Marked as Fragile by David Donnelly

A lot of people ask me why I dedicated so much of my life to making documentaries focused on the world of classical music.  Below is just one of many transformational experiences that describe my unexpected relationship with this music.

Marked As Fragile

It felt like winter was never going to end.  Empty trees.  Empty apartment.  She took everything.  My laughter, my smile.  I was paralyzed by my vulnerability.  I had forgotten how to live alone.  

She called and left messages.  Something was missing.  I didn’t answer because I knew what it was; a single box, duct taped and marked fragile.  Inside was five years of memories.  I didn’t want to give them back. 

Friends told me that I’d feel better with time.  The people that loved me the most went to great lengths to “take my mind off things.”  It was always the same.  “Here, have a drink.  Or ten.  Meet my friend.  She’s single.”  I welcomed the distractions. 

The actual apartment referenced in this story.  Photograph by David Donnelly. 

The actual apartment referenced in this story.  Photograph by David Donnelly. 

A restaurant opened in my building.  It was an escape that was only an elevator ride away.  A musician began coming in for late dinners after rehearsals.  I didn’t have much of a relationship with classical music at that time.  Then I met Paavo.  When he talked about music I saw a passion for life that I once had.  I wanted to feel that again. I needed to go beyond the surface of distraction.

Paavo would frequently recommend music.  Sometimes I liked it.  Sometimes I didn’t.  His excitement in describing each piece made me curious enough to give it a chance.  One night after dinner he handed me a CD.  It was music composed by a man named Arvo Pärt.   Later that night, I sat in my empty apartment, closed my eyes, and listened to the violins cry.  

Memories I had been harboring were plucked to the surface with each chord.   I thought of the first time I fell in love. I thought of the last.  I remembered how much better things smell when you live with a woman.  As the echoing of the bells slowly faded, so did my loneliness.  I never met this man named Arvo, but I was convinced he wrote this music just for me.

I played it over and over until I could think of only one thing; a tiny box in the corner marked fragile.  This time when I looked at it I smiled. 

The next day I called her.  She had left something at the apartment.

I was ready to give it back.