C to G. F to A. His language.
As he slowly played, the notes on the piano filled his half asleep brain. The chords soothed his soul in a way that only music could. It was the harmony; it was the smooth beat that resonated within him to the very depths of his soul. No one knew about his passion. They knew of the piano, of the bachelor's apartment; but no one knew he actually played. The music was habit, ingrained in his being. After all these years he could not forgot; would not forget.
His mother had played, beautifully. She would drink alcohol and he would stand in the shadows and see the wine on the instrument and watch the former debutante scribble upon filled sheets of music. He would watch and then later, in the silence of a deserted mansion, he would climb on her stool, on her bench and carefully, oh so carefully, press the delicate white keys down. He had taught himself. He would watch in the shadows and learn and study.
He learned to love the smooth keys and the harmony, and the dissonance, notes created. He learned to play the chords and how to play the music. He learned what notes were which and came home and stared at sheets of music. He learned to play the music his mother had composed. He learned to ignore the womanly shadow that haunted the room as he played. He learned to ignore the muffled sounds of sobs. He learned to ignore the yells from his father's room when his mother would enter. He learned to ignore everything around him.
And then the music stopped.
There was no longer music to listen to and someone to watch from the shadows. He wasn't allowed in the room; wasn't allowed to play. He picked the lock once and snuck into the dust-covered room and desperately but tenderly grabbed the piles of music upon the piano. He took the music and wrapped it in paper towels he had taken from the kitchen and tucked them away underneath his bed. When he left the house to be sent away to school at his young age, the music went with him, wrapped and placed carefully in a box. He would, when he was alone and done with classes and drills, take out the music and play on his bed, kneeling on the floor. Notes and scales. Up and down. Over and over again before carefully placing it back in its hiding place.
He gained the reputation of being a trouble maker. Of being a jock and carefree young boy. He devoted himself to becoming the man, the typical hero, he had watched in the countless movies he had snuck out to see. The strong man, the fearless man. . . the man everyone else wanted to be. And to everyone else, he became it. But he was lonely. He played the sports that he had grown to love and when the loneliness grew to be too much to handle, he played music. On his desk, on his bed, on the floor. He tapped and played wherever, whenever he could. It was his escape. The day he tore the ligaments in his knee he said nothing. The frat brothers that stopped in heard nothing, only saw the fingers moving and tapping on the hospital sheets. After he had started recovering, with too much time on his hands, he had wandered over to the empty Thurber Theatre one day and found a piano in a hall. He hesitated only for an instant before sitting and carefully, just like the first time, pressing the key. He halted and rested his head on the piano before shaking his head, frustrated, and moving swiftly away, the sounds of students down the hall. His mind filled with the memories of a dark, fabric-covered room and the heavy smell of good wine. He would sneak in the back of musical performances in an infrequent spare time and listen. He'd leave before it was over and arrive just before it started.
It wasn't until he rented his first apartment that he played again. He had not played in years. Sports and friends and girlfriends and then the academy and work. He had purchased an old studio piano on the spur of a moment decision. He had placed it in the corner of the room and left it alone, too busy to bother with the memories. It wasn't until the day he killed his first man that he returned. He had stumbled into his apartment, his first stop being the refrigerator for a beer. And then a second. And then a third. He took jagged steps towards the piano bench before collapsing, leaning his aching head on the piano. He looked around himself with bleary, unfocused eyes. Alone. That's what he was. Alone. Didn't matter how many girls he slept with, how many pseudo-relationships he started. They were fun, to be sure, but they gave him no lasting pleasure. He looked down at his trembling hands, trying to forget the image of the bleeding man, his chest oozing red, shot with a bullet from his gun, fired by his hand. He ran his figures over the piano, wiping the dust off the top. He slowly opened the lid and stared at the keys. White, black, white, black, white, white. In a burst of passion and anger, he smashed his fist into the keys. At the dissonance of the notes, he winced and gently laid his fingers on the keyboard. He gently played a C chord, and closing his eyes, he played a scale. Up and down, up and down, over and over again.
He lost track of time. He played for minutes or hours, starting with the scales he had been taught so long ago and moved on the books of music he had once known. Play, play. The notes, the music, the melody. It soothed his aching soul. He had played until his fingers were sore and tired, before stumbling into bed in a drunken haze.
He played when he was upset. When he was mad, when he was disappointed, when he was furious at the entire precinct. He relearned the skill he had had as a child and developed it. Devoting himself to the music with the same determination as a young Buckeye football star, he taught himself how to play the most complicated sheets of music. Measure by measure, he worked them out with a zeal of which his coach would have been proud.
