The Threepenny Review

Pandemic Piano Lessons

MY LAST in-person piano lesson happened on March 16, 2020, the day before our first shelter-in-place order took effect. I am a retired primary care doctor in California, and my son had returned from a visit to Shanghai on January 28, so I’d been following the epidemic in China and the U.S. for months. Governor Newsom had already introduced us to the concept of social distancing and discouraged large gatherings. Berkeley public schools closed March 13, even though we only had three reported cases at that point, none in the schools. I was worried enough that I emailed my teacher in the morning, asking if he wanted to cancel the lesson. He replied, “Please come,” so I did. I missed Newsom’s midday announcement that, starting on March 17 at 12:01 A.M., we should avoid any non-essential in-person social encounters.

My teacher reported the news as he opened the door. At first, I wondered if he would tell me to go home. When he didn’t, I was content to

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