLADI – (Coming the next day with his own cello.) I’m ready for the lessons.

IVAN – (Inspecting Vladi’s cello.) Hey, this is pretty good, the expensive kind.

VLADI – Mom is filthy rich. She wants me to play in a symphony someday.

So, right there in the subway, he had his lessons. For the next few months, he was learning fast. Regular passengers still ignored the impromptu music school, but they would drop a coin when Vladi waved at them.

IVAN – (Handing Vladi a brand new bow.) I brought you a gift. Your bow is no good, a cheap kind that is not worthy of your first-class cello. Try this one out.

VLADI – (Trying it out.) Wow. Makes a lot of difference. This must be expensive.

IVAN – I gathered all the coins we had to buy it.

VLADI – I’ll pay you back. As I said, Mom is rich.

IVAN – Nah, no need. I am rich too. (They both laugh.)

VLADI – (With his Mom the next day.) Mom, meet Ivan.

MOM – (Utterly shocked.) Hey, I know you. You’re that famous cellist. What’s your name?

IVAN – Rovodov, Mom. You’re son learns so fast. He is now ready to play in public.

MOM – Vladi, you have the best cellist in the whole of Europe as your personal teacher.

IVAN – (Handing her two concert tickets). I have something for you, Mom.

MOM – Tickets for your solo concert. Wow. Front row seats. Full symphony orchestra backup. Wow.

VLADI – Very expensive seats, Mom. Thanks, prof. (He offers a give-me-five.)

And so, this shabby cellist with long hair, ignored by busy subway people, playing his cello that moans and weeps, gets a standing ovation in a jam-packed hall. For his finale, he calls Vladi from the audience.

VLADI – Mom, I’m scared.

MOM – Go, you idiot. Golden opportunity, son.

Mom drags a resisting Vladi towards the stage with a roar of applause. They play Borodin’s Nocturne flawlessly together. Ivan would signal when it was Vladi’s turn for the solo. Another standing ovation. Vladi tells the audience Ivan was teaching him in a subway station. Next day, they hit the headlines. They never return to the subway station in fear of being mobbed. Vladi becomes the youngest cellist in the symphony.

By Bernie V. Lopez,

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Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo U) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.


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