Always Play the Public Piano

Amanda - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on September 14, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in always playing the public piano because one day, one changed my life. I went one step further than my usual just ambling over to the piano and then quickly retreating, pretending that curiosity was the motive of my trip. I actually sat down at the newly-polished bench. After flicking a few guitar strings of the Taylor, I carefully placed my hands on the keys of the piano. Just before I stood up to leave, a disheveled-looking woman appeared before me. “Can he listen to you play?” she pleaded, looking at her intractable son anxiously. I hesitated, glanced at the boy swiftly, and then did a double-take.

“He’s blind and he loves music,” the stressed woman explicated. “It’ll really calm him down – he loves the piano.”

The little boy looked to be about three years of age. He fidgeted in his mother’s arms, thrusting at nonexistent things in the air, shuddering and shaking his curly-haired head. The expression on his face scared me. He was cringing as if in some plight of physical pain. This pain seemed to radiate off of him until I felt it was a part of me too. Quickly I restrained the cowardly part of me that wanted to say, “I’m sorry, I actually don’t play the piano.” Instead I complied and said, “Of course he can listen.”

I reached for the keys hesitantly. At first, my tentativeness caused me to make some silly mistakes. I fumbled and checked the boy’s expression as anxiously as if he was a vitriolic St. Cecilia music critic, ready to deprecate my playing. But the boy smiled. His execrable grimace vanished, and a smile lit up his eyes. “He likes it,” said the woman, beaming and looking a little mollified. Still stunned that my song had propitiated the boy, I turned back to the keys again. Suddenly, the music flowed from within me, pouring out into the very corners of the high steel glass building. My thin fingers glossed over the ivory keys like a ribbon flowing in the wind. I could not explain where it came from, but all of a sudden all technicality vanished from my mind like a balloon let go in the wind. It blew away, yet the music resonated more poignantly than ever before.

The boy shook his head quickly, urgently. My eyebrows creased. “Does he not like it?” I inquired of the woman. The woman replied, “No. That means he loves it.” I grinned, an unfamiliar confidence brimming in me. “Let’s change it up a bit.” I played an upbeat, catchy old school swing tune, one that everybody knew – “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. My supple wrists rebounded upon the keys in time with the music. Suddenly, the boy began bouncing in his mothers lap, laughing, clapping his hands in ecstasy. The happiness in his eyes purged my emotions so strongly that when I returned home and relived the experience in my head, I could not stem the flow of tears.

Something about that experience inexplicably changed my perspective of the world. I looked back in shame at the stupid, derisive things I said to my acquiescent older sister on a daily basis. I regretted never telling my parents how much I loved them, how much I appreciated everything they did for me, from packing my lunch to paying for my piano lessons to enforcing rules. Looking in the mirror, I was no longer satisfied with what I saw, because it had changed from the last I time I looked. I now saw an adamant, spoiled teenager who basked in negativity and never saw the silver lining of any cloud, no matter how thick it was. I saw a willful girl who initiated vituperations on a daily basis; instead of controlling her emotions, she let her emotions control her. I knew I had to change. If a boy who had lost his eyesight could find happiness in a simple song, then why could I, who had lost nothing, not be content with my life? From that moment on I made the volition to be a better person. And every single day I returned, I played that public piano.