The cottage is beside a graveyard, and when it rains, he plays. Not when it storms, but when the water comes down like mist, and the sun shines through its fog. He sits among the graves and plays.
His guitar is old, battered, and bruised, but its sound rings clear through the mist. The chords fly through the air to my ears, zipping between the drops that hang in the air, to greet me. I open the kitchen window and wash plates to his tune.
I gaze at him as he leans against a grey headstone to play, watching his fingers’ slow movement as he bends the strings to his will, extracting that sad, sad song he always plays. The man himself never cries, but that song just weeps and weeps.
Sometimes, I hum the tune to myself, but I can never quite get it right. It is an uncatchable melody, impossible to trap, impossible to copy, impossible to forget. I have only heard it a handful of times, for the sun shines through the mist rarely.
The man fits the scene. His coat is long and worn, and his hair is peppered with gray, the color of the stones he sits with. I cannot guess his age, but he was young when first I saw him. As years pass, his gait grows slower, but his back stays straight, and still he comes to play. He plays for the soul buried beneath the headstone across from where he sits.
My dishwater gets cold as I wash, so absorbed am I in the song. It’s a long song, with many notes, though the tune never seems to change. It is the same melody, repeated time and time again, only slower and sadder each time. It breaks my heart, and I don’t even know why. I don’t know the man or the one he cries for so silently, but I do know heartbreak when I hear it, and he is shattered. For so long, he has made the pilgrimage, from wherever he lays his head at night, and still his song is sad.
He knows I listen. Sometimes he turns his head to my window and stares at me while he plays. I can never be sure of the color of his eyes, only of their seriousness. He doesn’t seem to mind my eavesdropping. Perhaps he senses my reverence. I never bother him. I’ve never tried to introduce myself. It would be wrong somehow. I listen at a distance.
Finally, it always comes time for the second tune. It is shorter than the other. This one is a lively, cheerful tune, but it always hurts me worse than the first, for the man always stands, as if in salute to the dead, to the lost. He stands up straighter than straight, and oh, how his hands fly.
This song is memory. Where the first is a eulogy, a song for the living to mourn, this one is for the gone, to make her dance. I sway in time to his song, dishes forgotten. Even God and his angels pause for this song, I am sure. It is the heartbeat of air, and it laughs and laughs.
The man shakes with the passion of his playing. He is playing for a special audience, and he cares not what anyone else thinks. Besides, no one else is here to see but me, and I wouldn’t laugh.
Eventually, the guitar is silent. The quiet is almost as profound as the music, as the man stoops to lay a single daisy on the ground by the stone. He settles down on both knees and bends his head toward the ground. I can see his lips move, soft and slow. He always speaks to her, but I never wonder what he says. There are many words of love and many sentences to say them in, but in the end, they still mean the same inherently inexpressible thing. He loves her. He misses her. He regrets her loss. The words themselves mean little, the feelings behind them…….everything.
Tears run down my cheeks. I always cry when the sun shines through the mist, without fail. I am drawn to the notes, to his display of unalterable affection. The man looks toward my window one last time as he stands, pausing to give me a long look. He looks at my tears and nods, before turning and walking away. I watch him until he and his guitar are out of sight, and then I finish the dishes and go outside.
I walk to the grave and look down at the little flower that he left for her, at the old words engraved on the headstone. The girl buried beneath those words was only four years old. Whenever the sun shines through the mist, he plays for that little girl that he lost, and I mourn with him through the window, tears running down my cheeks in sadness and in awe.