29. Interlude

EVERY NIGHT, I HEAR a piano playing in the apartment below. At a certain hour, he begins by playing a few scales, then the playing begins. I can’t recognise the piece – possibly it isn’t even really a piece, at least not the kind of piece of music that’s written on any paper. It’s just a sequence of chords, the same sequence of chords, over and over again. It’s been like this for a few weeks now – maybe two months. Let’s see, it began in late October, and now it’s nearly Christmas, so yes, almost two months. He gets home from work on a scooter and cooks himself a meal in silence. I know this from the sounds he makes. If I’m not mistaken, it may even be the same meal: at least, every night I hear an electric can opener. He eats his meal in silence too. He has a television, but he rarely watches it. In fact, the only time I have ever heard his voice is when he is watching the television. I can’t make out what he’s saying, although I think he’s talking to the television. He has no pets, unless he has fish in an aquarium, but that hardly counts. I can’t tell what he’s saying to the television, but it is possible, judging from the tone of voice, that he is abusing the television, and enjoying it, as if he were watching the television specifically in order to abuse it. But I am jumping ahead of myself. As I was saying, he eats his meal in silence. I think he has a beer with his dinner, because afterward as he is cleaning up I usually hear the sound of a small glass bottle falling into a receptacle – presumably a bin – in which are contained other similar bottles. By now his rituals have become a part of my rituals. I have usually eaten by the time he gets home. Although I eat early, I would guess that it also means that he works long hours. I can’t tell you what he does because I can’t tell you what he wears, but he doesn’t leave the house in the morning before 8:30, and sometimes later, so I guess he’s not a tradesman. I listen to him cook, eat and afterwards I listen to him cleaning up, but what I am really listening out for is the piano – the scales, always a slightly different combination, although he prefers the major scales to the minor scales, and then the chords. He plays with the mute pedal down, presumably out of consideration for me, his neighbour. His apartment is the last one, and there is nobody beside him, only me above, so I am his only neighbour. We have met – he came up out of the blue one Saturday afternoon soon after his moved in to ask if his playing was disturbing me. Because his visit was unexpected, I didn’t have time to put on my sunglasses, and he saw my face unadorned, so to speak. He said his name was Koji. I said his playing did not disturb me in the slightest – that on the contrary I had played the piano once myself, before my accident, and that if he liked he could play without the mute pedal. He didn’t ask me any questions about myself, however, he just thanked me and bid me a good day, and he continues to play with the mute pedal, except sometimes on weekends when I am particularly quiet, and he thinks I am out, little knowing that I hardly ever leave the apartment, and at those times he plays without the mute pedal, he plays with abandon, the same sequence of chords, but loudly, joyfully, and I can feel them, those chords, I can feel them lifting up and into my body, rippling through my brain, and I am so happy that I get that same feeling I used to get when I was still able to cry.