Ferenc played a bass tuba, for eight years already. Tomorrow would have been the big day. At the age of eighteen, he was about to perform at the Budapest Opera Theater.
And still he felt the family's ignorance about his passion for music.
Whatever he did, could it be anything out of the family standards, was considered badly, often without any reason.
But Ferenc was the type of guy who didn't answer. He thought not listening would have been better.
His father was a businessman. He often worked abroad. He never stopped saying to Ferenc when he would get a real job, maybe in the economy business.
His mother usually got nervous. When Ferenc practiced, she used to enter in his bedroom, trying to rip off Ferenc's partitures. He couldn't either stand and understand it.
He never reacted, he used to wait the mother to leave, take his partitures (his mother used to hide them under her pillow) and keep on practicing.
He could not allow himself to deconcentrate from what he dreamt about. He played in a young and aspiring ensemble of the capital. The rest was just vain.
Ferenc used to retire himself in a hill over Visegrad, his little town. A little hill from where he could barely see Budapest.
That hopeful city, that idyllic place in which he always hoped he will have found his way
Not that it was bad, but simply it didn't have the Budapest lifestyle. Sometimes he was just fed up.
Budapest was the place in which everything was possible, even the most unthinkable dream.
Since he was a kid, Ferenc always dreamt about living there. At the age of seven, he visited Budapest for the first time with his family.
Since that visit, he never forgot the jazz performance he saw at the Opera Theater. It was since then that he never gave up playing the bass tube.
It was more than an instrument. Playing the bass tube was as necessary as breathing.
Ferenc didn't want anything else, he just wanted to play in the Budapest Opera Theater.
Intent on tear off blades of grass on that small clearing, Ferenc saw an old man walking on a close path.
The old man put down his barrow full of weeds, put off his country hat and sat down in the shadow of a tree.
"Your mother told me 'bout ya." . Ferenc couldn't understand why he knew his name.
Ferenc gazed the old man embarassed. The latter stayed silent for a while, then he started speaking.
"So did I have dreams. Expectations. When I was young I was a boxer. Since the age of eighteen, I practiced everyday. I went to school in the morning and trained in the afternoon
"I used to give up everything and go to gym. School, family and even friends. Especally my mom complained that I wasn't studying. But I had other things in mind.
"So very soon I chose to left school. I left at the beginning of my first high school year. Then I started working with my father in these fields, still taking my time for training.
"Luckily my father lemme do it. He was a tennis player. Nevetheless, he hadn't the occasion to take advantage of his talent. It was different, you should have worked in that times.
"I stayed in the field in the moring, then in the afternoon I used to train, sometimes even in the evening. I used to go to bed early, in the morning we woke up at dawn.
"My trainee was kinda aghast about my constance. He had never seen nobody practicing with that determination.
"My friend were often disappointed, 'cause I didn't have time to hang out with 'em. That made me tear my hair out, but at the same time I didn't care. My passion made me ignore everything else.
"So I started participating in local competitions, often with good results. I began to believe, to believe that the boxe could have been my life.
"Especially when, at eighteen years old, I had the occasion to play in a national tournament. I lost the semifinal but I went on the podioum though.
"My dad was proud of me, but not everyone at home felt my passion. I kept neglecting everything, just thinking about my passion
"Rarely I was at home, often I ate outside for going back to train, me and my friends used to see each other occasionally and our conversations were poor.
"In that moment, for me it was ok. Boxe was going to be a part of my life. Then, after the podium, a talent scout noticed me.
"One of those guys who approach you like "you're such a great talent! Would you like to be in our team? We can offer you an interesting contract!"
"I felt that this was my occasion. Then I quitted my job with my father and I decided to focus on boxe, all or nothing."
"My dad accepted my choice. After all, making a passion a profession would have been his dream. My mother was outta control.
" 'Are you insane?! Where could this stupid sport bring you!' ". She was really harsh. I felt so bad about it.
"So I moved in Haskovo, 1000 kilometers from Budapest. But at home the situation was unbearable. My father often wrote me letters, saying that it was more tough than ever to stand my mother.
"Then I started immediately to prepare myself for the next international tournament in Varna, Bulgary. The team was very friendly and the trainers were really excellent.
"I began to travel, apart from attending professional matches. This was what I wanted to do in my life.
"I was happy. Then I began to contact my friends again, saying them that I was willing to see 'em again.
"But they were distant. Either physically and emotionally. I figured out that they had different lives, totally different from mine. It seemed that I didn't have anything else in common with them.
"I felt sad about that, but I had made a choice though. And I felt great for that."
"However, the tournament didn't went well. I passed the first phase, then I lost at the preliminaries."
"The talent scout wasn't satisfied. I came back to Haskovo and immediately I had received the bad news: I wasn't a member of the team anymore.
"I was shocked. Every expectation was destroyed. I felt hollow inside. My dream was vanishing.
"So I came back home. My dad conforted me. My mother was speechless, for weeks.
