May I play the piano?
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
He stands at the open door and asks, ‘May I play the piano?’ I stumble. I am far away and can’t hear clearly to what he says. His name is Dale, but I don’t know it yet. I have only seen him before at night, trying to sleep on the floor, right at this same doorstep. I have had to ask him to move his feet a little bit so that I can get out and once he asked me to turn off the lights so that it’s easier for him to sleep. Sometimes, I have heard him being angry for reasons I cannot imagine of, throwing stuff, yelling and swearing. But now, he is standing straight and still, asking me one more time as I approach him ‘May I play the piano?’ His question surprises me. It’s nothing I would ever expect to hear from him. His head is covered with a hood and his body wears filthy clothes that radiate the smell of someone who hasn’t had the pleasure of a warm bath for a very long time. I don’t know what I should do, nor what to say. I am at the Red Poppy Art House preparing the space for tonight’s performance, and an awarded pianist is on his way. I want to be kind to Dale, but instantly alarming thoughts invade my mind, running faster than my true feelings for the present moment. What if he gets out of control, starts banging at the piano or doesn’t want to leave the space? How all that may affect our nicely scheduled program? But at this moment, Dale’s presence is calm, and his voice is soft and firm. I guess it is what wakes me up to let go the fear of my biased assumptions and clumsy respond, ‘Well…we have some time before our performance… Do you know how to play?’ ‘Yes’, he responds looking straight into my eyes and finally, I can’t but surrender to the unexpected of his genuine offer. I welcome him in, take out the stool and open the piano. He sits and immediately he starts playing. His hands look rough and dirty with nails longer than any pianist would ever have, but his fingers dance delicately over the keys. He plays a lovely melody that he repeats again and again, until the room is full of joy and sorrow, at the same time. His mantra is a balsam for the soul for everyone present and moves deeply some of us, who sit further, to come closer and join chanting, until he softly concludes. We clap in praise, but he doesn’t react much. With his head looking down, he puts back the piano cover and takes out a napkin to clean the surface. I stumble again as his neat gesture contradicts any premeditated thought. ‘That was really beautiful…’, I finally find the words to say. ‘Where did you learn to play the piano? ‘At school’, he responds, glimpsing at my eyes. ‘And what is your name? ‘ ‘Dale’, he says, and he stands up, ready to go. ‘Nice to meet you, Dale. I am maria. Thank you for playing the piano!’ He looks one more time but says nothing. His gaze is dreamy. He gently slides the stool back to its place and he walks slowly away without looking behind. I see him leaving and I can hardly hold my tears that want to express my gratitude and my heartache. Back in the silent injustice of this world, the only sound I can hear clearly now is the sound of his voice asking. ‘May I play the piano?’
This true story, now in my memory, is sad and beautiful at the same time. It reminds me that life has much suffering, but we can always soothe our pain with human connection. And human connection is always possible when we are able to see beyond our fears that belong to the past and worries that belong to the future. Human connection happens when we are vulnerable and in touch with our feelings at the present moment. Let's open our heart and embrace the uncomfortable, look beyond the surface, in search of the essence. It's in this liminal space that we can enjoy the gifts of interconnectedness. Thank you for reading! warmly, maria