The piano player sat at the edge of the cliff. Beside him, the unused telescope monitored the lost horizon where a wounded lighthouse continued to shine, its static light pointing vaguely to the sky. Small silver waves sparkled toward the shore where the remains of an old dinghy rocked back and forth wondering about past trips and forgotten lovers.
A second chair kept him company, as if someone else sat there beside him. He still spent many hours thinking of her and the music played on in his mind while his fingers drummed away, against his will.
He moved to this quiet village a year ago. He wanted to leave all the familiar places behind, the places where he could see her face in every corner. The times they spent together were filled with adventures, shared futures and eternal smiles. She was not with him anymore. He didn’t want to listen to the stubborn melodies his mind hummed and hummed continuously.
The villagers welcomed him with a vigilant formality. They knew he was a famous piano player eager to protect his privacy, but he only really wanted to protect a painstakingly built wall of silence, the silence where her voice could not be heard. Most days were difficult, nights were worse.
Sometimes, he dreamt of a black and white room where black chairs scattered about danced to the silence of a black radio, a nearby coats’ hanger threatening to join in. Curiously, there was a window above from where a ray of light shone, giving him some hope. He always felt like climbing on a chair and peaking through the window, but he never did. He feared a renewed loss in an eternally revisited dream, strenuously balanced between an endurable vision and an intolerable nightmare. There was also a tub with warm steamy water, inviting him to jump in. When he did, he invariably ended back at the village. And the dream was over.
Those months went by slowly. He walked around, waving back at the occasional passer-by and spending many nights at the open-air cinema where black and white films were shown against the wall of a local house. No one ever joined him. The villagers had watched those films many times before for sure. Occasionally, there was a slideshow of pictures taken at the village, the lighthouse, the lake by the playground, probably the result of some contest long forgotten. Whoever changed the films and the slideshows was never to be seen. He didn’t know it, but they did it for him.
Every Saturday, the village organized a ball. The loud singing and laughter cautioned the piano player not to leave the warmth of his fireplace and the company of an old mute radio. He would sit at home hypnotized by the rhythmic dance of the flames, wishing he had the courage to go outside where the bright white lights hung from a cord above the dance floor.
The worst part was the music playing intertwined promises of perpetual love. They triggered painful memories of her, and when he tried to be rational and think of the flow of notes as A plus B plus C, his fingers gained a will of their own hammering away on the arm of the sofa.
At the edge of the cliff, the sun was setting, the shadows growing into dark duplicates of the chairs, the telescope and the trees. The clouds were gloomier too, readying themselves for the night and for that day of pain, the day he had lost her.
The piano player always delayed going home. He waited till the last minute, the very last moment when the sun slid away toward the other side of the world to search for more broken hearts, he thought. Before he finally stumbled through dusk to find the way back, he always took a last look at the fallen lighthouse hoping that it’d point him in the right direction somehow.
Throughout the months, he discovered many spots where he sat for hours, the wooden bench with the lamp next to it, the old bridge, and the broken windmill looking up at the power lines where imaginary clothes danced in the wind and spread a sweet scent of freshness. Someone had placed a painting of trees with fluttering birds next to a lamplight sitting on the floor. Those leafless trees made him think of the past and also of the future. They planned to have children. They planned to see the seasons go by. They planned to sit together at the edge of some cliff and watch the sun disappear with the reassuring belief that everything would be ok.
He also spent a great deal of time walking in shallow waters at the bottom of the cliff where he found an entrance in the rock. A wooden pathway took him to a small cove where a Buddha whispered silent mantras and the echo of the waterfall behind it was silenced by its tranquility. That place brought him peace, even the silence he eagerly searched for. The villagers, on their way to a café nearby, would look at him with surprise. He sat in front of the statue for a long time with water up to his chest, his eyes closed.
That’s when the little girl noticed him for the first time.
(Part II, the conclusion of the Piano Player’s story)