The Cellist .pdf
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Alexander Delgado was, in contemporary American vernacular, a jerk. Certainly more colorful vocabulary
had been used in the past by his peers to describe him, but ‘jerk’ gets the idea across quite well. The thing was, his
personality was really his only flaw, which made first impressions of him a real gem. One would have a difficult
time insulting his intellectual qualities, since he had earned (and eventually accepted) a full academic scholarship to
MIT, as well as letters from Princeton and UCLA, before he was even halfway through eleventh grade. Along with
that he was also an impressive athlete – he made it onto the Rosendale High varsity soccer team his freshman year
and scored two goals in his first game; by the time four years had passed he was named to the Florida All-State team
three years in a row and had scored a state record of 162 goals in 95 games.
Quite simply put, on paper, Alexander seemed too good to be true. And of course, that was exactly correct.
Because on paper you can only get so far, what really matters is when you actually meet a person and interact with
them. And therein lay Alexander’s greatest flaw. In second grade, he was given a detention for cursing at a teacher
who refused to raise his grade on a test from a B to an A. In his first day of middle school, he broke an eighth
grader’s arm for trying to steal from his open locker, and quickly earned a reputation for being exceptionally rude
and apathetic. In his seventh grade soccer tryout, he sent a classmate to the hospital with a fractured toe because he
stomped on it in frustration after missing a chance to score.
It doesn’t get much better from there. But to every problem there is a root, an underlying cause. Alexander
was born to Sergio Delgado, a successful and wealthy Spanish businessman who, on a business trip to Miami, fell in
love with the maid who was responsible for cleaning his hotel room. He married Abigail Baron a month later,
bought a house in the suburbs of the city, and about a year down the line Alexander was born.
There was a complication in the birth – Alexander was born a healthy little boy, but Abigail lost much
more blood than was normal and became critically ill. Despite the best efforts of the doctors, she was pronounced
dead a week later, leaving the mourning Sergio to raise his newborn son by himself. It was difficult but not
impossible – but in the back of his head, Sergio blamed Alexander for the death of his beloved Abby; it was his
fault, he was the cause. The two were never close. In his childhood, a hired nursemaid, who Alexander endearingly
referred to as Nonna, was the primary adult figure in his life; as far as he was concerned, she was his mother, and
she loved him as if he was her own. Sergio was often off on business trips, and even when he wasn’t, he preferred to
spend his time with his friends in the bar down the street rather than with what remaining family he had. As a result,
the gap between father and son became irreparably distant. He made a few friends in school as a child, but as his
behavior became more prevalent, the number quickly diminished.
Some nights, as a little boy, after he had been tucked in by Nonna, he would sit on his bed and cradle a
framed portrait of his mother, staring into her paper face, her ink eyes, wondering who this woman could be, and
where she was. How could she be a mother? Mothers did not leave their children alone, mothers did not disappear,
mothers did not die (what exactly was death?) He had seen mothers at school, dropping off and picking up their
children, greeting them with hugs and kisses. Their soft, gentle, and yet firm voices that he so greatly envied and
wished for, a mother to call his own. He knew Nonna could never be a replacement for this, as much as he may want
Once, in one of these secret contemplations, he remembered how his father, in a drunken rage, had stormed
out of the house. Before leaving, he turned, pointing a wrathful, judgemental finger at Alexander, and yelling, “She
could still be here! It’s your fault, it’s all your fault!” before wiping his eyes, turning, and stalking out, slamming the
door behind him. Was it his fault? Was he himself the reason his mother had not wanted to be with him? He fell
asleep with picture in his arms, cheeks wet with tears, his hazy dreams taunting him these same questions which he
lacked the answers to.
“Get out of my way, you damn bum”, he muttered, brushing past the begging man with ragged clothes, and
a ragged, weary face to match.
