I watch my husband play piano. His clever fingers brush over the keys, creating a tune only he recognizes and I know afterwards he’ll ask if he did a good job. He’ll tell me where the music came from and it is most likely a video game I have never played.
I watch his fingers dance, a step ahead of the beat they are creating, and I try to focus back on my computer. I have about a million things to do that he can’t help me with, which is why he’s chosen to serenade me instead. A way to spend time together unintrusively. We are pretty good at that. Being in the same room, being together but not needing the full attention of the other person.
Perhaps this is our introvertness showing. I love him for it though. It takes the pressure off me to finish everything I possibly can before he gets home from work.
The piano is a white Yamaha electric with weighted keys. We bought it nearly a year ago. It was my fault, I guess. He wouldn’t have dared suggest it. It was too expensive and takes up too much space, but I saw the longing in his eyes every time we visited his parents. He would stare at their piano like it was the only toy he wasn’t allowed to have. He played it whenever we went there, instead of talking with his parents. He missed this outlet.
I wanted to surprise him. I searched KSL for hours, trying to hunt one down that wouldn’t go over the last in my savings account. The bank talked us into having separate accounts for whatever reason, but I hadn’t had a job in about a year. We were living off his account just fine, and if I had to stop splurging on books so he could have his music back, well, I was fine with that.
I buy books the way my mom used to buy magazines. I buy them because the cover looks cool, because I passed a shelf in Target and it was on sell and seemed semi-interesting. I read most of them too, but I could stick to the library for a while.
To my annoyance, nothing seemed to fit quite right. KSL was full of pianos, but they were all too large to fit into our small apartment. They were also old and heavy and would need tuning. The one person I contacted, ended up contracting Covid. I am an impatient buyer, and so I scratched that idea, and took my husband to a piano store that night under the guise that he was getting a new music book.
I encouraged him to try some of the pianos, particularly the electric ones. Electric pianos have their pros and cons. They aren’t necessarily cheaper, and frankly as they had zero used ones in the store, they were quite a bit more expensive. But they tend to be smaller, and considerably lighter. They are far easier to move and as I was waiting to get into grad school at the time, that was a huge factor. At least for me.
He picked a higher end one, and I tried to tell him the lowest priced one was just as good. He explained passionately as he was giving it a few scales, that this one, the one he was playing on, was the lowest priced one that didn’t sound tinny to him. I, being a novice, couldn’t hear the difference. He wanted this, and he knew he couldn’t have it. Except, we were there because I wanted to give it to him.
I pulled the poor salesman over, and he talked shop with my husband about the weight of the keys, the sound options, and other small but fun details about the piano. I asked the price, and it hit me in the stomach like a punch.
I checked my bank account, while my husband watched the salesman play along with a pop song using an iPad connected to the piano. My balance would cover it. Barely. When the salesman was done showing off, he left my husband and me to go check on a concert that was happening in the back of the store.
My husband said something about him possibly saving up Christmas and birthday money for a few years for something like this. My grandmother has given us generous gifts in the past so it wouldn’t have been a terrible plan, but it would take a while.
He was looking at this piano the way I looked at my favorite series when I finally got a hard copy of it. Like it was an old, familiar friend. One that would kill him to part with.
So I told him. I told him I wanted to get him a piano. Now, not later. That I wanted to hear him play as I write my books. I wanted the joy in our home I knew it would bring him. Lastly, I told him how we were going to afford it, and that yeah, it would dent our savings, but that I thought it was worth it. Besides, a piano will last a long time.
He wasn’t entirely convinced, and he would have never taken the step himself, so I went up to the salesman, and had him ring us up. My husband got to pick the color. He was taken with the white, how clean it looks. I decided not to tell him kids will draw on it, that I will be tempted to paint on it. Instead, I let him have his choice, as he watched the card being swiped in both ecstasy and trepidation.
I told the salesman we would be by the next day to pick it up with a truck. Both of our dads drive trucks, I was sure we could convince one of them to help us.
The salesman asked what kind of car we drove there. I smiled and told him my Subaru Crosstrek wasn’t tall enough. He said it would fit.
I pulled my car out back and we loaded a whole piano into it. I mostly sat by, stunned, as the salesman helped my husband carefully lift it into my car. It felt a little unreal driving home, my husband was definitely in shock. He kept telling me thank you and that I was such a good wife.
Getting it out of the car and into our apartment took a call to my husband’s brother, it also took a lot of reworking our apartment. The piano found its home in our bedroom, under a poster UVU sent me when I got accepted.
It’s all still there now. With dirty clothes arrayed on the floor and a closet that is never quite shut, my husband plays a joyful tune from one of his favorite games, and the smile on his face distracts me enough that I can’t concentrate on the writing I am supposed to be doing.
Mariah H. N. Hawkins is a graduate student of English with an emphasis in Creative Writing at Weber State University. She loves snowboarding and mountain biking. Her work has been published in the undergraduate journal Touchstones and in an anthology by Wingless Dreamer Press. You can find more of her work at mariahs-corner.com.