"Coming back home after living such an experience made me fall apart. I almost fell in a bad depression. I didn't make anything for months, I just stayed at home, where resided an unquiet silence.
"I didn't give it all up, though, but I didn't belive in it as before. I kept on dispute in some competition in the following months, but never at the same level.
"So I returned working in the field with my father. I began again to hang out with my friends. Now that I was weightless I could dedicate myself to them. Even my mother start to talk to me again.
"On one hand, I lived a dream that I always had, but I didn't accomplish it. On the other hand, I accepted that 'small-things satisfaction', and it made me happy, anyway.
"I didn't have that crazy madness that the boxe used to give me, but after all I felt good. After all those events, I was alright like that.
A long silence carried over. Ferenc was a loss for words. What if tomorrow there would have been a talent scout?
The old man stood up and grab the barrow again. Before leaving, he said "No big expectations, you'll be ok! Say hello to your mama from Rozen."
Rozen. That was his name. Ferenc was astonished from that story. After Rozen left, Ferenc simply shook his head and took the way to home.
Ferenc ran out from home without saying goodbye. It was eight PM, he was going to rehears. The last rehearsal. He was thirty minutes early, as usual.
He entered from backdoor. There was nobody in the theater. The stage was huge, it was arranged on three long platforms and it was expanded vertically for approximately sixty feet.
He stood still observing the silent atmosphere. A little bit later he set himself up with his bass tube. He put the partitures on his music stand and started playing.
In the middle of the song came the orchestra director came, without being noticed by Ferenc. He listened and watched Ferenc's virtuosisms rather satisfied.
Next to the director came the theater's servant, who stopped to mop the hall for a while.
"Brillant" said the director, shaking his head incredulous. The servant nodded smiling, then he came back sweeping.
Little by little the ensemble members came, setting themselves quietly next to the director, observing Ferenc playing.
When the song was over, Ferenc was overwhelmed by several applauses of his companions, who smiled and patted him on the shoulders
Ferenc went nuts. The song was played over and over, but it was already perfect. The director was so satisfied that he just said "Excellent", avoiding to express cynical comments.
They were all about to exit when an elegant, bold and well-mannered man came to compliment Ferenc. "I saw you before when you were rehearsing, you are naturally talented, man!".
Ferenc smiled slightly, astonished that there was someone in the theater except him, the servant and the ensemble. The elegant man kept on talking, following Ferenc obsessively until the bus stop.
"Because we need prodigies like you! The ensemble that plays in our tv programme is one of the best of Hungary, we would like you to join us! Many are the youngsters that..."
Ferenc began to feel a sort of air-flux that paralyzed his stomach. "Well, y-yeah, that would be c-cool...it might be o-ok...", stuttered him, still intimidated by this self-assured man.
"It sounds great! so, see you tomorrow! Make a good impression, I trust you". Said the man giving a wink to Ferenc, as well as a visiting card. Then he ran away.
Not only he was about to perform with a talented and young ensemble in the Opera Theater of Budapest, but Ferenc received an unexpected proposal.
In that moment, Ferenc felt the pressure more than ever. Expectations began to get high. The only thing he had in mind in that moment was a clear sentence: "you can't fail".
Ferenc sat down in the back of the bus. He was taken aback for what happened. Before, the standing ovation, then the tv proposal.
He didn't know how to feel. Euphoric or in cold blood? On the bus there was Dorottya too, one of the violinist, who sat down next to him.
"Hey, I would say that we're ready, Don't we?" said her smiling, tieing her hair up. "Y-yeah, w-we're ready" said Ferenc, uttering stammering words from his mouth.
"Well, I think we're gonna make it. 'Patetique' is a song I already studied some years ago. Then it's plenty of years that I play Tchaikovsky. We're going to perform perfectly!"
Dorottya kept on talking, smiling to a kinda scared Ferenc, who just nodded to her without saying anything. "Hey, are you ok? You seem nervous.", said her.
"OH! N-no, what?! I just have a stiff neck, you know I played a lot today, after a while the instrument is heavy, eheh.." Ferenc start blushed tremendously.
He didn't want to talk about what happened. Just for a reason of pride. However, He began to feel heavily under pressure.
He could have said that to someone, but he couldn't make it. So he chose to bottle it all up.
Dorottya got down the bus, waving to Ferenc rather baffled. As soon as she left, Ferenc took a huge breath.
'Too much happenings' thought him. Even Dorottya influenced his mood.
Ferenc always had a crush for her. But he never believed that it would have worked.
He continuously thought that his introvertion couldn't fit with her extroverted and cheerful personality.
So he decided not to think about that and focus on the next day as much as he possibly could.
Ferenc was about to enter with his young ensemble in that huge stage of the Opera Theater. It was sold out. Bert's fingers started to tremble.
"It's gonna be alright, you'll see", whispered Johnny, a nice and stocky fagotto player.
