Today I locked the front door for the last time.
I don’t know why I took the time to lock up. I’m the last to leave, and I won’t be back.
My older brother was the first to leave, with bright eyes and a bounce in his step. The road held so many promises for him, and he was going to chase them all. He left because he could. Because he wanted to.
Father was the next to leave, he said he’d get us everything we’d ever wished for. He promised he’d come back. I watched him leave us as the sun rose in a sky of coral pink. I watched from the doorway with a fast sinking heart.
No one ever comes back.
My little sister left a year later. Her friends were going to do it together, and she snuck out at night to join them. Her note said she would try to find our father on her way, and remind him to come back like he’d promised. It was maybe the only thing she could have said to soften the blow of her absence.
Mother did not leave. She said she would never want to. I think if father hadn’t promised to come back, she might have considered it, if only to be with him again. I buried her by her favorite tree, and her grave is the hardest thing to leave behind.
I walked backwards down the road until the house disappeared from sight, and now I am wandering down the well trampled path before me. A slight breeze disturbs dust from the road, and I hear it sigh and settle again.
Items start appearing on the side of the road, discarded and abandoned. I stop to look at them, and I try to see how much I can piece together about the traveler who dropped them.
There’s a piano up ahead.
It’s been shoved off to the side and onto a slope, its bench fallen over a few feet away. I’m surprised it was taken this far before being discarded, until I get closer and see the history it bears.
There are several initials carved into the base in large clumsy letters, and there’s a faded ‘for Jason, love mom’ engraved just above the keys. I run my fingers over scratches on the sides, and I spot rings on the top where drinks had been set without coasters. This instrument has known a lot of life.
I pick up the bench and set it upright on the slope. It is unbalanced here, and I have to be careful not to fall when I sit on it, but I place my fingers on the keys and quickly forget about the discomfort.
This piano was made to be played, and it has been without someone to play it for far too long. I mean to only play a couple scales, but as soon as my fingers start running up the keys, my heart fills with other notes and I cannot stop.
I play with the wind for a little while, rising and falling with the gusts of air. The keys are not really in tune, but that does not matter out here. The wind does not notice, it just likes to hear the sounds swell and flow in its current.
I play with the sunset, finding sounds to match the colors as they splash across the sky then fade into something new a minute later. I am breathless from keeping up, and I am still playing off the memory of color well after it is dark.
I play with the stars, and I do so for a very long time. There are deep notes for the darkness and airy notes for the light and many, many combinations of the two I want to explore. The stars are in no hurry, and they let me take my time finding their different sounds.
I play for the travelers that pass every once in a while. Sometimes they stop and ask for certain songs, sometimes they just listen in silence, sometimes they continue walking but with their heads turned to listen as long as they can.
Somewhere in all of this, my heartstrings have gotten entangled with the piano’s strings, and I don’t want to tear them apart. I think music is not something travelers often hear as they walk this road.
I think perhaps that should change.
There is much ahead of me, but I’m in no hurry. For now, I think I should like to stay here.
The world could use a bit more music.