He arrived with only an old leather case by his side. His ring glinted and shone on the musty cracks on the floor. The lights glowed like dying fire flies as he walked, a little lost. The air smelled dank and of fancy fixes. In his mind he could picture the sloshing of the temptress's eye and the boisterous drunken laughter and the glittering unfocused eyes from before. It was a place to leave where you were and to play with your conscious. He remembered it all too clearly. Positioning himself on the stage where there laid a broken fluted glass and a broken monstrosity. His motions were slow. Not because of alcohol but of age. He pulled up a worn chair and slowly sat down. He rested his hands on the dusty piano keys. They felt cool and hot at the same time. It reminded him of tequila and heroin making him have to catch his breathe. The notes glistened under the moon light as he settled his hands on the ivory. He breathed in the sweet drunken air feeling the ache in his heart start to lessen and began to play.
He played every note slowly with one finger. They sounded as clear as bells on a Sunday morning. "By George you're doing it!" His grandfather cried slapping his knee. His eyes twinkled and danced as he blew out his cigar his voice all hoarse. The air smelled sweet and fresh from the opened window as he stared longingly outside. He longed to go out and play with the white sheets billowing in the wind and rolling around getting grass stains on his knee. His grandfather prompted and sang beside him like a guard. His grandfather's eyes were edged with lines and the ancient monstrosity in front of him was chipped and peeling. It reminded him of rotten wood and worms making him think about the new unexplored outdoors again and he grew impatient. "Grandfather, May I go outside to play now?" He said, his words coming out an in anxious spew. His grandfather let out a puff of the intoxicating cherry smoke and shook his head unforgiving. "Not until you run through your songs sonny." George huffed. His eyebrows knitted together, but he knew better then to disobey. He positioned his fingers carefully the way only a child could and began to play.
The notes came out broken and out of tuned, but none of it mattered. His hands danced along the keys as he rose and fell with the melody entering such an ethereal state that he forgot where he was for a moment. Music was higher than any drug in the world. Everyone got a shot out of it. It was free and beautiful and stirred the soul. He stepped on the pedal feeling the sharp coldness of it beneath his worn shoes, and sat with his eyes closed in perfect serenity.
He was sick of everything. He thought as he heard glasses being thrown and the shouting rising. The fighting never stopped. It was now a routine. His heart felt torn and he felt like crying. Feeling so many things at once that he just wanted to stop breathing so he could slow down the mounting wall of emotions crashing down on him. His mind raced back toward his safe memories where his grandfather was still in the house. Remembering how he patiently taught him how to play even though he never listened and bolted outside every chance he could. He wrapped his arms over his knees trying to keep hold of himself, scared that he would fall apart. He heard the door slam and some one cut the engine and then silent. He slowly got up towards the door. A broken sob came from the kitchen. He hesitated. He let go of the door knob and switched the light off and slipped back under his covers. He didn't sleep. His eyes followed the path of the second hand slowly; tauntingly creep back up then down again. He felt restless. He crept out of bed feeling the chilled wood beneath his toes. Clutching the banister he floated down quietly like a ghost. He saw his mother's reflection in the kitchen door. She was sleeping on a chair in the midst of the broken shards of glass. Her face looked pale under the harsh light. He noticed the two bottles of wine. One empty and one half full. He quickly looked away and headed toward the living room. Opening up the piano case almost timidly and sat down. He sat there for a long time with his face bathed in moonlight. He thought about his life, his grandfather, his parents and even the thoughts that paled in comparison. The smell of cheery smoke and the taste of lemonade lingered in his mouth. His hands laid on the piano unconsciously as he played a slow soft melody. He began to loosen his hands as he felt the smooth white keys and the higher black keys. He danced his hands all over the piano losing the melody, then finding it back again. When he sat there he felt he could breathe. Actually breathe in something hopeful and feel his heart stop aching. He sat there playing for a long time. His eyes closed in perfect serenity.
"Who let yer in here?" The voice split in his thoughts like a knife as he opened his eyes like a new born blinking, drinking in the surroundings. The bar seemed a bit sharper now and not so dreamlike. He noticed the harsh colored neon sign and the old sturdy wooden chairs scattered like game pieces around the floor. The voice walked into his dazed vision as he saw a smudge of a man with a hard look on his face. They stared at each other for a while. Commanding met lost as they began to sink back to reality. The man turned away limping slightly. "Yer shouldn't be here." He spoke softly. Feeling disgruntled that his famous hard look failed to so as much cause a flinch on the stranger.
He felt his throat dry up on thinking of an excuse as he watched the man limp toward the bar.
"Where you from?" He asked. His question faltered when he received no reply.
"What's your name? A streetlight flickered outside.
"Where you headin?' The last question came off borderline hysterical as the little man tried to get an answer out of him. He asked hard questions. Where was he from? He couldn't remember. If he described that the place where he was from had the sweetest smelling grass and billowing sheets he would easily dismiss him as a dreamer. What was his name? He didn't know, but he always preferred the name George and so did everyone else. Where was he heading? He was heading nowhere. He preferred to walk in circles. All of his answers seemed wrong. He knew what the man was expecting. He was expecting names. New York, Alabama, Henry the third. But in the end did it really matter? A place was a place and a name was a name. He had no need to answer those questions. Maybe if he asked about the weather. That would be nice. The man positioned himself behind the counter and slapped glass on the table as he began to almost manically reach for different bottles and sloshing them into his concoction. He watched the bartender silently as he topped the grand drink off with an ice cube. "Here." He said slapping the heavy drink on the counter. "It's on the house." He stared at the man who didn't seem like a smudge anymore. They've only met a few moments ago, but they already had a connection that takes other people a lifetime. It was an understanding. The bartender understood that he was lost. And he understood that the man liked to issue the orders. He nodded slowly looking at him steadily in the eye. "Thank you."