The piano is closed. She shuts the door to her flat and peers around, dropping the ring of keys into the welcoming blue bowl in the entrance. The keys clatter against the glass and then the room is silent. Too silent. She picks up the black remote from the kitchen table and aims it at the stereo. Operatic singing fills the expanse and she immediately turns off the radio. No. No opera.
She sinks down in her armchair and leans back. The stiff backing barely lets her get comfortable before the phone rings abruptly. She lets it. Two rings, four rings, five rings, and then it falls silent. She breathes out slowly. She's going to get that line removed soon, she tells herself, yes. It's about time. Only telemarketers call.
Now she stands, pulling off her coat with tired, aching arms. She reminds herself again, quietly, that it's a powerhouse piece. She smiles as she sees her image working out, lifting weights. As though that might help. She pokes the flab above her armpit and flexes her muscles. No, maybe she's all right.
She throws the coat on the chair, leaving it a rumpled mess. Then she goes to the kitchenette. That's all she has in this flat—it's not very much. It's cheap but it's all she can afford, especially with things as they are now. Her hands move independently as she boils water and prepares the sugar. Tea. She'll have a nice, strong cup of tea. But when she reaches for the tea, she finds an empty canister. A wave of disappointment runs through her. She pulls down the instant coffee instead, dumping a tiny amount of the disgusting stuff into the cup and adding another teaspoon of sugar. Coffee is too bitter for her, she realizes as she sips the muddy mixture. Even with the amount of cream she adds and the amount of sugar she dumps in, it always tastes like a garbage truck ran over her tongue. She sips the concoction tentatively, little laps of the tongue against the hot mixture. After a few minutes it's cool enough to gulp down, but she doesn't, preferring to continue taking it in tiny bits. When it reaches the point of absolute cool, rather than warm or even lukewarm, she gulps it down, shuddering. Disgusting, she thinks. Always so disgusting.
She places the mug in the overflowing sink and exhales loudly. The piano bench is seated right where a beam of light sifts in through the window shades and glows, the warm brown wood drinking in the sun. Next to the bench is a bookshelf, crammed and filled with notes. Even as she watches, she can see a concerto trying to make its way out of its official place, hastily shoved between two other concertos from two different time periods and composers. She marches across the room, pokes the booklet back into place and sits down on the bench.
Her fingers drift across the surface of the books until finally resting on one thin spine. She pulls the heavy book out and lets it fall open to its favorite page. She doesn't even need to urge it further. Instead, her hands move to open the cover, pull aside the protective green felt, and rest lightly on the keys.
It moves through her, not with her. It's a film, she tells herself quietly. It's a film you're watching. Those hands belong to somebody else. That rocking frame isn't yours, not with those thin elbows and overlarge wrists. She lifts her hands off the keys and contemplates them for a moment. Then she closes the lid, stands and moves towards the other room. Not that it's much of a room. A tiny bedroom with a blanket rumpled on the bed and clothes strewn all over the floor. She picks up an elegant dress from the floor, sniffs it and tosses it onto the dry-cleaner chair. A pile of a wrinkled dresses peer up at her from there. She kicks off her shoes and lies down on the bed. The ceiling is moldy, she realizes with a pang of impatience. The upstairs neighbor must have left the water on all night. She wonders how much the old man must pay, now with the water shortages. We've hardly been hit, she reminds herself. Not like some other places.
The door hangs open, revealing to her the whole of the flat. The bathroom, with the clogged toilet reminding her that she needs to call a plumber, the kitchen sink full of dishes, the clothes on her floor, and the piano bench glowing in the fading sunlight. The music sits open as light slants across it. The piano is closed.