The way he moved his head as he struck each key, how her fingers lingered up and down the mic but most importantly the gaze she lays on him when she sings a line only meant for him, those were the moments I looked forward to each and every Wednesday night. The music of two lovers.
I remember seeing his first performance here at the bar and the immediate lure it had not only over me but anyone who could hear the delicate sounds that sprung from such a composed instrument. The pianists always stood out for me whether they were playing the blues or country my mind couldn’t help but come to ease though when it was him playing, Mattéo, striking those keys. He made my black and white days more colorful.
Now Avery’s singing with him, not just singing though, seducing one another every time they’re on stage. The chemistry between these two musicians was something to be envious of especially when one had felt that feeling before. Lived and breathed not for yourself but for someone else, this was how they performed, for one another. Avery only ever sang with Mattéo and when he could not make it that night she wouldn’t sing, she’d sit, wait, drink a beer and then leave. Sometimes I’d fantasize about sitting next to her and just basking in her presence. The presence of the woman who earned the affection of the man that I love.
“Why the piano?” Mattéo questions as he sits next to me in front of the brown instrument. He seems so close and his question so…personal.
“I don’t know.” I blush and wonder why I’m here, why am I really taking music classes. Is it because of how he plays it or is it just because of him?
“Of course you know, you just don’t know how to express it,” he looks at me again and I manage a shy smile but he doesn’t smile back he rather cocks his head to the side and inspects my face, my thoughts as if I’m the puzzle and not him. “Let’s start with how to place your fingers and after each lesson I’ll give you pieces to practice at least more than half an hour a day.” I nod and look back to the piano, grazing the keys with the tips of my fingers hoping this will last longer than it should.
I wish I didn’t go to that first lesson, because now I’m paralyzed in my bed, unable to feel. The only way I could feel anything was when I leached from the music of Avery and Mattéo, or when I drifted away from my mundane world by making music myself. I wasn’t always like this my life before him was normal, redundant, but normal. Maisy, my cat, waited for me at home and work was more then enough to keep me going but then music swooped into my bar conveyed by a raven head man with a mind as beautiful as the sounds that emerged from the instrument he played.
“Don’t treat it like it will break, take your whole body and manifest whatever feeling it is that you need to release unto it. Playing an instrument is more than just creating or imitating art, it is opening your mind to another world.” Mattéo says calmly leaning further into the wall but I want him here next to me where he can guide me when I’m lost though he has noticed that I have feelings for him. So he keeps his distance and looks away when I catch his eyes.
“You say these things that seem so simple to do but are so complex, what if there’s nothing for me to release what if I just want to imitate King or Clapton. What then?” he shakes his head and unfolds his arms.
“Everyone has something to hide and once in a while you get tired of keeping it to yourself.”
“What do you have to hide?” I wished I hadn’t asked that, he seems angered now, his nose always scrunches upwards when I’ve said something he doesn’t agree with.
“That’s enough for today.” Mattéo packs up the music sheets and place them in his satchel. “Maybe you could play with me tonight at the bar?” his ability to make a room tense but light at the same time never seizes to amaze me.
More than anything my body aches to play again, to feel again but I don’t know when the lock-down will end. What I do know is that the music and recordings are no longer enough for me, my minds degrading fast maybe I should stop fighting it and just let go of the last bit of sanity I have.
“My father taught me, so every time I play it takes me back to him. I’ve never not played for him, even when I teach, I place myself in his shoes, every key I strike is for him.” He says placing the music sheets in front of us and I can’t help but catch his hand. “That’s my secret and normally I could tell why my students want to play this specific instrument but I can not figure out yours.”
“In the beginning you were my secret but now I do it to break a cycle that has become my…life” I try to find his eyes but he still looks away, “I feel like I’m in pieces and each time I play I mend those pieces when I stop the pieces go back to fragments.” He squeezes my hand and rests his head on mine without him saying a word I understand that he is broken too.
I reach for the antidepressants aware that there’s nothing left but I don’t have the energy to explain to Dr Moore how I’ve finished a bottle two weeks before I can fetch the new one. One night at the bar used to get me through a week without the help of pills, I would just reminisce back on the piece they did, hum it on the train, imitate it on my grandma’s piano and dream about the way that piece would look if it was alive. Times like these, when I’d get sad Maisy could feel it and a lick or a ‘meow’ from her made things better but it’s been a month since she’s passed and I just can’t find another her.
My fingers move swiftly and vigorously across the black and white keys while my head moves in unison. Every time I strike the G# Mattéo strikes it in the air with me, even now after everything I still want to make him proud.
“That was magnificent! You really leave no room for criticism.” He says swiftly stacking the notes. “I wish this wasn’t our last session…I’m sorry that it is.”
“Before we leave can you just promise me one thing; that one day you will play for yourself.” I want to hug him but that will just make this more difficult even if I’ll still see him play at the bar, he will never see me again.
I should’ve hugged him, should’ve said goodbye properly. One thing I do know…I know that he is no longer playing for his father.