It was a hot, humid summer day, also known as perfectly typical Florida weather, and the streets of
downtown Miami were packed. Alexander had just gotten out of his car, and what fortune he had, almost
immediately running into a hobo. He wrinkled his nose with disgust and continued on his way, heading for the
sliding doors of the grocery store. It was always a great feeling, that temperature gradient between the burning air
outside and the cool, air-conditioned interior of the store. That shift, the transition; just short of blissful. However, he
was not the kind of person who really savored a moment, and thus did not stand there, arms outstretched, eyes
closed and face up, as if the subject of some odd and subtle exorcism. No, his face remained indifferent; as it usually
did. He did not enjoy showing emotions, and if he did, they tended to be more on the negative side of the spectrum.
Instead he grabbed a cart and went inside, heading for the dairy section because there was no milk in the
fridge at home. He looked over the available picks and decided on two gallons of skim milk, because yes, he was a
health and fitness nut. His success as an athlete was a result. As an afterthought, he made a round throug the store;
also getting a pound of apricots and a bag of granola, and then headed for the checkout lane.
It seemed a lot of other people had also decided that a Monday afternoon was the perfect time to go
shopping, because the checkout lanes were all flooded with people. Alexander quickly scanned them for the one
with the least people, and got in line. After two minutes he began to tap his foot impatiently and looked over, three
people down, where the current customer, a portly man with unkempt facial hair, was struggling with pulling a sixpack out of his cart, and Alexander had to stifle a laugh.
Bored, he looked around, and caught a girl in the lane to his left staring at him, and snorted ever so lightly.
Nothing new, really. His parents had bestowed some rather outstanding genes upon him, and the looks department
hadn’t been missed. His father’s tall, sturdy build and sharp, defined features accentuated by his mother’s green eyes
and wavy brown hair had made him quite a good looking young man, if he did say so himself. Deciding that with
nothing better to do, he may as well amuse himself, he looked back at her shyly, and smiled. Rather average Miami
girl – fair amount of sunburn, skimpy clothes, and a plain face that resorted to extensive amounts of makeup to be
appeasing. She blushed and looked away, and he did the same, this being a familiar play to him. Ahead, only one
person remained and she was almost done, handing over some cash. He turned back around and as he expected, she
was also looking back. Time to end the game. He leaned over, pressing himself against the candy, gum, and tabloids
(GET THAT BIKINI BODY YOU’VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF!) that were on display in the small aisle between the
two of them. He winked, she grinned and looked on eagerly, and then, calm as ever, he grinned, showing all his
teeth, before bringing up his hand and slipping her the finger. This was the part that he enjoyed, as her smile
disappeared in a blink, and eyes widened in shock. He winked once more and whispered, “Bye” before turning and
facing his cashier, laughing quietly.
Andrew Jackson passed from one hand to another, the mediator in this negotiation. Buttons were pressed,
beeps were heard, and a receipt was handed to him, along with the customary “Have a nice day” from the cashier in
what was supposed to be a cheerful voice, but perhaps would’ve been more fitting on one of the lesser known cast
members from Night of the Living Dead.
Bags in hand, he went back to his car and saw the same beggar near his white Camaro, sitting on a curb
with his back turned to Alexander. First putting the bags in the trunk, he then went over to the man.
“Hey, old man.”
The man turned, recognized his face, and Alexander observed a small flash of fear appear in his
countenance for a fraction of a second, before it turned indifferent and pathetic again. “Please, sir…I don’t mean to
cause any trouble.”
Alexander paused and simply looked over this man’s visage, analyzing, reading, almost trying to
understand everything about him simply from the lines and features of his face. Then he pulled out his wallet and
retrieved a fiver from it, and handed it to the man.
“Here. Do something useful with it, will you?”
The man didn’t reply, only looked back at his face. They were practically communicating via expressions
at this point, the man’s look going from helpless to thankful but confused.
Alexander turned and walked to his car, and got in without looking back. Very suave, he thought to himself,
and smiled. He turned on the vehicle, revved the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot, headed home.