When he moved after two years, the piano went with him. Through long nights when he should have slept, he played. But he never told. To his coworkers and his friends, the young detective was an open book. Conquests and parties and bars. But he hid the music. It was his private passion. It wasn't something that he wanted to explain, the locked memories of his childhood. He wasn't even sure if he could explain, even if he wanted to in the first place. So he went to bars and lived his life with all the passion of a young, carefree man. It wasn't that the music changed him. It rejuvenated him. The music was the only time he dared get close to diving into the depths of his soul. It was easier to live without a care. To forget what happened and what could have happened. So he lived. And played.
He had rediscovered his mother's music. The hand written scribbles of eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Of staccato and legato. The phrases and notes, rising to crescendos and falling to the depths of despair. And it ended. It broke, without an end, without a resolution. And so he composed. Slowly, every few months, he would add a measure. In a moment of anger, the piece would rise, and grow, and crescendo. And in a moment of sadness, the piece would slow and fall back and forth in a rocking sound, soothing and comforting. He added slowly; the work of years.
After he moved to D.C., on his birthday, he bought himself a grand piano. The rich, full sound pulled on the suppressed memories of a long-ago childhood. He was busy though. He was rarely home with his new job. He enjoyed it. It pushed him in a way no other department had. His boss, he couldn't quite make out. He hadn't seemed to like him at all in Baltimore; he acted patronizing and was shocked at the break in the case that he had discovered. But it had gotten him a job. Federal Agent. Not a detective anymore. He was enjoying himself. The movie references, the jokes, the part of being a team that had his back. Years past, team members left, and new members came. But surprisingly, he stayed. He stayed on the team and gained skill and learned how to be sharper as an agent. And he played when he was alone. In the dark of the night, with only the light of the moon streaming through the curtains as a solitary friend, he played and composed. When his sister, his friend, his partner died, he stayed up the entire night, tears slowly falling down his face. When the Israeli assassin joined his team he played angrily, drinking an entire bottle of wine, even though he had to work the next day. When she spontaneously showed up at his apartment one evening, curious about who he was, wandering around his apartment, running her fingers over the dusted piano, she asked him if he played. As he popped the caps of two bottles of beer, he froze for a brief second before uttering a quiet no and offering a bright smirk. She looked at him with deep, dark eyes and with an almost imperceptible tilt of her head accepting the beer he offered.
Months past. He learned to make the strange, entirely original team work. And then all fell apart. His boss was injured and left him. Left him hanging. Wasn't sure if he felt disappointment, anger, pride, or understanding. Or mix of all. His boss thought he was ready. Maybe he wasn't. But he would be 'cause he had to be. Pride that his mentor thought he was ready. Disappointment that there was no goodbye. Left him to deal with the mess because he never could handle the emotions of life. Anger for that very reason. One doesn't simply leave everything that had been a life's work. And understanding that after a life devoted to justice, damn politics just wasn't acceptable. He had felt the same frustration. He took all the emotions, the exhausting days absorbing everyone else's frustrations, and he put them to music. Lyrical phrases and passionate phrases. The frustration of the later days when he was kicked out his job, of the position that he had tried to make better, he put to music. The joy of a relationship where he could be the person he had just discovered he could be and, later, the discovery that all was gone.
Everything in his life was on the paper. The edited sheets, the crossed out phrases that he had written and rewritten. The drama, the success, the heartbreak was expressed through the phrases he had painstakingly composed.
His coworkers saw him as the joker. The man with only one side. No depth, just surface fun.
It was a hard case. Really hard. An abused child, a cheating spouse, a murdered sister, then a mother's suicide. The poor child. They had all been testy. They had ended up catching the sister's killer, to be sure, but they had all left annoyed with each other. The case had been hard on him especially. Too familiar. Too similar to what he had experienced, a past that he had tried hard to forget. The team had noticed. His ninja had commented on his attitude with a joke to which he didn't respond. They had shown up at his door that night. The probie and ninja and the gremlin. And they heard him play. They stood outside the door in confusion, listening. The probie lifted his hand to knock but she grabbed his hand and gave a shake of her head. They stood for minutes, just listening to the music. And they turned and walked away.
