An exercise of the senses.
I block out the noise and let each note embrace and resonate within me. My fingers, so familiar with the tune, skip across the ivory. The cool unblemished keys warm to my touch. I breathe deep, filling my lungs with air rife with stale cigarette and cigar smoke. But I hardly take notice. I reach the crescendo and the last note fades away, leaving me once again exposed to the present.
With a sigh, I reach up to stretch my stiff white collar to alleviate the chafing. I grab my wineglass, emptying it with a large gulp. The deep red wine, while initially sweet, carried a sharp and bitter aftertaste. Every taste bud on my tongue stiffens and tries to retreat in protest. With a grimace, I set the glass back down, wondering what I should play next.
Then I see her.
In the middle of the dimly lit room, an old woman nurses a glass of white wine. Her wrinkled face speaks of untold hardships and sorrow. The candle on the small, round mahogany table only deepens the creases in her wizened face. A single tear eases down her cheek. The candle’s flame glints in the drop, making it appear like a smooth, polished gold nugget.
My gaze inches up the trail left by her tear until it locks with her clear blue eyes alight with a half forgotten memory of joy.
I smile, remembering what my teacher told me long ago, “If the adulation of the crowds fade or never appear, try instead to bring joy to one person at a time with your gift.”
I remove the yellowed and brittle sheet music off the stand to replace it with another. I nod to the lady and begin to play for her and for her alone.
My teacher was right. Bringing joy to one is enough.