Her fingers moved so rapidly over the piano keys that sometimes they fluttered into a web like the gossamer of hummingbird wings. She would play Debussy and Chopin, but her favorite was dramatic Lecuona. I want to play like that, but I would rather be writing. She practiced for eight hours a day. Luckily, my grandmother would cook while she coaxed those sounds out of the piano. That was my mother. She was the real thing. I never saw her eat.
I couldn’t write because I was not supposed to be smart enough, but I did it anyway. I wrote about far away places and fairy tale castles while my mother played. Then, the day came when the hurricane arrived. We were so scared. We didn’t know what to do so we put plastic tape on the windows and waited. It arrived at about 2 o’clock in the morning. Why did those crazy freaky storms always arrive at night? We hid behind the piano while the loud wailing winds whooshed behind the house. It would stop and I would ask if it was done. My grandmother and mother held onto my shoulders. They had the fear. I remembered that my cat was outside, but my grandmother said that she was safe. Animals always knew where to hide.
The water from the hurricane sloshed against the windows after the winds let up. I fell asleep in their arms. When I woke up, I knew that they had not slept. The hurricane had passed through Miami and destroyed a bunch of homes, but ours was fine. Our piano, German in construction, had held up pretty well so that my mother could play French music. She did. Her nails were always kept short.
She died in my arms with a fresh manicure. There was no music at her funeral.