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The Piano Man

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Standing behind him, I felt the music circle around him and flow through him, entwining with sights and notes and ideas that were begging to come out of his head. Every day he sat in the same spot in Chicago on the street corner across from the rarely visited coffee shop, playing the piano that was given to him by the Music Institute of Chicago, where both he and his mother attended. The piano was presented to him after his mother, a famous violinist, died in a car explosion on her way to perform at a concert. He, who was a car behind her, survived. He sat and played for hours at a time, letting the sights around him serve as his inspiration. His eyes were always open, and they were always brilliantly green, surveying the people, the nature, the streets. He watched a woman sitting alone at a restaurant across the street sob into her napkin and clutch the table cloth with her free hand. One could clearly see her pain inflicted on him as his green eyes, once full of joy and excitement, now filled with sorrow, loss, and pain. His fingers curled into fists, and then extended slowly, carefully, onto the keys. The image of the sobbing woman quickly transformed into a symphony as his fingers swam effortlessly across the black and white sea, sending waves of unbelievable sadness crashing onto the nearest passerby. As quickly as it began, the melancholy song segued. His eyes darted to the willow tree in the park that danced as the wind twirled the branches and sent a few leaves spinning in the air. His eyes filled again with happiness and glee as he played a song for the tree to dance to. A man stopped and cocked his head to the side, staring at something on the front of the piano. His own eyes suddenly filled with both joy and sympathy as he listened to the music. After a couple of minutes, he left, tossing a ten dollar bill into the box beside the piano man. His music spilled onto the street and submerged the pedestrians, including myself. As if sensing my presence, he spun his head to look at me, and adoration overtook the joy in his eyes. They traced over my lips and my cheek bones. He carefully examined my eyelashes and the pools of blue that accompanied them. I smiled, giving him something else to work with, and his dance for the trees turned into a love story. I closed my eyes as the music encompassed me. His hands caressed the keys and his body swayed slightly with the rhythm of his fingers. A group of women exiting the coffee shop crossed the street and stared intently at the same spot the previous man had looked. Amazement washed over their faces as they watched him play. They tossed some spare change into the box, and quietly whispered in a different language as they continued on their way. After another hour of continuous playing, he abruptly stopped and turned to face me. My eyes were filled with wonder at the beauty of his music. I was amazed at his extraordinary talent to take an image and compose a song.


“Thank you,” I told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “That was astounding.”

He smiled sadly and pointed to the front of his piano. I crossed over from behind him to the front of his instrument. There was a sign taped onto the piano that I had not seen. As I read it, my eyes filled with tears of complete admiration. As they flowed down my cheeks, a soft, melody coursed out from the grand piano in front of me. I looked up to see his eyes reflecting my own as I reread the sign in front of me.

"The world is a song; filled with music that I can SEE but no longer HEAR.
1994."



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