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A Renaissance Man

We’re back at F’s apartment. Plans were made to go out for the evening, but we got rained on during the walk back from dinner. Allegedly, he is going to change clothes, and then we will go back out into the night to pretend it isn’t almost past my bedtime. It’s going on midnight, and Vienna has been gifted with a proper thunderstorm, the kind which doesn’t give up after a few minutes.

F is tuning his clavichord by candlelight. He tells me he started playing this piece for the man that broke his heart. He started learning it but had only just now completed the entire thing, and the heartbreaker was out of the picture by the time his fingers had mastered the notes. F Wanted to perform it for him, but he will have to settle for me, his friend.

I open the window in his bedroom. I sprawl on the bed watching the lightning. The room is lit by two candles, each pillared in a rounded wine bottle. Shards of wax litter F’s desk from all the candles he has burned. There isn’t much in his room, a bed, a wardrobe, a half-dead tree, his clavichord. He is particular about the instrument, he keeps a humidity monitor in the room. The clavichord is wildly out of tune, but he refuses to turn on the light to better see and instead grabs the candle, holding it over the keys. I imagine in doing so he risks dripping wax onto the keys… I hold my breath. Thunder roars. He begins tuning by ear, then with a digital tuner, and then gives a resigned sigh about a pesky note and says, “I think that’s the best I can get now”

At last, as he starts playing the rain begins to fall. The timing is eerie. The instrument reminds me of a guitar, I don’t think I have ever heard one played before. It’s quiet enough not to disturb his roommates even at this hour. The wind attempts to pull the left window closed as if to say, this is a secret only for us.

If I could bottle this moment, with the breeze and the clavichord and the rain and the open window, I would. The bottle I used would be round. I would drink the memory dry in a week, then I would put candle after candle into the bottle. I would let the shards of broken wax litter my desk.

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