The Piano Tuner

The Piano Tuner
He arrives, follows the runner on our hardwood floor, and makes a right to the piano bench, catching his knee. Soon, the repetitive sound of a key, a high ‘C,’ two octaves above middle ‘C,’ I’d say with my failing perfect pitch, diminished by my hearing loss.
He tests me, his exam as good as the audiologist’s. “What note is this?”
“’E’ above middle ‘C,’” I guess.
“Almost,” he says, “’E” flat.”
“Ah,” I say, “off by a half note, same as last year.”
He gets back to his task, then, and I go off and fuss around the house, a load of wash in, a load of dishes out. And soon, he finishes, and I return and sit on the bottom stair.
“So play me something,” I ask.
“What do you want to hear?”
“Know anything from ‘The book of Mormon?’”
“How ‘bout ‘Les Mis’ instead?” he asks.
“Terrific.”
And then he entertains me, someone he considers a sister, someone for whom he reduces his rate.”
Once again, I marvel as he performs one arpeggio after another, then turns to close George Shearing chords. And this, his third-best instrument, preferring jazz flute, sax, both alto and tenor.
He played at our daughter’s wedding reception for the cocktail hour, he and his friend on keyboard. One guest, an amazing musical talent in his own right, having orchestrated the music to In the Heights, pulled me aside to talk of my friend’s remarkable gift.
But lesser musicians get more notice, more gigs, more money. And I wonder just why that is, though I have suspicions.
Now in my home, he picks up his cane and bag and prepares to leave, scolding me about the additional money I’ve given him. I hear him tapping down the middle of our quiet street to catch the bus another block away.
Five minutes later I harness up my dog and leave on an errand.
“Excuse me,” a house painter calls, stopping me. “Was that your husband who just went down the street?”
“The blind man, you mean?”
“Yes.”
“No,” I say. “He’s a friend, a piano tuner, a remarkable musician.”
I walk away, the paper cut stinging. The piano tuner’s wife is sighted; my husband, also. Not all blind people marry others of their kind.
A paper cut only. A pebble, not a rock.
But enough of them, and, in time, you carry around a bag that feels heavy, heavy as a sack of rocks.

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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