You are showered with white light. Photons hurl down like furious boulders and every single one crashes into you as you focus on the goal line. Your ears buzz. The crowd’s gaze is locked on your legs, awaiting your triumphant shot. You trip.
I recently recovered from a mild hand injury—some might call it a scratch. I scrutinized my scratch for hours in order to observe the healing process. I noticed the absence of the scratch when I was in the shower. I had wasted two days monitoring the recovery process, with no success, and the second I wasn't paying attention—it had vanished.
The occasion called for celebration. I headed to a tiny sports bar where if I’m lucky, I would notice a third rate volleyball player having a glass of cheap whiskey. She usually sat at a central position in the bar. When asked about it , she c alled it a “power move”, and continued to sip from her cherry flavored beverage.
My barmates are old friends with whom I used to play football. They met my story with disinterested nods. Bob attempted to act fascinated, “Yeah, Sal, that’s a real ni’ce smo...soft elbow you got there. I am quite jealous of it.”
“Like hell you are Bob,” I blushed. We rocked the bar till 21:00.
I returned home soon after. The door screeched as I walked in. The lock had been broken for weeks. The lightbulbs in the lamp were all busted, but still managed to radiate incandescent light. I noticed some bread crumbs that were mixed in with dead skin and fallen hair under the bed. The windows were covered in a thin layer of breathable dust, which filled my lungs on a daily basis. I felt the urge to play my white Yamaha grand. The windows looked over the piano menacingly. The piano was the only object that suggested that a living being resided in the apartment.
The instrument was gifted to me by my sister. We no longer keep in touch. I play romantic jazz pieces on it every time I mourn. Since my career tripped, the piano has been my sole companion in many sleepless nights. I seated myself on the short legged piano stool. My hands crawled over the keyboard, and occasionally lingered on certain keys that they saw fit. My forearm ached every time I played a 4-note chord. Then my leg would wander off and softly press on the damper pedal to bring the song together. Soon Bill Evans’s I Will Say Goodbye was muffled by disgruntled snoring.
I woke up at 5 a.m. and beheld a message displaying a crumpled corner under the door. It said “Dear Salvatore, I am Mery. Could I interview you? I will be in front of your apartment at 17:00. ”
I spent the day preparing for the interview. I had gotten so accustomed to my solitary life that being invited to meet somebody was an unusual event for me. I threw out the beer cans, sweeped dust under the rug, turned the couch cushions, and unclogged the toilet. I had to open all the windows.
When 17:00 came, I had my best trainers on, and wore a white striped black tracksuit, the only missing element from my ensemble was a boutonnière. I was sitting on the bed, and surveying the room for anything I might have missed. I felt like a rusty construction beam that has been given a once-over with an old towel.
She burst in like an enraged bull, only she was not enraged—she seemed excited, uplifted, giddy. She had a brownish tan. Her movements were sharp, laggy, unnatural. She did not introduce herself, and skipped the exchange of pleasantries. “Maniac!” She diagnosed me instantly.
“You’re crazy, absolutely out of your mind, unhinged, a compulsive piano cleaner,” the epithets rained one after the other.
“What the hell, where did that come from? What got into you?”
“You were my hero when I was a kid, Sal. All you do now is obsess over this goddamn piano. Why did you end your career?”
“I guess I grew out of it.”
“You grew out of it?!”
“Yeh.” no one could accuse me of being verbose.
“Don’t you miss the spotlight? Don’t you miss the cheering audience? The glorious victories?” she opened the floodgates.
“Everything was still. Nothing ever moved. Images were fleeting, objects were ethereal. It all felt so fragile to me. If anything moved even one bit, the painting would have cracked. It was a bad taxidermy job. The light was responsible for it all. Life is flexible now, it has its twists and turns—I chuckled at the cliche. Now I move through the streets, no one has an idea who I am, or who I was. They all forgot about me, and honestly, it’s the most freeing thing in the world. Here I go again acting like an old person, spreading “wisdom”, but I do mean it. I really do…”
She stood there frozen. I asked her “Coffee?” Her eyes were about to escape from their sockets. She looked shattered. “No”, she answered, and stormed out the door. Her gaze must have been locked on the scratch. She tripped.