A Musical Interlude
It’s a sweltering summer day when I navigate my travel-weary suitcase into Gare de Lyon in Paris. The station has become a regular dwelling for me, the portal between two lives, as I pass through it several times a month when shuttling between the north and south of France. But today the usual din – a cacophonous blend of train announcements, suitcase wheels screeching across tiles, and general itinerant chatter – is drowned out by a more pleasant sound reverberating off the enormous station’s shiny surfaces. At the disposal of whomever may encounter it, a piano has been placed in the middle of Hall 2.
I’ve seen this in other train stations throughout France, but usually the sound emanating from the instrument is a melodically challenged bashing of the keys at the hands of a precocious child, delighted at the opportunity to make as much noise as possible. Today, however, the musical offering is a beautifully mesmeric one. I weave my way through the crowd and its gauntlet of luggage in search of the source of the lovingly executed classical composition. In my mind I conjure images of the character who might be manipulating the keys, envisioning (with an admittedly narrow mind) a mad-haired virtuoso in a dishevelled suit, interacting animatedly with the piano.
Instead, the figure that comes into view as I sidle my way to the front of the group of onlookers who have formed a horseshoe of appreciation around is a young German backpacker. As he leans over the keys in a studious frenzy, I see sweat marks from his backpack soaked into his t-shirt. His travel companion stands nearby guarding their economically packed luggage while her friend delves into an impromptu musical interlude. He closes his eyes and smiles, revelling in the moment as if he had stumbled across an old friend in his travels and was now catching up on the time spent apart. A rare sense of peace emanates throughout the usually chaotic station, as the voyageurs stop their frantic movements to simply listen.