I was so focused on my mission to find the bathroom that I rudely barreled into the Piano Woman. The dark circles under her eyes matched mine as we both tried to shuffle past each other. “Lo siento, lo siento” she and I awkwardly mumbled, hastily flinging our apologies at each other.
She sighed. “Estoy muy cansado…” and that was where I lost her in a haze of rapidly spoken Spanish. All I could make out was how tired she was, which her sagging composure reinforced. “Encantada”, I politely replied, nice to meet you, before retreating from the threat of more conversation. If I had not bumped into the Piano Woman, undoubtedly, I would not have paid any attention to her.
Nor did the silverware notice as she clambered towards the forgotten piano of the aptly named Piano Bar. Rather, it continued to clank softly against plates and transfer morsels from dish to mouth. The small bar crowd continued to eat and talk and clamor about. The patience of my companions waned as we stared at the clock, waiting to be whisked away on our night bus to Barcelona. We were impatient to leave, with other things on our minds.
Her milky, coffee colored eyes, so carefully rimmed with far too much eyeliner, flickered across the shining piano keys. Her excited fingers seemed detached from her tired body. Tonight, there was no audience for the Piano Woman, save my group of haggard travelers and a few leftover guests lounging in the bar. Nevertheless, her finger plucked the first key gracefully, cascading into her first song.
Not a fork dropped, not one glass of wine paused midair, and no one looked up, except for me. To be honest, I only looked because I felt guilty after bumping into her earlier. What a shame, because the piano made the woman glow. The melody loved her, and she became a part of it. Lost in it. She appeared empty until she sat down behind that piano. But now, it was obvious to me that she was filled with the life of her song as her eyes glistened with joy. Accustomed to the typical behavior of her uninterested audience, she never glanced up. The search for appreciation of her art was gone, or perhaps never existed in the first place.
She offered her soul, not to her audience, but to herself when she played. Perhaps that is why it was so beautiful.
When her melody was finished, no one clapped. As the lone observer, even I remained quiet. No eyes flitted towards her with a gleam of appreciation. Her shoulders shrunk, and her presence in the room faded. Her slow, halting facial expression returned as she reluctantly rose from the piano bench.
That was until my companion suddenly clapped for the lady who seldom was clapped for. Turns out, someone did notice after all. Abruptly, the piano player whipped her head around, holding an instants worth of eye contact with my dear friend. “Gracias” the Piano Woman murmured, with the trace of a smile.
Sing Me a Song, You’re the Piano Woman, is an essay I wrote about a woman I observed, but never met, when I was living in Spain in 2013. In this piece, I struggled to write about the thoughts of a stranger without reverting to mind-reading. What do you think? Leave a reply below.