Pulling into the driveway, he parked the car, turned it off, and got out. He took his bags out from the trunk
and went inside, the three story house as welcoming as it had been for the past 18 years. Home.
In the kitchen, he put away the groceries, before glancing at the kitchen table, where the white paper of an
envelope stood out against the plain brown coloring. Walking over, he picked it up. A letter from MIT. Opening it
with his fingernail, he pulled out the paper enclosed within, and read it over. Moving in began on the 14 th of August,
just a few weeks away. The summer had passed by remarkably quickly, it seemed; even though it had been largely
uneventful; the majority of his days consisted mainly of working out, bussing tables, and a bit of studying on the
side. But graduation day felt so recent...would he miss Florida? He wondered about this for a moment, letting it roll
around in his head. In the middle of this, he heard the unmistakable sound of his dad’s SUV growl into the
driveway, and immediately headed upstairs to his room.
No, not much would be missed.
Going up the stairs to the second floor, he heard a rustling noise coming from his room. Silent footsteps on
the thick red carpet, he walked across the hallway and looked into the doorway of his room, and quickly grinned. In
front of him, back turned, Nonna was rearranging the pillows on his bed, while humming a tune softly.
Walking carefully, steadily, with purpose – not wanting to alert her to his presence – he walked into the
room until he was standing behind her, and then quickly covered her eyes with his hands, before planting a kiss on
the top of her head, which he could reach easily because Nonna happened to be one of those adorable older women
whose heights are short; but whose hearts are great, each wrinkle in the skin of their faces a sign of wisdom rather
than age, a sparkle in their eyes even when not smiling. She immediately stopped what she was doing and laughed,
the sound so unlike her age, full of youth and exuberance, the laughter ringing like the tolling of a great bell whose
call you can hear even after it has stopped moving, and placed her soft hands upon his, gently removing them.
“Alessandro, how are you?” He secretly loved the nickname she had for him. She was Italian, and the
equivalent of Alexander to her was Alessandro, which she also sometimes shortened simply to Ale.
Taking her hand, he helped her take a seat on his bed before sitting next to her, wrapping an arm around her
and pulling her close. “I’m fine, Nonna. I just went out to get some groceries. How are you?”
Nonna was the one person that Alexander felt completely comfortable with, he couldn’t help but be happy
when with her. He didn’t smile or laugh too often, but on occasions when he did, chances were high that Nonna was
“Ale, did you hear the tune I was humming when you walk in?” she asked, smiling.
(no you were humming it so quietly how was i supposed to hear) “Yes – but it wasn’t a song or melody that
I can recall hearing. Is it an Italian song?”
“Listen.” She began humming it again, softly still but now Alexander was paying attention. Perhaps this
was a trivial thing, but to him it was now something more. This was the utmost respect and love that he had for her,
anything she mentioned to him became something important.
The melody was soft and soothing. The notes were unusual, unconventional, even – unlike melodies he
heard in most music presently. But it had such a graceful balance, a perfect compromise between sorrows unknown
and hope unseen. After a minute or so she stopped.
“That’s all I remember, but I’m surprised I can even remember this much – usually I do not even pay my
attention to musics on the street, but this one just catch my ear – it was so beautiful, Ale!” Her eyes looked at him
but also through him, as if recalling the moment right then. “I do not even know where it was coming from, because
I did not want to walk to a place I did not know, but it was near the intersection that has the gas station on it.” Nonna
shared Alexander’s views on personal health, and even though she was going to be celebrating her 55 th birthday this
fall, she never failed to take a daily walk of approximately a mile and a half, in a large circle around the surrounding
neighborhood and city.
“Tomorrow I can go with you on your walk and we can check it out together, if you want. Not like I have
anything better to do.” She turned her head and glared at him, but it was clearly far from serious. “Don’t you have
work to be doing? The summer is almost over, you should be preparing for the college!” she scolded.
