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There’s a small window in the showroom that lets me see the smooth winding street that leads off to the Unknown Place. Sometimes, it rains, showers and pours onto this street and that is when I know no one will come. Other times, I can see the colourful children of the trees dance around in the eddies of the wind, their rustling laugh just beyond my reach. And even? if I am lucky? the sun’s tentacles will reach across the floating dust to hold eighty-eight of my fingers all at once. This is the time when I am able to convince myself that sitting here, waiting on the floor for someone to love me, isn’t so bad. After all, I am not just anyone. I am Ampico.
In the summer of 1969, silence aches within every wooden knot of my being for I long for sharps and flats to replace it. I have forgotten when the sun has held my hands or when the sky cried onto my prison walls. There is still no one coming for me…Wait! What is that?! Is that a c-c-car? Something is coming from the Unknown Place, weaving around the pot-hole filled street, rolling towards me. Could this be it? Are these the people who will love me? Ecstatic, I listen very carefully for the tinkle of the bell that hangs at the top left corner of the shop’s glass door. As my wish unfolds before my eyes, my old untouched chamber resonates with joyful silence.
I can barely make out the muffled voices from the front desk as a rich perfume hits my spring steel strings by surprise.
“Where can…piano?” asked the woman.
“Ah, yess…in back,” replied Mr. Esposito with a thick Italian accent.
Mr. Esposito, who was once known as the most famous pianist in Italy had decided, years ago after a ruined career, to hide at the end of a street beyond the Unknown Place. Word was, he had nothing else to live for in Italy after his wife had run away with a young Portuguese violinist. This, he often mumbled, was the cause of losing his passion for music. Since then he never touched the keys of a piano again. He never touched me.
A little girl rounds the corner, her curly brown hair bouncing with every step. She seems to be from a wealthy family for she holds her head high, her back straight and wears fine clothes. Either that or it’s her Sunday’s best, because today is indeed Sunday and rumour has it that families like to have picnics in the park after attending morning mass. Barely tall enough to climb onto my bench, her mother?the source of the rich perfume? lifts her up. Removing her satin white gloves, she positions her small slender fingers on my fingers. The skin to ivory contact jolts my musical essence to life, exhilarating me. My steel strings start to ease up under her touch instantly. After straightening out her dress, her right forefinger presses the Fa key, followed by the delicate harmony of the Fa sharp and Sol keys an octave higher with her left hand. As she plays these simple notes, I recognize from many scores ago, the bold nine eighths time signature, the fragility of the melody, the timelessness of Debussy and the dazzling beauty of Claire De Lune. Oh my wonderful Claire. How she teased me with six pages worth of treble clefs, slurs, pianissimos and fermatas, her fierce andante très expressif exploding through the prison bars of the staff. My bliss, however, is soon outlived as the little girl’s fingers leave mine, bringing the silence once again with her departing touch. Before I begin to cry, already yearning for the musical high, her mother writes a cheque and has me boxed up for transport.
The little girl’s name, as I shortly come to know it, is Annecy. From then on, time seemed to pass like the tempo to Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee as I watch her grow into a beautiful young woman. Her tight brown curls were a thing of the past as they have loosened into elegant long curls, her thin childish lips were now plump and full; but the way her confidence glowed from her stride, the way she smelled like lavender and vanilla, made her seem more and more like her mother. Ever since she quenched my love for Claire that day in the shop, she dutifully played me for an hour each night. Annecy gifted me with the introductions to new loves such as Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Für Elise?how she taunted me with her double personality in her triplets and pauses?Gustav Holst’s Jupiter?my oh my was she ever so calm and soothing?and of course Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Andante Grazioso Sonata K. 333?she flew me to the moon and back, leaving me in a long daydream. Stop. My dreaming days are over as it is now the year of 1989 and I am boxed up again to be brought to a bigger home.
Waiting on the porch, beaming at us is…is…is a man. I c-c-can’t believe it! My precious little Annecy has cheated on me with a new man! She didn’t even bother to sit down and talk through our problems…WAIT! I just don’t understand, we never had any issues in our simple relationship! She had always set time aside to play with my fingers and feed my musical hunger. Despite my anxiety, the truck door slams as she ran up to him?kissing him passionately. It is at this precise moment that a wave of anger washes over me, my steel strings tensing up. Oh how I want to slam my lid on his fingers, how I yearn for the painful crunch of his bones. Wiljey, her new husband, is the one she spends her time with now. I envy him so much. As I stand by the corner of the foyer just before the staircase, I realize that she never bothers to look at me, rushing in and out of her room like I don’t exist, she never bothers to dust me off or check my strings… she never touches me anymore.
The memories of my endless days spent on Mr. Esposito’s showroom carpet creep back to me as my solitary confinement brought upon by Annecy makes time seem to last forever. The next thing I know, on one particular Sunday morning, two men are moving me downstairs into the dark recesses of the basement. Paranoia strikes at every fibre of my being as I spend the rest of my days there, feeling more alone than I ever did, fearing what may lurk beyond the dark recesses of stacked boxes of Christmas ornaments, tools and furniture. Like an innocent prisoner, I am relieved when the footsteps of Annecy and Wiljey sound slowly from the top of the stairs. The lights flicker on, scaring away any harmful shadows into their corners as they both sit on my bench and he starts to play the introduction to Passacaglia. She joins in with him and my fingers are jolted with energy yet again, by her touch. At this moment, I’m swimming in lustful bliss, forgiving and forgetting the existence of the harsh spell that I was under. Now I can understand why they fell in love in the first place: they complete each other like she completes me. Ah, it’s nice to feel wanted again.
I thought that was it. I thought we’d all come to the climax of our lives, happy and together. But I was wrong. Time and its partner in crime––progression–proved me wrong, on what would be, the hottest summer Sunday of the year. They fight and fight and fight and fight?for a really long time. From the crevice of the basement, I can hear their raised voices upstairs, arguing about how he wants to leave her because he’s found someone else. They fight and fight and fight and fight?stop. It is now Wednesday, July 5th 1996 when Annecy’s world comes crashing down as Wiljey walks out the door without a second glance over his shoulder. This is also the day of my murder. The very last thing I remember is not understanding why the broken grown up little girl races at me with a sledge hammer, slaughtering me on the spot.
That was the moment I realised that I would never be anything more to Annecy than an old piano, just a mere instrument for someone to play. And she did just that?she played me well. My remnants are transported to a dump site. As I lay there in pieces, I watch Wiljey drive by with Annecy’s mother, Robin. Silence becomes my music once again.