His wife always saves her best students for last. An illusion, a recital inspiration Edward thinks, to keep eager parents and young students coming to their lessons. Edward listens from the doorway in the kitchen as his wife’s most gifted student strikes the final chord of a Chopin Etude, sustaining it to silence. A small applause begins and restless bodies move away from the piano toward the kitchen. Seizing the interlude before the young piano students rush for the table in the kitchen spread with cookies, candies, and sticky drink, Edward inches his feet along the floor in a Parkinson’s shuffle. He curses this disease that leaves him searching for words, shaking, and dependent on a cane.
The children are fast. They swirl past him, a small school of brightly colored minnows he thinks, carefully dividing around him on their way to the kitchen table. Children are easy and direct, Edward thinks. The parents are another matter. The parents avoid him, gaze past his watery blue eyes and shaking hands to a middle distance uncertain what to say or how to begin. These stillborn conversation pass with awkwardness Edward would be glad to deflect if it were not for the woman, the mother of his wife’s best student. Edward looks for the woman; he dreams about her; he anticipates the gentle, end of evening kiss he knows she will bestow without pity. A kiss, a taste of another life. Inside the tangle of his thoughts, Edward escapes to fragments memory. He is a twenty-year-old Irish man fresh to America, a superman, a lover, and singer of bawdy Irish ballads, a man not yet betrayed.
Edward’s unsteady arm brushes against a glass bowl of jewel-colored jelly beans. He watches from what seems like a great distance as the bowl falls and splinters into shards, skittering jelly beans across the floor. Edward sways looking down. He wants to taste the sweet lemon-yellow jelly beans before they are crushed under foot, but he can not reach them.
“Edward?” Her voice pulls him to the present.
“Hello,” he says, aware of her for the first time, aware of her son across the room laughing with a girl.
“Let’s move you away,” she says. Taking his arm, she guides him back and away from the busy parents with brooms and dust pans sweeping up jelly beans spread across the floor. She tucks his arm beneath hers, beside her breast, and Edward breathes in what is her. He wants to taste her. He wonders what the flavor of this old desire might be. He considers the flavor of loss. Bitter or sweet? She bends in close to him, close enough for him to taste the flavor of delight that is her.