C Minor Means I Love You
Ink stained Johannes’s right hand as it glided across each staff, placing veins of musical chords around skeletal rests, and the writhing muscles of crescendos, decrescendos, and repeats. A being emerged full of life and vitality to dance in his mind and bring pleasure to his ears. The darkness broke only to candlelight, moth wings, and his imagination. Johannes looked over the notes he just poured onto the page. His eyes searched for glaring irregularities that could taint the perfection he expected of himself. Vaguely satisfied, he continued forward. However, as he looked over his third piano quartet in C minor, he realized that the main theme centered on an E♭-D-C-B-C transposition of C-B-A-G♯-A, which spelt C-L-A-R-A. She haunted his subconscious no matter how he forced her from his every waking thought. He placed the quill back into its well, sat back in his chair, and closed his eyes.
His mind constantly fled the reflective mirror of her dark-blue eyes, which kept him at arm’s length with a playful and knowing gaze, all the whilst inviting things he would do if both experienced another lifetime, never having known the warmth of the sun that was Robert. There was no going forward, and it was far too late to go back. Johannes loved Robert and Clara in different, yet equally strong ways, and the love for one instantly prohibited expression of the love for other. Johannes could only take solace in losing himself to other amazing and beautiful sights, though each eventually depressed him with the grim knowledge that no matter how he might fantasize, no other could be Clara. Only Clara was Clara. Johannes felt a flare of anger at his mentor and friend for putting her life in danger with his debaucheries, but it seemed the universe punished him enough for such crimes, with the illness that robbed him of his genius, and ate his brain into insanity. Nonetheless, it was a harsh fate undeserved for lust alone. While Robert’s body might have wandered, his heart never did. The testament lie in the depths of his music, with each C-A-A, and Clara motif present.
Every concert Brahms attended, he heard the sighing melody for Clara, and felt her touches that could never be in his core. He held back tears of rapture sometimes until he could be alone. The haunting motif of his piano quartet washed over him in her flowing form that would never embrace, in the natural, raw light of fragile morning, or bare her heart to join his. They were finished before they began. Johannes was jolted from his musings of utopia gallivanting through timeless joy and peace with the love of his life by a harsh knock at the door. He almost fell out of his chair but balanced himself. “Come in,” he said just loud enough to be heard through the door, but not wake Clara and Robert’s slumbering children below. Johannes expected the housekeeper. She sometimes visited him for their mutual release of tension that accumulate from life, but to Johannes’s wonder, Clara stepped into the room. He stood too quickly, knocked over his chair, and maladroitly bent to upright it again. Clara gently closed the door behind her and giggled at his clumsy antics.
“You will wake the children with all that noise, Johannes,” she chided playfully. Her voice lilted with syrupy, mild, staccato, and a husky strength of deep knowledge extending beyond her years of life.
“You surprised me,” he said nervously, turning over the pages of his quartet. His throat went dry, and he fought the crack of his voice.
“You are writing!” Clara exclaimed excitedly. “Something new? Can I see?” Her eyes lit up like the days Johannes took the children to the chocolatier.
“It is not ready for your eyes, I’m afraid,” Johannes said reticently.
Clara pouted. “All right then,” she appeared to relent, but walked slowly toward him, and grabbed a page before he could stop her.
“Clara,” Johannes half-heartedly implored, as they both laughed, but her eyes were already in the midst of eating every morsel presented to her. Johannes let her read on in silence as she picked up the following pages.
Clara neatly put down the arrangement after she finished. She looked at Johannes with a fond uncertainty, “Haunting, sad, yet full of longing, anger, and deep love. Your work has matured unimaginably since you came to Robert as a young boy, and he lauded your genius. I had my moments of disbelief, but your work is truly inebriating. Robert always had this transcendent ability to see the future in ways no one else could—a true visionary. Actually, that is why I am here. Is he well enough for me to visit?”
Johannes forced happiness into the words he must now say to erase images of Robert’s raving madness and rash covered body. “The doctors still think it unwise. His treatment is harsh, but necessary. It would only cause you unnecessary pain to see him as he is now, and he would not want you to see him like that. You know his pride,” Johannes laughed. “He will get better though. The doctors assure this treatment has worked on others with the same ulcers, and they could even reverse some effects on the mind.”
Clara stared at Johannes in grim stillness, like a hot iron, until his heart burned, and he had to look away. They both stood in mute torture as Clara absorbed the unspoken words. Robert was gravely ill, and would likely never return home. “But the doctors will not let me see him,” Clara sighed heavily, “Not now.”
“No. They promise you can in a month’s time,” Johannes still feigned with a hollow hope, like milk and honey from the sky.
“Why must I wait so long? It is ridiculous to be barred from seeing my own husband,” Clara castigated defiantly. “Women’s hearts are not as weak as some men believe. We witness our sons come home in boxes of war, and our daughters perish in childbirth, yet we survive, as we all must.”
“Perhaps it is that men cannot bear for women to see them as failures, or helpless, and at a loss of what to do? Try as they might, they do not want to tell you that it is time to say good-bye,” Johannes admitted with such blunt honesty that he astonished himself. However, Clara already seemed prepared to hear those exact words.
“It is cruel to be trapped in a waiting period of soon-to-be widow, and it is worse that doctors I do not presently know, take away the last freedoms for Robert and I to be together one last time,” Clara’s voice finally broke.
“Robert told me himself that he does not want you to see him like this,” Johannes soothed. “I will convince him to let you come on my next visit. I promise,” Johannes could not help himself. He slowly approached Clara, and took her in his arms, holding her gently. He felt her body begin to softly tremble with tears she held back, for how long, he did not know. Yet even in crying for her beloved, Clara somehow maintained her noble and regal aura.
“There were so many days when I would see him, and I took each for granted, especially after the hardship of us being wed. I thought if our love survived my father, it could survive anything. Yet I am asked to go on without my confident and best friend? I never let myself imagine such a fate for us. Who could?”
“My dearest Clara, no matter the pain, you have the joy of your happiest memories with Robert to immerse your heart in healing waters. Those of us without a lifetime with our beloved, it is as if we lose them twice-to never have them, yet lose them anyway.”
“And to accept that though C-minor means I love you, it can never be more than a dream discovered in music eternal, and live in hearts of those who hear the yearning, and make it their own. That is where we will meet, Johannes, you and I, but only there.”
Johannes released her with a sadness that rent his heart. “Good night Clara,”
She tranquilly walked to the door, and turned. Her face was a blank slate that gave no secret of the deep emotions beyond her still waters. “Good night Johannes,” she replied, closing the door behind her. “Sweet dreams.”