When Music Speaks

Updated: Aug 8

It is quite some time, more like years, since I was in Paris last.

This evening, I’m on top of the world with my husband, holding hands as if we were thirty-three and newly in love. It’s as if we’ve travelled back in time, except for our wrinkled skin which remains evergreen on the inside. The city lights hypnotise me in their darkness and romantic dreams; we are wrapped in gold by the Eiffel Tower and it feels magical, the kind of magic in which acrobats dance with ceilings and ribbons.

I’ve forgotten my camera. I’ve left it at our hotel in the heart of the city, so I capture this evening with my mind and engrave it in the pocket of my dearest memories.

I could stay here for hours, embracing the moment and listening to music. Ah, the music. I love listening to it speak. ‘River Flows’ starts playing, and it transforms me into a piano. The wind flies through my thoughts and I am now holding the remembrance of my second heart, my gut, over my head.

The sweetness of the melody takes me back to my living room, where I spent countless nights writing poetry by the fireplace in the comfort of my broadest imagination, surrounded by low-lit candles alongside the lasting scent of fresh lilies of the valley.

Through the window, the skyscraper lights of London are too far to see and are obscured by a view of painted oak trees, clouds and sky, coloured by the Caribbean sea. I’m comfortably tucked in a corner of England and my soul is always ready to write on nights, with a side of peppermint tea, when the moon shines bright. On a starry night, I look at the stars and look for constellations, and I wonder if the rest of the world can see them, too.

I sit at the wooden desk I bought more than fifteen years ago from a second-hand furniture shop near Archway Station. Next to it stands my piano, patiently waiting to be heard. It took me years to learn how to play, because my poetic nature kept interrupting me by writing words for endearing, unfinished pieces.

But, gosh, those poetry books turned out amazingly. They warmed up like sweet apple pies on a crisp autumn day and baked perfectly four summers later.

They were so ready to embrace my fingers as they touched the piano keys and each word sang along with feeling.

When my niece began singing lessons, she was there to accompany the music, my thousand phrases and the softness of my voice. She had the perfect pitch range from the sound of a tuba to a woman’s voice to a violin and a piccolo. She was, herself, the missing instrument that glued this small moving ‘band’ together, like the beat of drums holding the heartbeat of a song. But, oh, we danced to our own beat, just the way we liked it.

There was one evening when we spent hours practising ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles. Ah, this song! I was in my early adult years when this song was in the mainstream and it soon became a number one hit across the globe. I was lost in life, searching for my career and what made me feel alive the most, learning about the world and becoming the person I wanted to be, chasing my dreams as if I was running to catch a plane or a kite flying in the sky at Hampstead Heath park. This song inspired me to sing sad songs aloud many times when I was home alone, dancing in the kitchen while cooking fresh fish, broccoli and mashed potatoes and it made things better, as I expressed my emotions to my absent audience.

I was brave, you know, not waiting for someone to perform with, I was taking the risk of the neighbours hearing me scream the silent voice that had lived inside of me for too long. And gosh, I began to feel better. But then there was this guy who was a little older than me, whom I met at the fish market on a Sunday. He was quite a man, but his attitude quickly grew into a boy’s after our first kiss. It felt as if I was in love for the first time, his blue eyes were magnetic, but then he disappeared after three dates at the drive-in. I cried for a few nights until his essence fell on me and knocked my love glasses, and then I knew the distance was good for me, so I joined my friends for an evening at Greenwich Park. They brought their guitars, and we danced among the veteran trees in our light blue, straight cut jeans and hippie tops while they sang The Beatles songs. And, finally, there was the light, the summer sunset, appearing over my rainy cheeks.

Grapes and cheese picnics with glasses of strawberry wine. We were thirsty for dancing. We acted like a bunch of kids who ate two chocolate bars in a row before going to bed and looked a bit like fools pretending to be birds as our arms and pirouettes were aiming for the sky, but it was fun and it made us laugh. Gosh, how I felt so much better and fell in love with the picture of that night, along with the following ones.

I suddenly bring myself back to Paris as ‘It’s My Life’ by Bon Jovi starts to play. It’s been quite a ride since we were here last. It’s a beautiful evening. My husband puts his arm around me, and a younger couple next to us tells us how cute we are, us elderly people looking so in love after many years of shipwreck, perseverance, blossoming gardens and true love. They looked cute, too, these two, who kept on debating about where to go next for a drink.

A new song begins to play. My husband and I once danced on this floor of the Eiffel Tower. He takes me in his arms and we dance again for a minute or two as I place my head on his beating heart. And he whispers out loud, Honey, your soul can never grow old; it’s evergreen. Oh, how I love this man. The song skips to a country song I have never heard before, and I ‘remember when’ I put the camera in his backpack before leaving.

Ah, music! I love the beauty it brings into my world. But what I adore about music, oh, what I love the most, is how it makes me remember and how it makes me feel, in the present.

Here I sit in this quiet cafe by the river, admiring the view and taking in the music, now yearning to go home to play ‘River Flows’ with the note sheets inked in the sound of my memory.


Françoise Hélène

*Researchers have demonstrated music helps people recuperate memory.

Inspired by River Flows by Yiruma, Hey Jude by The Beatles, It’s my life by Bon Jovi, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, and Remember When by Alan Jackson.

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