Van’s room soon became his refuge and his prison. He filled it with his beloved books, and when he wasn’t in school, he hid there while his mother gave piano lessons to the neighborhood children. He could hear the sounds of the children laughing in the living room beside him and his mother laughing with them as they banged away on the keys of the piano.
Gertrude did what she had to do for Van—she made sure he ate and went to school. Other than that, she ignored him. She embraced her newfound freedom, and soon a bevy of men were steadily making their way to her home.
Van could hear, sometimes, the banging of the headboard, the moans and gasps permeating the walls. He let the sounds of his music—flutes and violins and clarinets—swirl around him as he turned up the volume of his phonograph to drown out the banging. As he listened to The Mikado, the tale of lust and deceit captured in the opera mimicked his own life, and he listened over and over, memorizing every word.
Other times he occupied himself with writing codes, wishing his father were sitting across from him trying to decipher the meaning. Van missed his father. Even though he was strict, my grandfather had given him attention, had challenged him, had made him feel like he was important. In San Francisco, Van felt like he was nothing more than a nuisance, invisible.