“The only work I have is packing up, and that can wait for a day, I think.” He smiled, and so did she.
After eating lunch the next day, Nonna took her usual nap while Alexander lazily flipped through a novel.
She woke up at 2:30, and soon after they headed out. Alexander quickly found that he had to go far slower than his
usual walking pace to stay in stride with Nonna, but didn’t mind at all. The weather was a little cooler than
yesterday, but the biggest difference was the lack of humidity, which made the heat much easier to manage.
After a few minutes, they reached the end of the neighborhood and were planted on an the edge of
intersection that showed a huge change of scenery – the large white houses with immaculate, flawless lawns, grass
so green it looked like plastic, the latest Cadillacs and BMWs protruding from garages and proudly displayed atop
spacious driveways; it all disappeared – the houses were replaced by stores, buildings, skyscrapers; urban altars built
with stone, steel, and glass. The acolytes and priests of these altars practiced a faith of material things, their rituals
based on wealth, Mammon their lord and savior, the object of their devotion.
People everywhere – men wearing thousand dollar suits, talking loudly into their phones over equities and
bonds, mixed with penniless mothers, who pleaded for money to feed the one or sometimes more child clinging to
their legs or in their arms, never mind themselves (Alexander couldn’t help but feel sorry when he saw one such
woman, and he made sure to slip something out of his wallet to her, while the child holding on to her pants leg
scowled up at him distrustfully); and everyone in between. People everywhere, in driveways, in parking lots, getting
out of cars, getting into cars, on the sidewalks, on the streets.
The asphalt from the road reflected the heat, making things in the distance waver and shine. He held
Nonna’s hand as they joined the other people waiting at the intersection for their turn to cross. He turned to her.
“Straight down to the next intersection, right? That’s the one with the gas station you’re talking about?” She nodded.
After a few seconds, the little orange man on the crosswalk sign became a little green man, and they crossed. They
walked down the street, Alexander now keeping his ears open for any hint of music (that wasn’t being obnoxiously
blasted out of a passing vehicle). After a minute, the gas station came into view, flaunting a price of 3.40 for a gallon
of regular, which wasn’t bad, but certainly wasn’t great either. They reached the crosswalk, but there was no music
to be heard. He turned to her and raised his eybrows.
“Are you sure this is where you heard it, Nonna?” She nodded emphatically, looking around. “Yes! I don’t
know, Ale, maybe it was only played yesterday.” He shrugged, and also looked around. A man with tattered clothes
limped into an alley, at its opening was sitting another equally badly dressed man with a crude cardboard sign that
read, ‘PLEASE HELP I HAVE NOTHING’; his legs outstretched, head hanging down. Alexander was unsure
whether it was hanging from shame or exhaustion. Maybe even boredom.
“Don’t worry about it. Maybe we’ll hear it another time. Now come on, let’s get some ice cream and head
home.” And they did just that.
That night, Alexander’s eyes flew open as he gasped for breath (no no it was a dream it was a dream calm down it
was nothing). It was a dream, now he was sure, but it had felt so horribly real. He looked to his right side, where the
digital clock atop his bedside table read 3:49 a.m. His heart still racing, he lay back on his bed and stared up at the
ceiling, but not seeing anything as he replayed the scenes witnessed from his subconscious.
He had been driving a car (presumably his own Camaro) with Nonna beside him, and his father and a
woman in the backseat. He couldn’t see the woman from the rearview mirror, but he could hear her voice when she
spoke and suddenly he realized that it was his mother, it had to be. He desperately wanted to see her face, so he
turned around and tried to crane his neck past the top of the seat. Suddenly Nonna struck him on the head and yelled,
“Alessandro, what are you doing?” She waved a clipboard in his face. “You want to fail the driving test? Look back
at the road, you damn fool, before I fail you right here!” He gasped and suddenly turned back around, gripping the
wheel as a tree sprouted from the road before him, and he quickly turned the steering wheel, guiding the car around
Nonna wrote something on her clipboard and said, “That was not impressive at all. I have to take off two
points for that, I’m sorry (no why that was a one point deduction the book said so).” Her voice was not her own, it
sounded like a young female executive’s; smooth and calm, words articulated with a cold precision. He shuddered.
