Monday, October 17, 2011
The Man Who Couldn't Play
He didn't know how to play the piano.
He was just babysitting a cat. That's all. His friend at work was cruising with her sister on the Mediterranean. She had plants in the apartment too, so he watered them. She didn't ask him to, but they needed it, and the cat liked to watch him.
He didn't know how to play the piano, but she obviously did. Not just because of the baby grand piano where he now sat. She told him once, and she not only played, but studied in college. He sifted through the sheet music. Chopin. Beethoven. The black storm of notes and markings were incomprehensible. It was nothing he could ever hope to master.
Still, he opened the cover and exposed all the keys.
The cat watched from the back of a high, leather chair. It had eyes like an owl. They blinked slowly at him.
He sounded a note.
It resonated in the wood floor. The wall. It wandered the room like a living thing. He let the key go, and it silenced.
He stared at the collection of white and black patterns. Not quite so incomprehensible as the written music.
He played another note. Then, joined it with a second and third. He sensed how they intertwined and became something larger. He could hear the adding and subtracting sound waves. Their interrelationship.
He played more. He let the sounds happen on their own. He felt notes yearn to join, or slip away. His fingers just obliged them.
He played more. His hand began to feel wholly apart from his ears and consciousness. He was the listener as much as the player. Maybe more.
The sounds grew huge, with their own booming voice and melodic lines. It seemed like a composition, but far beyond him. It felt like it could move the furniture, paint the walls, rearrange the pictures on the walls. It could tear down the apartment and rebuild it near a pounding ocean or under a moonlit sky. It could--
He heard her voice behind him.
She had been expected a bit later.
The music trickled away like the aftermath of rain. The clock ticked. His hands rested on his lap.
"Oh my God," she said. "That was stunning!"
"I've never heard that before. Nothing even like it. Who's the composer?"
He felt fogged, like waking up from a heavy dream.
"You never told me you could play," she said.
He shook his head and sighed. "I can't."