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Dear Bradshaw,

While riding the elevator with my sixteen-year-old next-door neighbor this morning, I felt pressured by social etiquette and neighborly rapport to initiate conversation. “Is that you I hear sometimes, playing the guitar?” I asked.

“Yes,” he responded.

“You’re good.”

“Thanks.”

Silence.

“I play harmonica.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “I hear you sometimes.”

We were nearing the ground floor (I knew this because of a scraping noise I always hear seconds before arriving) and in those moments that remained, I said something that will crown my speaking career as the stupidest thing ever uttered: “Keep practicing. Music is fundamental.”

It might not seem so tragic but trust me on this one, Shaw, it was a catastrophe, especially in Italian, and besides it’s an idiotic thing to say in any language, like pointing at the sky and saying it’s blue, or telling someone that Paris is in France or that apples grow on trees. Meanwhile, there was no time to amend the statement or to try to validate it with a witty observation or a clever remark before thud! we arrived at the bottom, and then the kid pulled the doors open and rushed out of the elevator.

At that moment, burning in my brain were words from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, from the chapter titled On Silence in which he writes:

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart
you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.

Ah well, it is what it is. I might as well let it go because, I mean, I can’t go back and change it, can I? And if I could, that would be another fish to fry, right? The frustrating thing is that I know what I wanted to say but speaking Italian and restricted by time, and since I was talking as “a diversion and a pastime” it came out all bogus and backwards. Jeez, Shaw, I’d simply wanted to congratulate the kid on having found something he loves to do, music, which is like meditation and medication combined.

I feel like I’m back in the elevator, saying more stupid things. I guess I better cut this letter short before I dig myself into a deeper hole. Anyway, one thing’s for sure and that’s this = from now on, I’ll be keeping my lips sealed in the elevator, and will dwell in the solitude of my heart.

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