Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Piano Man

Our next door neighbor has a piano, which he practices nearly every day. Hence the nickname “Piano Man.”

We’ve never seen Piano Man; he lives just on the other side of our wall, but his apartment is actually in a separate building from ours, so we’ll never run into him in the hallway or on the steps.

I figure he must really love the piano in order to go to the trouble of getting it into his apartment, which I know for the fact is the same size as mine, which is—in two words—very small.

Piano Man usually plays in the afternoons and into the evenings. He’s not a great piano player, but he tries really hard. Sometimes, Piano Man begins a song and ends it abruptly with a several discordant notes. When this happens, I imagine that Piano Man has grown so frustrated with himself that he just can’t continue, and is banging his head against the keys in abject frustration like the character Don Music on Sesame Street.

One night a few months ago, Piano man began playing around 9 pm—late for him. The music that filtered through the wall that night was louder, more energetic, than anything I’d ever heard Piano Man play before. Even with through the bricks, mortar and plaster, I could tell by the way he was playing that Piano Man had found a song that inspired him. So I sat very still and listened.

It was a cheerful song, but also dramatic and powerful. As Piano Man played on, the music grew louder and louder, and I thought I recognized the song from somewhere, but I just couldn’t place it.

Piano Man played the song over and over again without stopping. This was a momentous occasion, indeed! Piano Man had finally played a song the whole way through without stopping or banging on the keys! I was so proud of him. And then I realized what he was playing.

It was the theme song from Star Wars.

This went on for a few nights, until Piano Man had perfected all of the notes and even added his own little musical flourishes, at which point he moved on to the theme song from Superman.

I found the Superman song extremely fitting. After all, if you passed Clark Kent on the street, you would have no idea that he is really Superman.

And if I passed Piano Man on the street, I would have no idea he is Piano Man. He would be just another man carrying bags of groceries home from the Food Emporium, or talking on this cell phone, or walking his small dog of indeterminate breed.

Just like Superman, his true identity will always remain a mystery.

Play on, Piano Man. Play on.