The piano out the window

From Pathetic Life #1
Wednesday, June 29, 1994

Relaxing in bed with a good book, I had to go baffwoom. Here's how that works, at a residential hotel: You can pee in the sink if you're a man, and I usually do and usually am, but for doody duty the toilets are down the hall, shared by everyone on your floor.

Both stalls were occupied, so I went up to the next floor, a book in one hand and a roll of TP in the other.

As I was grunting and groaning, music was in the air — fabulous piano boogie, jumping into my ears. There's never been musical accompaniment before, so when I'd finished and flushed I followed the sound of music toward an open window at the other end of the hall.

I couldn't see where the sound was coming from, so I stuck my head out the window, stretched my neck off my shoulders like Elastic Lad, and in a tiny window in the next building down the street, I saw the back of a piano, moving just barely with every downbeat. Couldn't see the pianist's face or fingers, so man or woman, black or white, I'll never know.

The soundtrack at a slum hotel is usually people screaming at each other, or the neighbor's too-loud TV, so this bebopping music was a treat. I stood at the window and listened for a while, tapping my toes, reading my book, and wondering how anyone gets a piano into a tiny residential hotel room.

Among the drunks and winos and unemployed and me in this hotel, culture doesn't happen often, and I didn't want it to end. Was anyone else enjoying this, I wondered? An old, almost bald black man in a tee-shirt and boxer shorts stepped out of his room, carrying TP. He walked past me without eye contact, and into the john.

The music continued, and after a rousing version of the theme from Perry Mason, I applauded alone out the window. Then the old black guy walked past wordlessly in the other direction, and into his room.

Then a guy with too many tattoos and an unlit cigar in his lips walked by without a word and without looking at me. No eye contact and minimal talking is the unwritten rule, here at the hotel.

I stayed at the window, reading and occasionally clapping, until the piano player stopped. Waited for more music, but the show was apparently over. I poked my head out the window again and shouted, "You play good piano, whoever you are."

Silence was the only response.

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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