Each morning, Nick listens to Grieg’s Morning Mood, en route to the coffee shop where he tries to write and convey people’s perfidy and lunacy (drunk fathers and divorce are favorite subjects), to find his place among writers and artists. He is a self-proclaimed dark soul who dissects people’s skeletons (“I profit from people’s idiocy,” he proclaims). Grieg, though, fills him with something which expands. It is like a beautiful balloon blown up, taking to boundless skies.
He came across the music browsing on YouTube, trying to satiate his need for music to write by, a respite from the present. He listened to it once, then twice, seduced slowly by its vast peacefulness.
Now he listens daily. He listens to it at night too, sometimes, but in the morning, it seems so apropos.
Nick could listen to darker pieces (he adores the brooding qualities of Tchaikovsky, the tinkling moroseness of Debussy). The truth: He needs these four minutes of reverie. His stories don’t satisfy him and he has to deal with his father’s verbal fusillades. He is always criticizing Nick for being too weak, wasting his life on writing, not being lecherous enough. Fusillades that strike Nick with force. Then there are the people who dart around him. Ignoring him.
Walking towards the coffee shop, headphones planted in his ears, Nick lets himself drift. He is metamorphosed with the opening, the softness song of flutes, oboes. It is an opening which conveys tenderness, the beauty of the earliest morning. It’s fitting, especially on mornings when huge puffy clouds that seem to smile, further invite him into a dreamworld.
The music rising slowly, slowly, makes him see beauty in the little houses, in their sloping lawns. They convey welcome, exuberance, a proof of living. Small frame houses, redbrick houses with columns and sloping lawns all line the street, all quiet it seems, even if this is all an illusion, and families are fighting for love, affirmation, over spills and trivial things. Nick will not think of this. He even finds beauty in that one yellow house with its barren brown lawn and car in the middle of the yard, the one that looks like a drug dealer’s headquarters.
The music’s rise in his ears makes him look towards the mountains, shapes mysterious and glorious. Flutes, oboes, and strings converge, making him think of love and communion, of the past. Walking up the street, he often thinks of Grieg finding his success amongst the tumultuousness, Norway not yet an independent being. It makes him think, briefly, of people who see the world coldly, people like his father, and in this moment he almost regrets what he writes, how he lives.
The music also conjures images of a new person. A person who can smile, laugh, interact. Create beautiful things. He imagines being able to respond to a world that has taken, abide the darkness, his father’s phone calls, the sense he is losing out at thirty, unable to achieve. Of course, this is quixotic, foolish, but in this moment, anything is possible.
Nick loves when the music rises to a crescendo, the sun breaking through. He feels like dancing on the sidewalks. He is usually walking past the drug dealer’s house at this point in the music. He imagines bad things being vanquished by the sun, the clouds, father’s words enveloped by air. Recovering the things that have been taken.
Nick absorbs the whirl of the morning in this brief crescendo, looking up and down the sidewalks. He absorbs students moving towards classes, students who smell of pot and sweat. They talk to friends, uttering unheard, mysterious words. Cars rush up the avenue, all with their own contentment. Nick wonders how these people see the morning, if they find some semblance of peace before they are labeled by society, professors’ red pens, jostling each other in hallways of Stalinist looking buildings. Nick wonders how they see him, lost in this little world. He hopes that they see someone happy, not cynical, swallowed by self-pity.
This dream evaporates, the music softens, all too soon. Nick is left with much in front of him, weight of his legs heavy. He enters the coffee shop. Yellow walls glare, people hunched in front of their computers, scowling, wearing weariness like an old shirt. Police sirens wail nearby. There are more rejection emails and calls from his father waiting, things that will ground him in the morning, remind him of what he lacks. Love, success, so much.
The early morning mystique will fade into the hot, annoying midday skies. But even then, he knows that he can insert the headphones again, morning after morning, and find this small joy, which the world cannot and will not deny him.