I’ve had a cold for two weeks. It feels like I’ve had a cold –the same one—for three months. In fact, since September I’ve been sick more often than I have in the last five years. I attribute this to an influx this year of piano students under the age of ten. They are adorable, fun, and funny but they are also like disease-carrying rats. A friend calls them walking petri-dishes. I now have a bottle of alcohol and a roll of paper towels at the piano so I can wipe down the keys after every lesson. If it were possible to spray my students with disinfectant before they enter my house, I would.
Every minute I haven’t been teaching, wiping the keys or blowing oceans out of my sinus cavities, I’ve been resting. This has meant a lot of reading and a lot of TV watching. When I was sick as a kid and got to stay home from school, an integral part of the healing process was watching The Dick Van Dyke Show at 10:30 in the morning. Thanks to Netflix I could have streamed Dick Van Dyke all week, but I also subscribe to Acorn, which has British imports, and I haven’t finished exploring those shows.
Thus I embarked on 23 episodes of Trial and Retribution, a show I had never heard of until my neighbor Gwen who knows something about just about everything made it possible for me to stream videos. It’s a kind of British Law and Order. It features a chain-smoking, personal-life-in-shambles Scottish DCS (male) with an Anger Management Problem and a tough, no-time-for-a-personal-life Irish DCI (female). Written by Lydia La Plante who created Prime Suspect, it’s a show I normally wouldn’t watch because it’s too seamy for someone who wants Miss Marple like a child wants Goodnight Moon. But I was in a stupor of sick and a heap of congestion. It was too much trouble to pick up the remote.
One episode began with an American FBI profiler giving a lecture in the UK. The minute he came onscreen he seemed “off” to me. When he was hired by the DCI to “help the police with their inquiries” into what was looking like the work of a serial killer, I knew that he himself was the killer. I just knew it. I wanted to see how the police would put it together. It was a difficult episode to watch. I felt brutalized by the end of it. I couldn’t sleep that night. I woke up over and over, thinking I heard someone in the house.
Now watch how I put this together with teaching. One of my older students—not one of the petri-dishes—is a lovely high-school girl. Sarah is sweet. She has a charming smile, pretty eyes, and a mellifluous speaking voice. She plays the piano with open, unabashed feeling. She brings a magical kind of energy into my house.
We chatted briefly at the end of her last lesson. She asked me how I was. I told her I hadn’t slept well in two nights because of a stupid TV show.
“The minute the profiler was called in to consult about the psycho-path,” I said, “I knew he was the killer.”
Her eyes lit up. “And was he?”
“He was,” I said proudly—see how her magical energy made me feel good about being so stupid?
She suddenly burst out, “Ooh, I love the ones about the psycho-paths! Was this a true-crime? Those are the best! I could watch them all night!”
I looked at her animated face and bright eyes and laughed outright. This was the last thing I expected from Sarah. And you know what? I’ve slept just fine ever since.