They sat around a small circular table in the kitchen of their two bedroom apartment, a newly married couple, with the window open, smoking a cigarette each. They had just put their first child of sixteen months to bed.
"I can't call, it's too early, it's only nine thirty at night, and you have to admit it sounds kind of nice. Maybe it will be good for her, maybe she will grow up to be a prodigy because of this."
"All I'm saying is if our baby wakes up and starts screaming again, it’s your turn to call."
"This will be the fourth night we've called, we don't even know who this new neighbor is."
A new neighbor had moved in while they were away on their first vacation since having the baby. They finally decided the baby was old enough to be left at the husband’s mother’s house for a week while they were away. They went to a cabin on the coast, listened to the waves and drank wine.
Upon their third night back, it began at roughly eight o’clock and ended fifteen minutes after they called the police. It was a piano playing next door.
"Okay I'm calling them at ten. It's a week night."
The husband crossed his fingers that both the baby would not wake by ten and that the piano would stop at ten.
On the day of their child’s birth they promised each other, for both the baby’s health and their own, that at the end of each work day they would split one bottle of wine and have one cigarette each, only one.
She knew he was relaxed when he stopped re-corking the bottle after each pour, which usually occurred three quarters through. He stopped re-corking the bottle three quarters in figuring, at that point, the wine was more so enjoyed than the possibility of its remains being spoiled.
He laid his head back against the screen of the window and closed his eyes, turning his head to spill the smoke.
She watched the baby monitor that only ever made sounds.
After the armed robbery of a small jazz club downtown and the subsequent four shots that were fired several feet from his head he lost all hearing. The police report notes he was found under the same baby grand he had played in that club for the past twelve years.
After the incident his sister moved him into a cheaper apartment down the street from her, not knowing how much assistance he would need losing his hearing after spending his entire life listening.
While moving his piano into this new apartment she was asked if she would have it retuned. She replied that she would, though ultimately failed to see a point, and didn’t.
He told her he needed some time alone and that the settlement from the criminal case was enough for him to live off of for a couple of years.
The first couple of days he couldn't think to play music.
He went out and bought six white canvases and a set of paints.
He relished his sight after going deaf.
He hated his first four paintings. The other two canvases stayed white.
He couldn't sleep. In a fit of terrible silence one night, he painted the entire spectrum of light across all fifty two white piano keys. Every octave blending in an out of its seven steps of brilliance. The arrangement as a whole composed a rainbow, and as far as he could tell the strokes of his paintbrush were too light to produce a sound. It felt good though. This feels good, he said.
The next night, after the paint dried, he played the colors, he played them like he was painting, until the police came.
"I am sorry I am deaf," he wrote on a scrap of paper for them, not willing to speak, not caring for noise.
They wrote back, "You can't be playing this late."
He wrote, "Okay I am sorry."
He didn't have a clock, and after all of the insomnia he didn't want one.
The police left soon after pointing to their watches with their heads down.
"Maybe we should move out of the city," she said.
"We met here," he said.
They always wanted to be the parents strong enough to stay, the ones that didn't go back to the suburbs, like their own parents.
Their cigarettes were half burnt through, and only being allowed one they each used their own tactics to make them last. After sixteen months they never thought to share these tactics with each other.
At nine fifty the baby hiccuped in her sleep, and the wife heard it through the monitor. The husband did not. He went on listening to the piano from the apartment next door.
"Maybe we can switch rooms. We'll take the nursery and we can move the little one into the master, away from the noisy neighbor." The husband said.
"That means he wins," she said.
He stared at his cigarette for the time.
She stared at the clock, her cigarette almost out.
He stopped opening his eyes when he played the colors on the keys, but he still saw them, as he played them, from the back of his head.
They splashed loud, then faded out like the music he had known his entire life.
He left the door unlocked and cracked open knowing he would not be able to hear the police knocking. The police knew not to knock now, and they didn't mind telling an old deaf man it was time to go to bed. They even began to stand in the hallway for a couple of minutes listening to him play before walking in and tapping him on the shoulder, then pointing again at their watches.
At this he would turn on his piano bench, press his hands together, and with a slight bow thank them for their kindness and understanding. A gesture for which he was no stranger to, after years of an audible applause.