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|An acquaintance of mine once said that stars are the ‘twinkling beacons of hope in the empty night sky of life’. It was a metaphor of course. He and his friends liked their metaphors. They were literary types and liked to think they knew everything. They had no jobs, in fact they did nothing. They thought of themselves as philosophers and philanthropists; in fact they were just lazy good-for-nothings with too much money. They were seedy too; always in some music bar, stuffing bills down a girls top or in the bathrooms injecting stuff into their body. They would drag me around to these horrible clubs and seat me down at the first piano they saw. I provided them with an accompaniment to their ridiculous, pathetic fantasies.
Anyway, the one who had talked about the stars fancied himself as a master poet. He believed he had been put on Earth to spread his important words and to impart the knowledge of the Gods onto the rest of us mere mortals. He rather fancied himself as a God too as he had a never-ending belief that he literally could do anything. He would watch me as I played the piano and would nod approvingly or shake his head when he thought I was doing something wrong. He could not play of course; indeed he seemed to think that it was so easy it was not worth wasting time over.
Thinking back I realise how vile him and his friends were. The only reason I went to those bars was that it meant I could earn money from my favourite hobby. At that point there was no way I could have taken a real job. I would not have survived. Even a day without music was so detrimental for me that it soon became my drug. The rest of the world could have its Opium; I had ivory keys keeping me addicted. This musical passion almost killed me.
It was a typical decadent evening with my acquaintance. Him and his elderly friends had gone off to sleep with some young girls. They left me on the bar’s Baby Grand playing requests from the drunken clientele. I played so many hideous songs that night. I had to play along for all the racist people in the room (there were lots of them) and had to listen as they sang how they would like to clear up the country by deporting all the foreigners. They extensively praised a young Austrian man with the same sort of ideas and said he was beginning to put them into practice in Germany. It sounded terrifying, not only did they seem to believe this man was right (which was worrying enough), but they also had lousy voices and all sang their songs in different keys. After that I watched the local chief of Police chase a young boy around and then disappear for maybe an hour with the boy.
The smell of Opium and Tobacco mixed was heady and made me feel dizzy. So many people were smoking I was surprised I could see the music. Stale alcohol was already filling the air. It was a difficult environment to play in; so much noise and not enough room for music. Girls were screaming as they were groped by their customers and their customers were matching them in sound. Some were shouting, some were snoring and some were retching. I felt there was no need for me to play, but as soon as I stopped people shouted and insisted I carry on. I was sat there in my tailcoat my back straight trying to show I was a civilised and sophisticated person. There was no point, a lot of the people in that bar were Colonels, MPs and Lawyers; all supposedly sophisticated but obviously still in need of the odd shag.
I found it harder and harder to play. I had seen decadence before and had not minded, but this was new. My hands began to sweat; I could feel it as my fingers brushed against each other. Looking down at them they suddenly looked like big pork sausages. They would not move fast enough or go to the right keys. Time and again I slipped up and heard a jeer from the crowd. I tried another song but felt as though my fingers were no longer under my control. My little finger and the one next to it were curling downwards painfully. It was some kind of muscle spasm that stopped me playing. Soon all my fingers were curling up and down painfully. I could do nothing to stop them. Now my hands felt like big slabs of meat, too fat for their own good. My handwork became sloppy and clumsy; I hit the wrong notes several times and felt my hands wanting to stop. I tried to ignore it and carry on playing, but the longer I went on, the more they curled.
I looked out into the audience in the hope that they wouldn’t notice if I stopped playing. None of them seemed to care. I stopped playing, stood up slowly and walked off the stage. My knees were shaking and I felt my stomach slowly filling up with bile. My cheeks burned and my fingers continued to move even down by my side. I rushed past all the couples to the emergency exit and pushed at it with all my weight. I felt the bitter cold air of the winter night and stepped out onto snow-covered ground. The stars were twinkling, but it felt more like they were laughing than giving me any sort of hope. The cool breeze had made me feel a lot better. My fingers had relaxed, but my legs were still weak so I walked over the road and found a bench looking out over the river. I sat down and felt the bile rise to my throat.
I leant forwards to stop the horrible sensation that I was about to be sick and looked out over the city. All the bright lights were reflected in the river. It was a beautiful evening.