By Steve Chang
Hello. Can you hear me?
This is Albert Einstein’s ghost and I’m having a pleasant stay here in Heaven. It’s quite lovely and the view is spectacular.
You might wonder how I have time to record this message or even why I would. Don’t I live amidst perfection? Don’t I drift on clouds?
You could say that’s the problem.
One day I was having a cigarette on the balcony and considering the Theory of a Unified Field when God addressed me.
The voice was pleasant and cast no shadow. Like the light here, it touched all things at once.
“Albert,” she said. “Don’t bother. I don’t even know what makes this place work.”
This was a bit of a surprise.
“But how is that possible?”
The clouds below me churned along, the spangled cosmos shifted.
Then she said, “It’s just been so long.”
What was I to say to that?
On a stepstool, I retired my notebook on the Unified Field to the top shelf of the bookcase. It stood upright for a moment, but fell onto its side with a thump atop my yellowing sheets of Czerny.
You’ll be here soon so I hope you understand.
There is no night here and the days are long. I still play the violin when I feel the need, but in this everlasting light, I feel it less and less.
You know, this wasn’t my first instrument. It’s just the one with which I can live. It was the piano I first loved since, as a child, I heard Liszt in Prague. For years after, I would tinker at my own piano, but in the end I knew I faced an impossible task and quit.
I believe it when God says she can’t remember. It’s like a key that once misplaced just stays that way. But it’s fine.
The program that night was his Transcendental Etudes, a cycle in 12 keys of an intended complete 24, first written by the teen, and revised by the man, and then again as that man grew old.
Yes, his mind was like that.
It might sadden you then that he no longer plays, but if you listen to the final Chasse-Neige, how after the ambitions, heroics, pastorals, and wild huntsmen and kings, there is only scattered flakes and soft drifts of snow, how it settles over us and pats us into place, there, there, as if comforting us or maybe apologizing, you might not feel that way.
When he stood at the end of that night, we clapped loudly. Under the lights, away from the black mass of the piano, he looked so small. We clapped harder. We called for more.
The tiny figure shook his head, his white wig askew, and, from the warm cast of the footlights, limped off into the dark.
Had we let him down?
You might wonder, ‘Well, why didn’t he write the last 12 etudes?’
You can ask him when you see him on his balcony, quietly looking skyward in the everlasting light.
But I think it best you don’t.
I believe it when God says she can’t remember. It’s like a key that once misplaced just stays that way. But it’s fine. You’ve found another perfectly good home. It’s hard to believe that one could forget such things, but if you’ve ever kept a diary, you understand what I mean.
Up there, that is Maria. In our younger days I’d wake in the night sometimes to find her sitting like this. When I asked what she was thinking, she would grow shy and lovely and take me to bed. I was barely a man when we met.
Here, we pass from time to time and nod. It’s so hard to hold on. I can scarcely recall the glow of her skin as she sees herself flicker in a candle flame and ponders, I imagine, eternity.
But ah I’ve drifted again. The mind is scattered to dust. I discussed this once with the good Doctor and Reverend, our Martin Luther King, Jr.
Once, on Earth, he had a dream. Then he saw how things were in Heaven and now he longer dreams.
We laughed at the irony. We are laughing still.
Steve Chang is from the San Gabriel Valley. He now lives in Busan, South Korea where he plays amazing rock and roll. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Cornell University.
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