Goddess mug shot

The Goddess Speaks

By Glenda Chung Hinchey

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Walter legend fared
better than his reality

HIS name was Walter, a tall, blond, blue-eyed concert cellist from Croatia. I met him in 1970, my first year in New York, where I was pursuing my master's degree in music at Columbia University and he was pursuing his at the Juilliard School.

Our eyes met while he was on stage and I was in the audience. As he performed, his eyes would linger on my face with a gaze so penetrating that, embarrassed, I averted my eyes.

Two weeks later, I decided to practice my violin at Columbia's student center. As I entered, I was drawn to a jazz concert on the ground floor. After listening a while, I was about to leave when Walter stood up in the audience and approached me. "You're the girl at the Vivaldi concert," he said, "you wouldn't look at me."

His words are now a memory but I will always remember his Croatian accent, his turquoise eyes, his fine straight nose, his full, sensuous lips ... and his gaze, which drew me into his world. And what a world it was! He gave me a ticket to a sold-out concert at Lincoln Center where he performed with 49 cellists from around the world, conducted by Pablo Casals.

This was just one of the many concerts he took me to. Months passed and he left New York for Russia, where he would be studying the cello at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. After a year, we stopped corresponding.

One afternoon in 1973, the telephone rang. It was Walter. He had come to New York and had given his debut recital at Carnegie Hall the week before. "Why didn't you come to the recital?" he asked. He had dedicated the concert to me by performing classical works in the keys of G, E, D, and C, based on the letters in my name. I had not known about the concert, which the New York Times reviewer said was "eloquent." We spent three magical days together, then, poof, he was gone.

It is hard to develop a relationship via mail, especially one with a concert cellist who was busily touring the world. In 1975, I returned to Hawaii and in 1980, I married David Hinchey, a clarinetist and accountant. Because I had never lived with a man who was not my relative, the adjustment was difficult despite our great affection and commitment.

Chief among our problems was Walter. I simply could not forget him and his spirit hung over our marriage like a cloud.

"You're infatuated with an image," my husband said.

Finally, in 1990, we decided to visit this ghost from the past. We checked into a hotel in Zagreb and I made a call to his residence. He agreed to meet us that night.

David was right. Walter had been just an image, frozen in time, forever in his 20s. Hugging him, I could feel the bones in his back and at 42, he was balding, extremely gaunt and world-weary, lacking the magnetism he once had. Still single, he lived with his mother in a tiny, state-owned apartment.

Illusions shattered, I could not stop weeping on the plane back home. My husband held my hand as I mourned the end of a romance. That visit changed our marriage for the better and Walter no longer holds me captive. His ghost disappeared with our final goodbye.

Glenda Chung Hinchey is a
free-lance writer in Honolulu.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
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