She came back, once the others had left, and knocked, interrupting the music that still played. When the door opened to greet his tired face, she stared, the question in her eyes; he opened the door and she sauntered in, sitting on his couch. He sat across and shrugged, the foreign look of defeat on his face. She went to his fridge and opened two bottles and sat across from him again, leaning back in her seat, silence the reigning sound. Asked no questions, the appreciation in his eyes shining through. And there they sat, questions and brief, unwilling answers to be dealt with another day. And they did, the next morning, after sleeping next to each other, holding, comforting, partner and friends in the truest and deepest sense. Brief histories of why he did what he did and who he was. And she told him of disappointment; of a parent who never showed to support her in what she loved the best, the art that had made her the sneaky ninja. The ballet, the music had touched her soul too. But it had left with the mission of a duty to please the never present father and as a duty of twisted revenge for a murdered sister. And then they sat, next to each other, two broken souls, in silence. And he played. She closed her eyes and remembered movements of another age, another life. And he played his song, his mother's last, unfinished legacy. And silently, eventually, she rose and slipped out the door.
And the next month, after an equally difficult case for her, he was playing and heard his door creak open. He saw her come in out of the corner of his eyes but kept playing. He saw her curl in a corner of the couch in an unfamiliar position of vulnerability. He reached a crescendo, a glorious moment of passion and he saw her rise, and, for the first time, saw her as she had seen him; expression and emotion flowing from her graceful limbs as she moved through the room. He turned his head in a rare moment of respect for her privacy. Her dance was the same as his music. And that night, as she danced and he slowed the piece into the resolution he had composed, he could not change a thing. And the last chords rang into the otherwise silent room, she approached and lightly ran her knuckles over the sheet of music before pressing one open palm against his shoulder. The next day, at work, he placed a manila folder on her desk. After she opened it, she looked up and met his steady green eyes, a profound moment of understanding between the two. She found a painstakingly written copy of the very music she had danced to the night before in the envelope. She placed the folder in a locked drawer and saw the curious glances of the other team members.
He could not change it. It was complete. The piece, his composition, his last connection with a past, a person he once was, a life he once lived. As he thought of his partner, the display of strange emotions, he sent the music away to a publisher. And two months later, he received in the mail a printed copy of his mother's love and of his devotion and emotions, with two names at the top as the composers. He placed it inside the pile of music with a small, proud smile.
His team came over for pizza a few weeks later, his place the general consensus due to the large television and library of movies; she came over first. He pulled the music out of the stack and silently showed it to her. She gave a bright, proud smile and, placing a hand on his cheek, kissed the other cheek. He stuck it back in the pile and greeted the team as they walked into his apartment. Later in the evening, as the doctor had his wine, he was looking through the collection of music on the piano; he looked, stunned, at the discovery he had just made. A published copy of music, intense in its complexity, with the name of his young coworker at the top. At the sight of his old friend holding his music, he started. The two men made eye contact with sudden understanding filling the eyes of the older. He gently replaced the copy where had found it, much explained in that simple moment about the loyal young man he had learned to love.
He was asked to play the piece for an audience in New York. He wasn't going to. His music was private, it was his emotions, the expression of his most inner self. But she had found the letter while he was showering by looking through his mail. She had waved the piece of paper in front of him and the next day he sent in the acceptance letter. He sent an invitation to the kindly doctor who immediately submitted his work leave request form, as did the other two. They headed up to New York together. And when he went on stage, he could see, through the lights, an older gentleman and a stunning women sitting with rapt, encouraging, and amused support. And he played, his fingers flying, a position comfortable yet completely foreign, a public display of emotion that never before had he shown. The music soared, lifting to new heights, new depths. And when he reached the end, he looked up from the white and black keys at the standing audience, uncomfortable and uncertain. He reached his friends at the end of the night, greeted by a firm handshake and proud smile, and an overwhelming embrace and encouraging word.
And they didn't tell. They didn't ask for a further explanation. They didn't effuse with congratulations; they simply smiled, proud.
After the weekend, after returning to work, the boss confronted them, demanding the reason for their absence at the same time. They only smiled. That night, the boss showed up at his apartment, ready to confront him one more time, only to see, through the cracked door he had opened, the sight of his senior field agent playing the piano, his fingers moving up and down across the black and white keys, and the ninja dancing, both looking away from the other, allowing the other their moment of privacy. He backed out of the door and leaned against the wall before silently closing the door and slowly making his way back to his car.
The notes, the music. Up and down, complex but simple. The raw expression of emotions never to be expressed in words. Never between two people, but between the soul and the world. The only catharsis he would allow himself. No talent in book smarts, no talent in art, but the expression of his soul and the souls of the people he had seen throughout his life.
His history. His mother's legacy. His present life. His present friends. The future for people to listen. The future for people to comprehend.
Up and down. Complex and simple. Harmony, melody, following together, breaking apart. Harmony and dissonance.
Te ta, te taaa, te. Ta. Ta. Taa.
I hoped you enjoyed this. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea where I was going with this. But I'd love to here what you thought! And I own nothing. I never remember to put that on my stories. :)