They entered. Applauses. The ensemble took their place. Little moments of silence. The director was ready. Even the ensemble. Silence of the audience. The song began.
It all went on with the sweet notes of Tchaikovsky, when all of a sudden came a thud. The bass tube fell from Ferenc's hands. The latter stared at Johnny, then he grabbed the bass tube again.
The song continued. The ensemble kept on playing undismayed. But Ferenc stopped. He saw the bald and elegant man exiting the theater. He stood still with the bass tube in his hands
The song ended. Before some second of silence, after a rather poor standing ovation.
The ensemble went in the backstage slowly and rather embarassed. Ferenc suonò solo metà della canzone.
In the backstage, the director vented. "What's wrong with you? Were you butterhanded?!", said him with a dry sarcasm, turning his back on him.
Johnny and Ferenc stared at each other, aware that the song was just over. Ferenc was now aware that even his chance was over.
He sat down in a dark room. Silence. The only noise he perceived was his heavy-diaframma breath. There wasn't any echoes of the performance in his ears, but just a warm silence
No lights. No music. Nothing else but him, alone in a dark room. Just silence. But, after all, what else do he needed?
'But, after all, why do I need something else?', he asked to himself.
'Why costantly looking for answers into musical notes when I can reach a peaceful silence?' He could not answer.
It seemed that there was nothing left to lose, by now. He was full of expectations, lots of them unrealized. A dream that seemed to vanish, but a strong reality that he was about to face.
"What a thud on stage! it was cool, though!" said Johnny, suddenly breaking in. Just one second and they were already burst into laughter like they were both drunk.
Johnny surrounded Ferenc's shoulders with his big arm. "Tomorrow the newspapers will be like 'the fall of the bass tube', or 'the butterhanded musician'!", said Johnny with sarcasm.
They were both laughing themselves to cry. As they did not care at all about the performance outcome.
Jonny left, faking the 'basstube fall' from his hands. While Ferenc was laughing more than ever, Dorottya entered.
Johnny looked at them, then he left tiptoeing. She put the violin in her case and sat down next to him.
"You know, once something similar happened to me. It wasn't me, but the director! Well, we were in a tiny theater in town..."
"Oh well, reassuring...", answered Ferenc. Dorottya felt embarassed for that. "N-no no, I was just saying that...you should not worry... then we continued and..."
"Calm down, it doesn't matter. It's over.", he stopped her. "I don't need comforts". Dorottya felt offended and got up. But Ferenc grabbed her. "No wait, don't leave."
"It's amiable though. But now I have nothing left to lose. I bet everything, there's nothing more. I am, like, weightless."
Dorottya didn't get it. She just smiled. "It's good to hear that you're ok. I see you're more relaxed than before. Yesterday you didn't bat an eyelid!" said her.
"Yeah, I was very worried. You know, I waited it for so long. Then, now that it's all over, I felt more comfortable in every kind of situation. Like I had nothing more to think about."
"I feel like I can feel pleasure chatting with people and having fun with them. For instance, now I feel good here with you.
Dorottya gazed at him. "Oh, now you got romantic?" giving him a friendly pat. "No, I'm just saying that you make me feel good...", said him, staring at her in the eyes.
Dorottya, still surprised about his behavior, felt embarassed. She was suddenly speechless.
Then Ferenc kissed her, smiled and stood up. "Listen, before the buffet post-concert we could take a coffee, if you want." Then he left.
As soon as the door was closed, Dorottya hesitate, then went out the room. She met Ferenc in the hall and grabbed his arm.
This time she kissed him, keeping him there for a few minutes. But they didn't noticed the ensemble that were in the adiacent room.
A roar full of whistles and screams came out. The two of them splitted embarassed. Then Ferenc met Johnny suddenly. "Y'know, next time I'll make my fagotto fall.", said him, smiling to Ferenc.
The two went out the theater and Johnny comunicated an unexpected thing. "You didn't hear? We have been contacted for playing in Varsavia! Well, it's not the Opera Theater but we're going to Poland!"
Ferenc thought about who could have been the crazy person that wanted an orchestra which make instruments fall on the ground.
Then he saw the bald and elegant man, who blinked his eye, running away. Maybe their performance wasn't that bad, despite the basstube fall.
What struck Ferenc in this moment, turned his world upside down. What he wished for was not reaching a straight goal. He had not any kind of expectation anymore.
In the end, Ferenc preferred quietness. He finally began to realize that it was the only way to live peacefully, without costantly following an expectation, without setting up his life on a dream.
He didn't have the tv proposal anymore. He didn't do a perfect performance. Nonetheless, they would have been in Poland and, moreover, he demonstrated Dorottya who he really was.
He had reached a state of mind that gave him all that he ever needed, unwittingly. Music was important, it was in his spirit. But now he was free.
So he remembered Rozen's words, the wise old man. He was right, avoiding expectation would have been difficult, but it was the right way to go, the right way to reach the silence.
The only thing he wanted to listen in that moment was just one thing, the sound of silence.