Was he failing the driving test? He couldn’t, she would take his car away.
Meanwhile in the backseat voices quickly escalated, as his father and the woman began to yell at each
other. Again he looked at the rearview mirror, but could not see anything, so he turned to Nonna. She rolled her eyes
and glared at whatever was going on in the back. “Can’t you see your son is trying to take a test? I would expect
better behavior from his parents. I’m afraid if you don’t stop, I’m going to have to ask you to get out.” But they
continued to shout, louder, and louder, until the woman (mom is that you is that really you) eventually began to cry,
and loudly too. Suddenly Nonna screamed and reached back, and, with one arm, the 55 year old woman who must
have had a secret history of extreme bodybuilding grabbed him by the middle of his shirt, and in one smooth motion
swung her arm and threw him out the window, which shattered into a million pieces that flew everywhere like
deadly sugar, peppering his face but he didn’t feel a thing. He did, however, feel a numb shock from what he had
just witnessed, and simply stared ahead and continued driving down this horribly endless road. Then he realized that
it was a bridge, and it was so high that he couldn’t see what was under them, and nothing beside them, and nothing
above them except a dark, starless sky full of hidden secrets.
Then his mother said, “Alexander, have you ever heard this song?” and she began to hum the tune that he
had heard the day before, only it sounded even sadder. Nonna shrieked, threw her clipboard down, and turned to the
backseat once again. “DIDN’T I TELL YOU NOT TO INTERRUPT US? HE’S TAKING THE MOST IMPORTANT
TEST OF HIS LIFE, AND YOU’RE HUMMING?!” She reached into the backseat again, and grabbed the woman.
Alexander knew what was going to happen before it took place, and everything went in slow motion. Once again
Nonna pulled the woman out with such unbelievable fluidity, like it was a choreographed move in a blockbuster film
that had been practiced endlessly until they finally got it. He tensed himself, knowing that he would see her face. But
instead all he saw were long brown locks and a colorless hospital gown. The moment seemed to take an eternity, and
he suddenly decided to grab onto her arm as it passed by his face. The window had shattered (didn’t it already
break) because her head had struck it, but she didn’t fly out. But now he couldn’t hold on to the steering wheel, and
the car began to veer to the left. There was no guardrail on the bridge, there was nothing at all, it was just a stretch of
road in the sky, and, in a world suddenly made of molasses, they took an eternity to plummet down the side, and he
tried to turn her around, so he could see, so he could know, but nothing was working, and they were off the road, and
they were falling to their deaths just like that, and was it going to be painless, and were they all going to hell (or is
this hell already), and would he at least see his mom there, and
And nothing. He softly shook his head and eventually went back to sleep, and this time his sleep was
The next few days he continuously walked over to that intersection with the gas station, straining his ears
for any hint of music, especially the tune that was now constantly stuck in his head. For two days he went out at
random intervals, hoping, praying, even, that he would hear something. He had never felt particular attachment to
any religions, but now was as good a time to start as any. Nonna noticed this and began to look upon him with
concern, but she never said anything. His father never even noticed. For two days, the search was fruitless.
On the third day, a breezy, cool Friday, he went out in the late afternoon, at this point more out of habit
than out of hope. He reached his usual spot beside the price board of the gas station; and as usual he saw nothing.
But as he began to walk home, disappointed yet again, something caught his ear. The faintest sound, but it was there
– what was it? He began to look around, calm at first, but quickly feeling frantic. He paced around the vicinity,
trying to find its source. Soon it dawned upon him – that same alley that the man was still seated in front of with his
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