The smoke was heavy and cloying as the fingers of the pianist glided over the keys. The room was dank and gray, and the few men in the bar sat by themselves in booths and corners, and sipped their beer. They watched and listened as the pianist played, but they did not want him there. The music reminded them all of something they had lost. It hurt to listen.
Still, the pianist played on. It was a jazzy, light progression that gave him room to improvise. A sad smile opened on his face, but no one saw. His head was bent down. His smile was for the keys below him and the joy of creation.
The few members in the bar grew restless. They wanted to sit alone and let their thoughts brew. And who was this pianist anyway? What right did he have to come in here and cause such trouble? Didn’t he know that they were fine with how their lives were? They didn’t need to be reminded of what they had missed. What they had lost.
Then the pianist launched into a solo with his right hand, while his left kept the bass line going. He picked up the tempo until his fingers were flying up and down the keys in a blur. The notes winded their way through the bar in a hypnotizing frenzy and were raw with joy and longing. It was impossible to ignore.
Something snapped in one man who sat in the corner. He had a ragged two-week beard and was on his fifth drink, and had had enough. He stood up and walked over to where the pianist played and grabbed his neck in a vice grip.
He leaned in close, and in a grating whisper, said, “Stop now, and leave. This isn’t for us.”
Then the pianist left, and the bar was silent at last.