Somebody in the building played piano. I heard them every night as I came walked up the stairs, but never could figure out who it was. Little trickles of notes echoing through the stairwell, down the hallways. I would take the gentlest steps in my shoes so that I could trace it better but I traced absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I would stand there, hold my breath and listen close, it was coming from above. That much was certain.
A few notes, strung together. Then, a wall of silence.
I didn’t stage a large investigation, or put my ear to each door as I came to it. Other tenants were not interrogated- it was just sometimes, a mystery, that maybe I preferred to leave open. As I came home, in from the heat or the cold, I would hear those little notes and I would wonder…is that a beautiful naked woman playing the piano in my building?
What door was she behind? Would she be receptive if I bought myself a trumpet or saxophone or stand up bass? Or I join in? Should I just start knocking?
Inevitably the closer I listened, the sooner the piano would stop. I took my keys out of my pocket went into the cage that was my rented room. The standard modern stockade against the elements. I cooked some meat in a pan on the stove and sat down beside the window, looking up at the crack on the ceiling as the radiators hissed.
TV. Radio. A well stocked shelf of liquor and a cabinet ravaged by mice who’ve consumed the oatmeal and pasta and rice and crackers and extra toilet paper for their nests.
I don’t own a gun. I keep a baseball bat beside my bed in hopes that when the killers come to get me, they will kindly come in through the front door and not the window to my bedroom. As chances have it I will hear them coming down the hallway but will not hear them through the window, as I sleep on my good ear.
The other is deaf.
That adds to my confusion with the piano. The ghost notes on summer nights. I can hear them, but I can’t tell what direction they are really coming from.
Lying in bed and hearing the slow drip of piano keys in the darkness. Are you real, and are you playing my song?
A few non linear fragments at a time? Not really melodic. Not really tied together. Perhaps that’s what really kept me thinking about it.
It didn’t help me sleep at all.
Then, I did find out.
This winter, the music stopped. No one played me anything and I thought for sure that my beautiful naked woman at the piano had gone off to greener pastures.
In spring, I walking into the building and a man said, “Sir, please wait one moment, we’re using the stairs…”
Here come two men, holding up the bottom of a small upright piano, descending down the stairs backwards. They were telling the men in the front of the piano, “Take it easy…”
When they got to ground level I stood there looking at them and they all looked at me.
“Where did that piano come from?”
“I can see that.”
“Nobody ever has a piano on the ground floor.” One of the men said.
The one above me. Then Mr. King came down carrying a cardboard box and a bowling ball bag. He said hello.
“I’m moving.” He said.
“Oh, who plays the piano?”
“Nobody plays the piano.” He said. “I just have it.”
“You never did?”
“No.” He said.
“I used to hear it. I used to hear it all the time.”
“You heard Annie.”
“I kept it by the window. She used to sleep on it, on top. Then she would walk down and follow the birds on the fire escape and she’d step on the keys. She was a good cat and now she’s in cat heaven.”
“My cat.” He said. Then he walked out of the building with the piano movers and I was left alone in front of the mailboxes.
You never know what exists and who will let you know about it.