The Curious Case of the Pianist in the Lounge

This essay was my entry for the 2017 Writing Scholarship contest hosted by World Nomads. Unfortunately (and honestly, quite predictably), I did not win. Oh well, it is what it is. Instead of wallowing in my self disappointment, I though I could post it here instead.


Florence, 2013. I’m wide awake at two in the morning and extremely pissed off about it. I hear laughter and clinking glass coming from outside my bedroom, underscored by an energetic melody. You see, my apartment is right next to a popular bar lounge, which usually would have piqued my curiosity, but this time I really want to sleep!

I do fall asleep. Eventually.

The next morning, entirely too early for any coherent thought, I drag my feet to the kitchen. I don’t have a coffeemaker here, but I find an old moka pot someone forgot. I stare at it. I can’t even use the damned thing! As I blearily read a tutorial on my phone and curse the circumstances that led me to this moment, I hear the music.  

It’s a piano, unobtrusively breaking the silence like an old friend stopping by to chat. I lean out the window, but I only see a white wall and a large, empty space that I assume will be turned into a dance floor tonight. I sigh, disappointed.

Then I ask myself why am I here, struggling with a moka pot when I could be in a cafe, sipping a cappuccino made by someone who actually knows how to do it. I could be out there, listening to the music.

I put on my most sensible shoes, and I walk outside.


Florence Street

The mysterious pianist soon becomes part of my day. In the morning, I get ready to the sound of scales and easy melodies, and I leave a little upset, a little sad, that I don’t get to stay until the end. At night, I am greeted by the chaos of the lounge and, to my delight, my dearest musician.

On the weekends, I stay in all morning, brewing terrible coffee with that moka pot I never learned to use, the warm summer breeze coming in through the open windows, and I listen until the end.

Florence Bedroom

In my mind, we are like lovers, our lives inexorably entwined by the songs that rise with the sun and continue well into the night. In my mind, this pianist is a dashing young gentleman with a gorgeous smile and a twinkle in his eyes. And we shall meet one day and he will think I am alluring, and we will ride all over Florence on his ancient but reliable vespa; and he will call me things like ‘bella’ or ‘cara mia’, staring deep into my eyes as I fall irrevocably in love, the lovely Tuscan sunset behind us.

… Sounds lovely, doesn’t it.

Alas, this is not a love story.

I left Florence without meeting the pianist, or even stopping by the lounge. I still think about it now, years later, and I wonder: Did they know that one summer, a girl living in the apartment building next door listened in every morning and secretly dreamed of what could have been?

Truth is, I don’t care. I carry the music with me.