A Little Dream

7 Feb


At least one night per week I go to one of my “home” restaurants to write. As I have said before, I’ll not review either of them, for they’re my safe havens, my creative spaces. These places allow me the right atmosphere to create, to dream, and to explore the world of words. Just being there and being attended helps me when I am lonely. So many of us feel separated, lonely by ourselves….lonely in a crowded room. Disconnection is at its heart, the sense of isolation that comes from the lack of communication, nurturing. Even simple touch. It drives our search for meaning as well as underpinning our addictions. Humans are social creatures. We weren’t meant to be in perpetual solitude.

As I was writing Tuesday evening, dining on roasted vegetables and enjoying a glass of Orvieto, I heard a piano begin in the left corner of the room. In the softened candlelight reflecting from an antique buffet mirror, I saw an elderly gentleman at the piano, playing a dramatic tango. Suddenly my imagination was transported backward one hundred years to a small cafe in Paris, well trodden floors gleaming in anticipation for the dance. His notes were staccato, sharp and brisk….brilliant. His hands were the only animation on his body. But as I continued to observe, I saw a thin line of saliva drop from his mouth onto his lapel. Then, in a few minutes, another. He was quite old and I wondered instantly how to attend to him. The bartender could see the concern on my face, I’m sure. He told me that the piano player was an 87 year old Romanian. He had played cabaret all over Europe professionally, and now lives with his daughter here in Lynchburg. He speaks no English, so to ease his sense of isolation and loneliness, his daughter brings him to the restaurant every Tuesday. He plays song after song, all from memory for nearly three hours. They pay him $30 and feed him dinner.

I turned back to watch him and to listen. To say that I was moved would be an understatement. My heart was captured in connection and in empathy. If it wouldn’t have disturbed him while playing, I would have sat next to him on the bench, simply to give him sheer physical closeness. How dear he was. How express and trenchant the notes fluttered about the room. Songs moved in circular rhythms from tango, to jazz, to classical. All seamless, all from an arrangement entirely in his mind.

And I wondered.

Does he dream while in the notes? Is he somewhere in Prague, in Berlin, in Paris playing for a small group gathered in a similar softly lit bistro, worn mirrors on the walls?

Does the scent of food and wine hanging in waves throughout the room transport him to another set of ivory keys while seated upon another bench decades ago?

Does he dream of a beautiful woman, cocktail in hand and pressed waves in her hair? Does the smile upon her carmine lips as she glances toward him, let him know the music connects to her passion?

Does he play with thought of loss? Of a country and time now gone, of the departure of friends and family and the slow dimming of memories of both war and love, pain and joy?

After an hour or so, I walked over and sat down beside him. I kissed my finger tips and opened them in a gesture of perfection.

“Brava”, I said. “Your music is so beautiful”.  And I smiled.

He had no English, but made motion for me to perhaps write? And so in motion, we communicated.

Would I like a song?

Yes, I nodded. I sang….

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you”
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me….

No…he smiled and shook his head. He did not know it.

Chopin? he said.

I nodded, smiling. Yes, please.

For the next hour, I was witness to my own private concerto.

Before leaving, I needed to say thank you,to let him know how grateful I am for his gift of music and of connection. I wrote him a note, translated into Romanian, one of the pluses of Google technology.

Vă mulțumesc pentru seara asta muzica frumoasa. Am fost onorat să-l audă.

Thank you for the beautiful music tonight. I was honored to hear it.

For tonight, music created a connection and I wasn’t lonely….and I dare say, neither was he.

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