A short story
Black and white
Brittaney Michelle Cox, 19 year old student of a bible college in Athens, helps with the love meals at our mercy centre in her spare time. After such an evening she wrote a short story for her blog and made it available for us.
His hair hadn’t been cut since then. A pair of shoes he’d stolen, not quite the right size, but they kept the winter bite from devouring his toes entirely … his pants were filthy, his t-shirt stained, streaked and stank. His hands and lips were chapped by the foreign wind which howled around the city buildings with unfamiliar curses. The only thing that was his, from home, was a now worn leather jacket. He had arrived at the building early, 'a free meal indoors, a bit of heaven in this hell'…was handed a ticket and ushered in. A burst of warmth spilled over him. 'Time indoors, just a minute, this is all I want'… He joined a group of scoffing rowdy men waiting for the elevator. They were joking coarsely and saying shameful, ugly things…'why does hardship turn us into animals? None of us would have spoken like this in the safety of our homes, with our mothers and sisters and brothers and fathers near to us'…He shut his ears off to the conversation and misplaced laughter. He’d grown accustomed to shutting off his ears, as much as it tortured the part of him which could find extraordinary music in ordinary places.
Up seven floors, and through a door to an already brimming hall, where fellow refugees round long, circular and short tables- waiting skeptically, the hard texture of their hearts chilling and condensing the very air around them. Shrinking into a chair he let his eyelids fall, enjoying the warmth and smell of food cascading over the weariness of him. 'Fresh food…it doesn’t even have to be hot'…There was a stage in front. This perked the senses of his heart- a stage…most of it was obscured by a silly screen filled with the heretic lyrics of a heretic song to be offered to the heretic’s god- 'although they are the ones feeding us, bringing us in…that’s different'…It was scuffled and old. The curtain was creased permanently where the drawstring had hauled it aside again and again and again. It was weary, worn…'like me'…but the concept of a curtain- whose western connotation was public celebrations and demonstrations of that which is lovely- refreshed and encouraged his achy heart to plod relentlessly on…'what if there were a piano behind it? Not that they would let me touch it…'
There was a message, 'of course they had to preach their heresy before they fed us'... his eyes slipped shut again. A hassled, happy- 'too happy'...team of people began serving plates of bread and olives in a haphazard way. A bowl of spiced meat and rice was served. The taste took him many, many, many miles away to a room crowded with family and friends…laughing away the dark night and hunger of Ramadan. Despite the transporting taste which he wished he might tuck away and hoard for weeks to come, he couldn’t help bolting down everything he was given and jealously watching those around him finish. Eyes flickering back toward the curtain, curiosity propelled him up from his seat and toward the stage…From the edge of the stage, his hungry eyes peered around the first fold of weary green curtain, found and feasted on the sight of a grand piano waiting patiently just out of reach.
“What are you lookin’ for?” A comical, balding, wide-mouthed man asked in Greek. He wasn’t even able to put his longing into words using his own language let alone the frustrating, sharp syllables of Greek. So he pointed. Pointed toward the physical representation of his heart’s deepest delight. The man smiled and nodded affirmatively. He clambered up onto the stage. He hesitated, glanced over his shoulder, but barely needed another encouraging gesture before he disbelievingly skittered closer to the piano…he sat before the piano, set his fingers to the keys. Through the clamorous room of broken lives and half-full stomachs came the sound of…the raw sound of him- his soul spilled down from his chest through his arms, to his fingers out to the keys below. For the first time in months the sorrows and missing joys, hardships and rare pleasures, memories and mingled wishes of his life were again purely black and white. No shades of gray or confusion or dull aches of incomprehension of how or why. None of the grays from the stone and cement and cold city streets he was forced to haunt. Only the sharp contrast of the black and white of the keys beneath his curled fingers. He played haltingly at first, but his muscles and the piano settled and became reacquainted and it was like they’d never parted. His thoughts turned to the god of the heretics. And he wondered…