Nikolaj non-alcoholic lager

beer_43151Nikolaj alkoholiton olut, I read. Although I was only six or seven, I knew there was something slightly odd with a piano teacher who brought a can of beer with him to a lesson. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic. He was my third teacher in as many years and however grateful I am to have been able to get proper, old-fashioned, municipal musical education from an early age, I won’t deny that the hours I spent in that room often felt impossibly long. The strict, sinister tone of the building was probably mostly coming from inside my head, but I wasn’t a consistently gloomy child, so my downcast perception of the whole affair surely had its external reasons. One was probably the lack of a common language. I was Swedish and understood no Finnish. The teachers, mostly Finnish, spoke to me in a joyless, heavily accented Swedish, stripped of all nuance and softening words.

Most of the teachers I recognized as friendly, though. I wasn’t so sure of the man with the beer can, though. He had pearls of sweat on his forehead before we had even began. His nervous manners also expressed annoyance, like he was on the run from a petty crime. Yes, he must have shoplifted a chocolate bar and a beer can before each lesson.

One day, he was gone. ”Gone back to Kuopio”, the new stranger told me. Later I heard he had smashed the piano lid shut on the hands of a student, or was it a slap on the wrist? It was only hearsay, but there was something unhinged about that man.

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