Rubbing his fingers across the keys he closed his eyes and ignored the tears and the pain in his hands. He didn’t get excited anymore by the applause or packed Halls. They didn’t exist to him, all that existed was the music, the notes, the chords. With each press of the ivory keys he knew he was coming one step closer to never playing again. At the age of twenty four he’d played for two Presidents, a King and Queen, the Pope and more diplomats and stars then he could ever keep count of.
He didn’t own a car or home and there was no girlfriend or wife waiting on him. Music was his life; the piano was his wife, son, daughter and first love. Traveling around the world five times over he let out every bit of regret and emotion he had in what was to be his last performance.
Doctors in New York, Hong Kong, England and Johannesburg all told him the same thing in one way, shape or form, “You have an early onset of tendinitis and it’s highly unlikely you’ve ever be able to play the piano again but with medication and physical therapy you can live a normal life.” Some told him three months, some told him three weeks but they were all telling him his life was over.
Since he was four people told him that God gave him a gift very few people would ever have. He never read music even though he taught himself. Everything was played by ear, he was one with it. How do you live a life where the only thing you’ve ever loved has abandoned you? How do you wake up knowing for a quarter century that all your hard work and preparation to be quite possibly the most celebrated pianist of all time was now over?
Those questions plagued him, struck fear in him but tonight all he wanted was to make love to the keys one last time. Sweating, his eyes red, his hands feeling like a thousand knives were going into them he finished the show with an original piece he’d never played before. A piece no one in the audience would be familiar with. The intensity of the performance slowed to a slower tempo that spoke to the pain that was in his heart.
Finishing the performance, opening his eyes, rubbing the keys and walking off the stage for what would probably be his last performance he finally looked up when he realized they were all standing for him. Screaming and clapping and crying for him. As he took his bow, walking back to the dressing rooms the applause only got louder. The chants of his name only got louder.
They loved him because he could give them the release they desperately needed. Sitting down, placing his hands on the table he just stared at them and thought back to all the good times. Was he defeated or just hurt he thought.
Standing up, looking in the mirror, he realized if he was to lose his gift. He wouldn’t lose it in the steal of night; he’d lose it playing in front of thousands. Walking back out on the stage with to jacket, no bowtie, he didn’t even acknowledge the audience or the pain. He just sat down and fought over the gift God was taking away.