Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave. No pomp nor circumstance. The greatest musical mind thrown into a dirt hole. Jody thought about this as he sat in the windowless waiting room on the fourth floor of a government building. The hum of electricity was a B flat. The sharpness of the plain rooms details were perfectly lit in the dim light of fluorescent bulbs. He was there to apply for government housing. A fittingly low point in the life of someone who had once appeared on the cover of several nationwide publications under the title of “the Next Mozart” so Jody figured he was right on schedule for being buried in an unmarked grave. His hands knew every note. His ear could pick out the melody of anything from one listen. His pitch was perfect. Then one day there was nothing. No amount of therapy or drugs or reckless living could return his creativity. It was as if a switch had been flipped. He could mimic others play the standards but so could any good pianist and a child prodigy doesn’t look good on a marquee when the “child” is 35 years old and prematurely balding.
He discovered too late that his passion had been driven by the admiration and without it playing a grand piano and the Met was just a 9-5 job like anything else. It was boring now. This attitude made itself more pronounced as he got older. A persnickety child was seen as adorable. A persnickety adult was an asshole. And so the calls stopped coming. The gigs became fewer and far between. Eventually the money became so sparse that most of his “team” including his agent and manager dispersed. He had no drive to book or promote himself so he became a ghost. A legend people talked about. A picture that appeared in the spam articles at the bottom of web pages next to the clickbait title “You Won’t Believe What He Does Now.” He had distanced himself from his own image so much that most people when they read his name thought it was coincidental. He was an icon. Commercialized overplayed and forgotten.
The B flat continued. The whole damn city was an out of tune symphony to him. It was maddening but there was no escape. He could have left but where would he have gone. Small towns were the worst. He could probably make a living teaching or even doing small gigs but that fate seemed worst to him then dying in anonymity. And it was that anonymity that was provided in the city, even when he was still famous he could disappear in the city. Nobody gave a shit about you in a big city. They left you alone. He had gotten enough of people during his 15 minutes to last a lifetime. People were hollow. People were fake and he was no exception. He had been surrounded by and eventually succumb to the nothingness.
A painfully plain social worker opened a door into the waiting room and looked at the file in her hand “Jody St. Yves?”
He forced a smile as she looked at him
“Like the pianist?”
She seemed confused, “Step right in”
He followed her into hallway past cubicles of tedious people likely doing tedious things and into an office with a single window facing a brick wall. She walked around the desk as he took a seat.
“So it says you are applying for government housing?”
“That is correct.”
She shuffled through the papers on her desk more out of nervousness than necessity.
“I’m sorry to ask but you’re the Jody St. Yves right?”
“Informally may I ask… how…?”
That was a typical question he was asked when someone got too close and figured out who he was or at least who he used to be. The nice succinct answer was the one he decided to give her.
“It’s a very long story”
“I’m sorry, that’s very unprofessional of me to ask it’s just I did not expect you to be here.”
“Believe me, neither did I”
“I’m sorry…I’m…let’s just continue”
She straightened up in her seat and forced professionalism.
“It says your current living situation is living with a…Reed Templeton”
“Will this person be living with you in the future”
“Not if I can help it”
She looked at him
“It’s a very temporary situation”
“Okay so what is your primary source of income?”
“I have none.”
“Are you employed? Part or full time?
“Is there anything that prevents you from being employed including an illness or other handicap?”
“What are your long term goals?”
“Being hit by a city bus”
She looked up from the computer “Really?”
“It’s a joke”
She looked down.
“Kinda,” he added
The rest of the interview proceeded very conventionally. With each embarrassing detail being brought up and then awkwardly examined before being noted in a very small file. At the end the she thanked him for coming in and told him that he would be added to a list of potential recipients. He thanked her for the time and of course she gave the “it’s a real honor” talk while she walked him to the door.
“Okay so you know you’re way back to the lobby…”
“Just down the hall and through the gray door” she motioned with her hand
He turned to walk away and was about two cubicles away when he heard her
“O, Mr. St. Yves!”
He turned and saw her pacing to him
“I forgot, can you sign this.”
“Like an autograph?”
The color drained from her face, “No I needed one more signature on your paperwork”
The tension was palpable as he signed the paperwork. He turned with a smirk to leave and she melted in embarrassment. It was something he was used to, you didn’t fall this far down without being taught a little humility. Though he did feel slightly foolish believing she would want an autograph. When he left the building he looked both ways before crossing the busy street hoping to find an errant bus driver who wasn’t quite paying attention to the road.