Disclaimer: Only the neighbor is mine.


I moved into this apartment three years ago. It was about 11:00 at night and I was exhausted from all the packing, unpacking, loading, unloading. I poured myself a glass of wine – white, always white – and stepped out onto my new balcony. I leaned against the railing, occasionally sipping at the sweet alcohol.

Piano notes drifted by me, startling me. The sound had come very suddenly from no where. I looked all around, but could see nothing. There were no lights on in the apartment next to mine and I couldn't see anywhere else. However, being that I was tired beyond words, I decided not to let my overactive curiousity stop me from enjoying the beautiful music. You could practically see the emotions ripping through the keys as the music poured from unseen fingertips. Anger slowly became grief which slowly became a sort of bitter acceptance.

It became my own little traditon. Every time I was tired or angry or any other less-than-pleasant emotion, I would pour myself a glass of wine and sit on the balcony, just listening to the mysterious serenade. This had been going on for almost a year when, one August night, I finally discovered who the unknown pianist was. Being that it was August, and only 9:00, it was still light out. I had had one hell of a day – getting fired is never good for one's cheeriness. When the music began, I idly glanced around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a glass of Scotch on a paper napkin, resting on a piano. My eyes widened and I leaned out over the balcony as far as I could to get a better look.

He was older, maybe in his late 40s or early 50s. A heavy five-o-clock shadow covered his chin and gray showed through his dark hair. He wore a black AC/DC shirt, though the music that poured from his fingers was distinctly Schumann. A black and silver cane rested against the leg of the piano. Eyes closed, head bent, something about him was comforting in an odd sort of way.

Every night from then on I would sit on the balcony with my glass of wine and watch him play. I knew his emotions – his pain, his joy, his frustration, his love. I knew nearly nothing about him, besides the fact that he walked with a cane and played the piano, but I knew his emotions like the back of my hand. It became a sixth sense.

About a year and a half after my discovery of the identity of the musician, I met Len. For the first six months, I thought he was wonderful. Until two weeks ago that is, when I discovered those frequent, long business trips were really to visit his wife and three kids in Maryland. Needless to say, I tossed his things into garbage bags and tossed them onto the corner with a 'FREE' sign. So maybe it was a bit extreme, but I was angry! Anyways, I brooded for 13 days, never once setting foot onto the balcony with my customary glass of wine. Last night, as I lay awake, the familiar sounds of a piano drifted in through my open window.

It was the most welcome thing I'd ever heard. I sat up and walked over to the window. There he sat, a glass of Scotch on a paper napkin, the cane leaned against the wooden leg, the closed eyes, the bent head. A small smile spread across my face. He always knew just what to play. It was as if my emotions were intrinsically linked to his piano strings. Wagner for anger, Beethoven for pain, Mozart for joy. Tonight, like the first night I saw him, it was Schumann. Schumann meant two things: loss and hope. An odd pairing at first glance, but with close study it makes sense. A hope for new beginnings because of a loss. He had played Schumann the night the dark-haired woman left and now he played it for me. Though we might never meet, the pianist and I shared something. A little piece of heart and a little piece of soul.

I live in 221A and this is my story.

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