I have never considered it a tragedy that none of you have ever heard me sing. I was a concert pianist then a lounge pianist and only now does it occur to me that I have a voice that mingles with the tune, carries it even.
I have only tried one tune so far, a little ditty, but the effects were wondrous. I sat down at the piano the other day, much like this, and sang Frère Jacques to myself. I was tired but I couldn't sleep and that song was the first I ever learnt to play.
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques...
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
I certainly haven't. Maybe singing it was a way of waking myself up from this limbo but, when I repeated it, I felt something better than alertness. Resonance. My voice was far louder than I've ever imagined it, it drowned out the piano so I just played harder, firmer presses on the keys. Eventually it was as if the words and tune were rising while the meaning behind them was sinking into the earth, creating overwhelming vibrations beneath my naked feet. At some point I believe I was making up words as they came to me, swapping lyrics for passing thoughts. By the time the dawn came I wasn't singing Frère Jacques anymore, I was calling my own name.
So tonight I decided to try something a little different. Rather than starting with a familiar tune and evolving it, I will let a tune just roll off the top of my head. I dedicate this song to you but let's just see how it goes.
Every word is like a summons, getting louder and more precise. I want to see how far it goes, to what distances. This song shall be a way of clearing things up, I think, a way of bringing you all back to me for one night.
Most of you aren't too far away, most of you probably still have me in your thoughts from time to time and it is precisely through those thoughts that I play to you now. I call to you as I play to you as I compose in your name. The whole song might not be for you but there's at the very least a line which contains your essence as I best remember it. It's hideously biased but then I haven't seen most of you in years.
I can only play to your memory, the memory I have of you up until the moment you left me. Sometimes you knew that you were leaving me, sometimes you didn't, sometimes it gave you the most pleasure just to get away. Now this tune and this voice will bring you pleasure, bring you back to me one last time to listen to one last thing.
I look out my window and notice a few headlights arriving from the distant dark and I know that it is you. The drivers among you at least, you've taken the car out for a night drive and you won't ever realise just how far you've come. I'm just glad that the first of you have turned up already, just hope that the rest aren't too far away because I feel the chorus coming. It's stirring within me.
I see you, Rosita. I hear you, Marcus. I can feel your presence, all you lovers of the past. It's like the merging of the piano and my voice have led to a gradual amplification and it's only through that amplification that I can feel your arrival. Perhaps I am going deaf and all my other senses are increasing in strength. Perhaps I have discovered a special key on the scale that has led me through a door to a higher awareness, a supreme state of both musical and magical control. I feel benevolent. Maybe this is my gift.
Come, Sasha. Come, Theresa. Come, Henry. Come Marguerite. I can see your shapes and figures forming through the shadows, crawling out like children from under a bed sheet. I hope you have brought your spouses, your loved ones; I want to give my blessing. The underlying message of this song is just as much for them as it is for you.
You're almost all here, my darlings. My ex-lovers, the moving images from the back of my tired little brain. Come forward, stand in the space around my house, some of you should even recognise it. Fill that space as best you can. I don't know how long this song can last before it is strained and not really a song anymore.
Nice to see you, Kimiko. You never called. Great to finally catch you, Dot. You didn't even tell me you were running away. It's so good of you all to be here. Are you all here? Standing? Swaying? It's all the same to me, do as you feel. The message is coming in the chorus.
It is this: I no longer love you. I haven't a reason to love you so I have done. I want you all to turn to the person beside you and completely forget about me if you haven't already. Just carry on. Spare no thought. I am done.
That's right, turn around in your cars, on your heels and just go home. The song is coming to an end now but the bells are finally ringing. Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong. There's really no point being here anymore now, it's nearly morning. My fingers are tired and my voice hoarse.
One last high note, one last chirp of a piano key and that is all. Are you sleeping? Not yet but nearly. It is time.
I close the lid over the piano keys. I drain my glass of brandy. I rise from the stool and off to bed.
As I ascend the stairs, a new song starts to form. I hum it. It will have to percolate in my head overnight. It's going to be a good one though.