Monday, March 26, 2012

Sing Us A Song

No one knew who he was, they didn’t know his past, to them he was the Piano Man, until one song request leaves him feeling nostalgic for his previous life.


It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday

The regular crowd shuffles in

I stepped into the bar, the smoke hanging hazy in the air, my eyes falling on my piano next to the bar. Sheet music in hand I approached, gently lifting the lid, fingers dancing along the ebony and ivory, just breathing it the atmosphere, looking around at all the regulars, each who know me, and yet I am a stranger.

And that’s the way I like it, a virtual unknown, so different from my former life. But no one ever expected me to choose this, not after fame and fortune. By my piano playing was my secret joy, one that not even the all-knowing fans knew, in fact those who knew of my skill, I thought as I sat at the stool, sheet music ruffling in my hand, I could probably count using just my fingers.

There’s an old man sitting next to me

Makin’ love to his tonic and gin

Two years I’ve been playing here, and I have seen many a character walk through those doors, but know to my right was a stranger, head down, hand cradling a drink, shoulder’s slumped. I couldn’t see his face, just the back of his head, his dark brown hair as he didn’t even turn to talk when he spoke.

“Do you think you could play a request?”

He says, “Son, can you play me a memory

I’m not really sure how it goes

But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete

When I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

I nodded, waiting to hear the song, my fingers already resting on the keys waiting to be given a song title, or a melody, and to translate words to music. But the froze as he spoke.

Why that song? I wished I could refuse, but it was not my place, so I ignored the way my heart seized, fearful of the sadness that the familiar song would induce as I was drawn back to my own memories.

La la la, di da da

La la, di di da da dum

But as the familiar chords perforated the air, and my mind was drawn into the past, I found that my heart was stirring, not with pain but nostalgia, as I remember just how much this song had meant, for it was our song. And as the song slowly filled the room, mingling with the smoke, sweat and alcohol, I found myself wondering where he was now.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man

Sing us a song tonight

Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody

And you’ve got us all feelin’ alright

I knew that I held the clubs full attention, they came here to forget, and just like the alcohol the consume to numb the pain, music serves as its own drug. But tonight it was perfectly potent, as though they could feel the emotion, and they were finally being allowed to see me, and they couldn’t turn away. And I lived for this feeling, it had been so long since I had held a crowd in the palm of my hand, and I longed for that spotlight once again, and while my fingers continued to play, I looked around, meeting the eyes of my audience.

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine

He gets me my drinks for free

And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke

But there’s some place that he’d rather be

He shots me a small smile, wiping down a glass with a cloth, and I know he understands my longing. But we differ, for I have experienced it once, and although I miss it and occasionally long for my old life, I accept that it is passed, and I am content, while he knows nothing but this, and I know his dreams are far away.

He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.”

As his smile ran away from his face

"Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star

If I could get out of this place”

Eyes travelling along the bar and once again they fall on the stranger, the one who had requested this song, and how I wish he could turn, so I could see his eyes, to see if this song holds as much meaning to him as it does to me, to see whether it holds heartache or joy. But he remains a mystery, hand raised to indicate the need for another glass, the slow tapping of his feet to the melody the only indication of his utmost attention.

Oh, la la la, di da da

La la, di da da da dum

I meet the eyes of every person in the room, their usual chatter ceased, and cigarettes hanging idly from their fingers, and my mind immediately pulls their names and their stories to my mind, for in my job I get to hear so much, and over time I learn so much.

Now Paul is a real estate novelist

Who never had time for a wife

And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy

And probably will be for life

But even though I know about them, I don’t know them, they aren’t my friends, and these days those who call my friends, I don’t even know where they all. Since it ended we didn’t keep in touch, we just fell apart, all of us, even those that were the closest. And suddenly I feel the tears prickling at my eyes and the song reaches to my heart and reminds me of what was lost.

And the waitress is practicing politics

As the businessman slowly gets stoned

Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness

But it’s better than drinkin’ alone

And as I play the song, I mourn for all my loss, and I know that I am no better than everyone else in the room, drawn together by our misery, for misery loves company. And though we don’t talk we are connected, all of us, even if we have never spoken, I thought as I look back at the stranger, his head turned upward, seemingly content, as though he can feel my emotional response, and he can relate,

Sing us a song you’re the piano man

Sing us a song tonight

Well we’re all in the mood for a melody

And you got us all feeling alright

The song was drawing to a close, the final bars within sight, and I realised why they all came, and why they always wanted a song. Because music helps you face those emotions, it brings what you avoid to the light, and when the problem is right there in front of you, it’s easier to overcome and move forward.

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday

And the manager gives me a smile

'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see

To forget about their life for a while

I don’t want the song to end, so I take it back eight bars, though they aren’t to know it’s not part of the composition, and for the first time, I turn to the microphone next to me, and I allow my own voice to project alongside the piano, my first instrument hidden away for too long.

And the piano, it sounds like a carnival

And the microphone smells like a beer

And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar

And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”

But I can only extend for so long, and I finish, staring at my fingers, noting they were shaking.

“Why did you request that song?”

And his voice dropped the English accent it had held earlier, slipping into a softer, lilting familiar Irish tone, as he turned in his seat, and captured me once again, like he had so many years before, as I feel into the pools of his eyes.

“I just wanted to see Louis, if you still remembered, because I never forgot.”

He slipped from the chair, moving to stand before me, and I was transported back, back to the end and the beginning. We were both too timid, too afraid to act, afraid of the consequences, as the threat of the end of the band hung over our heads and we never gained the courage before it was too late.

But as he had left, opening the door to the taxi  to take him to the airport and home, I gained some nerve and kissed him softly as the rain fell down gently, crying as it drove him away. As this song played over the radio.

Oh, la la la, di da da

La la, di da da da dum

“How did you find me?” I asked, blue eyes searching blue, seeing nothing but love and remorse that neither of us had fought harder when we were younger, but hopeful for a new chance and a new change.

“It doesn’t matter how I found you Louis, all that matters is that I did.”

His fingers, still calloused from the strings of his guitar brushed my chin, tilting my head back, a smile playing on both of our lips as we acted as we should have many years ago, the echo of the song playing in our minds.

And Niall leaned forwards, his lips connecting with mine, and it felt right, as though I was the harmony to the melody he was playing. And together we knew we would be alright.

Sing us a song you’re the piano man

Sing us a song tonight

Well we’re all in the mood for a melody

And you got us all feeling alright

By bringingwordstolife