Song for a Stranger
The man blossomed from the shadows, faceless as the darkness that had shrouded him. A steady gait and a stoical expression were a time honored guarantee for a blind eye turned from every passerby and walker-on strolling through the lowly lit streets. Neon signs and burning scions of hopeful mercantilism glared off into the night, promising business for those who could pay and that those would pay who did business. The man breathed deeply and sighed, a rolling soft as leaning grass that betrayed the fatigue that he kept so hidden, so cloistered within himself. He stood erect as a man bearing a cross, and breached the night.
The sagging hinges and beaten frame of a door on the end of the street drew him near, and led him into a pit that was not the blackest he had ever known. Smoke filled the air and the lungs of the patrons. The bar stools were as sodden with despair as their occupants, and leaning just as heavily. Amid the din of clinking glasses and time being passed, though, there was a rolling beauty. A piano being played by the hands of one who needed the money served as the poorly tuned savior to the creaking floorboards and tearful drunkards. The man approached the pianist.
“You play so gently. It's truly beatiful, and your music touches me" said the dark man, with tears in his eyes.
"Well, do you have a request? I play for tips" the pianist inquired, eyeing his half full beer with the shrewd gaze of a man who knows his limit, and how to surpass it.
"Yes, please. Play me a song to remind me of moonlight. Play me the dust that gathers on things forgotten, and the joy of slipping from this world into a daydream. Please" he begged, wide eyed as he put a dollar or two into the pianists tip jar.
The musician took a gauge of the dark man then, staring at him intensely. A moment passed, and a new silence draped itself over the bar.
Decidedly, delicately, his hands floated over the piano, and fell. They drifted, ebbed and swayed up and down the black and white landscape. An august rain poured from a crumpled sky, and lovers grew old together as they watched. A boy learned to love his first dog, and fruit grew on the trees of an orchard. A kitten was born in a box, mewling to his brothers of his arrival. The world was not flawless, but rather, it was perfect.
The dark man held his face. Covering his tears and his shame with one hand, the other grasped the shoulder of the pianist, crying out "That was beautiful. So beatiful. I'm sorry. I'm so terribly, awfully sorry. You don't deserve this. I'm so tired, and you don't deserve for this to happen to you, but it must. I must take the best of you. I must take all of you. Pray, if you would like".
The pianist showed no fear as the darkness climbed up to cover them both and drag them down. For, the truth was, he was tired as well.
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