“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” You ask.
They smile. “Practice, practice, practice!”
So you do.
Every day, at least once, you trace a route from your current location to the hallowed halls where countless virtuosos have plied their trade, where the well-to-do and aficionados of art have risen from their seats, triumphing the latest displays of mastery over art. First on maps, then on foot, then using various forms of public transit, you make your way, learning the ebb and flow of traffic, discovering hidden shortcuts and by-ways, slowly expanding your range.
You come to know the people of the surrounding area, as you pass them on your commute or stop for a coffee break or a bite to eat. Over time, they come to know you, and call out to you by name, waving as you pass. And pass you do, day after day, week after week, month after month. When Christmas comes, they send cards, and you send grateful replies, dropping them off by hand, wrapped in delicate bows and filled with sincere words of gratitude.
Your works suffers, as you find yourself coming in later and later, leaving earlier and earlier, lunch hours extending to allow for alternate routes you’ve been dying to investigate. You’re called into the office, reprimanded, chided, rebuked. You frown, and nod your head, and say all the right things, but your mind is elsewhere. When you hand in your resignation, your co workers watch as you leave the room for the final time, a lightness in your step that proudly broadcasts the fact that you never really liked this job anyway, which ignites in them the realization that they really don’t either. A mysterious fire burns the building to a crisp in the middle of the night and within a matter of days planes whisk many of them away to exotic locations using their long stored vacation days and fulfilling often whispered but never accomplished dreams.
Freed from obligation, you now make the trip constantly, and soon come of the know the slope of every rise, each crack in the sidewalk, the curve of every curb. You discover secret places, passing over and under the common streets, trading secret watch words and miming arcane signs that vouchsafe your passage. You are inducted into hidden communities where you sit at their tables and share of their bread and wine, but you do not linger. You have routes to map, and soon the only trace of you is the echos of your distant footsteps.
Eventually, you meet a concert violinist, whose commute follows the route that you happen to be working on, and after sharing glances over a couple of weeks, you dare to approach. You make small talk, but as the weeks pass your conversation becomes more intimate, and as you begin to unpack the secrets of each others lives you find yourselves missing stops or getting off early to walk the remainder of the way, extending your time together in the process. When you kiss, it comes with neither a flurry of unbridled passion or the crumbling of inevitability, but rather a warm comfort that burns a steady love that will maintain over a lifetime.
As the years pass you continue your vigil, wearing out the soles of countless shoes. You guide waylaid tourists, and thanks to your well-honed skills they never miss a second of the concerts they attend, no matter how hopelessly lost they find themselves. Time after time you arrive at the threshold to the building, alone or accompanied, only to turn around again and seek out your next route. The box office staff begin keeping a count, before losing track and abandoning the idea entirely. When they have uncertainty in their lives, the sight of your face and the sound of your footfalls restores some sense of order to the universe and you can hear them exhale a breath of true relaxation.
You take some breaks, for vacations, holidays, the birth of your children, but barely a week goes by without you completing your journey, and never a month. You are asked to make a definitive map, but you know too well that the nature of travel require the ability to navigate change and the world insists on changing constantly around you. You walk with your head high, your eyes alert and your heart open to the possibilities each turn presents: no map, physical or digital, could do that experience justice, nor prepare one better for it. You politely decline.
In your later years, the trips continue, but the pace slows, slowly at first but towards the end to an almost glacial pace. In the final decades, you become almost an urban legend, one that Japanese tourists comb their holiday photos for, wondering if they had passed you without knowing. The concert hall sells T-Shits. Your partner, children and grandchildren occasionally accompany you, and seem to enjoy the experience, but still occasionally ask when this tradition can be ended and you can enjoy a long deserved rest. You continue walking.
On your ninety ninth birthday, you are officially invited to a concert in your honor. A crowd gathers at your home and thousands follow you as you make your way down your favorite route. The oldest bits of the sidewalk feature your footsteps, long since worn into the pavement. When you arrive the doors are thrown open for you, and you are ushered into the foyer, for the very first time. It looks and sounds and smells exactly as you had always imagined it.
As you sit in the best seats in the house, surrounded by the most exquisite music the world has ever known, you smile. You finally got to Carnegie Hall, but you had arrived a long, long time ago.