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Finding Home in a Song

I pull up to the drive-thru, eager to get home after a long, hard day at work. There are several cars in front of me, so I throw my car in park and roll my window down while I wait. In my side mirror, I see a man walking through the parking lot. He’s wearing a heavy coat and is carrying a small pack and a keyboard. He stops beside my open window and I’m already reaching for my wallet when he speaks.

“Could I play you a song in return for some food?” He asks, his voice much softer than I expected.

“Oh! Uhm,” I pause, checking my rear-view mirror to make sure there aren’t any other cars behind me before responding, “Sure!” He smiles and kneels, turning his keyboard on. The first few notes are slow and careful, but then he finds the song and his fingers begin dancing across the keys. As I watch his lithe fingers navigate their way across the ivory, the world around me begins to shift.

I am no longer in my car but a grand music hall surrounded by hundreds of other people. The man sits at a grand piano serenading us with his beautiful melody. He’s dressed in a beautiful suit and his smile itself could light up the hall. His song fills me with a warmth I haven’t felt since summer. I close my eyes and can feel a breeze blowing through my hair, hear the birds chirping in the trees. Flowers are in bloom, the air thick with their sickly-sweet scent.

His song is a bittersweet one, a precarious waltz through the highs and lows of life. A song of loss and renewal. It is comforting in its nostalgia. I feel a tightness in my chest as he finishes the song and glances up at me. His gaze meets mine and his eyes seem to be shining a little brighter.

I wonder what his life might have been like if everything had gone his way. If life didn’t enjoy cruel jokes, would he be surrounded by spotlights and adoring fans instead of the cold? Would his music have inspired those who listened to create their own masterpieces, to find a way to escape reality for just a moment? The sound of a horn behind me pulls me out of my thoughts. I smile at the man and motion for him to follow as I drive forward.

“The least I can do is buy you dinner.” After he tells me what he wants, he goes to the front of the restaurant and waits, playing songs for those that walk past. I give him his dinner and wish him luck. As I drive away, I watch him in my rear-view mirror and feel pity, though not for him. My pity is for those who will refuse to listen. It’s for those who will walk by without ever finding home in his forlorn tune as I did.

Recommended2 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Memoir, Personal Narrative, True Story