It's Sunday morning in a little park off rue Notre Dame. I have walked by here many times over the years and never stopped. Today there are two pianos on a low platform, one covered with flowers in pots, the other half-draped with a white tarp. Chairs arranged loosely in front.
I decide to settle in with my book and see what happens.
First, a mother with two children approaches. One of the boys plonks away discordantly for 5 minutes, then leaves. (future jazz musician, I think). Next, a family with a toddler cheerfully comes to strike a few notes.
Along the side of the park, under a jungly mural of a waterfall, a woman sits, talking on her cellphone. Now, emboldened, she walks over and cautiously starts to play. With the first few notes I'm caught by surprise emotion. Tears well up and quickly overflow.
The music is slow, meloncholy, wistful. Under the open sky and shadow of maples, on the rich sound of a old upright, it is easily the most beautiful thing I have heard. I try to hide my face from the handful of onlookers that have stopped to listen.
She plays for a good ten minutes. A young man eagerly circles. When she is done he takes her seat. He launches into a much larger classical piece, playing to the extremities of the piano with gusto. A family from Philedelphia parks their car and gets out to watch. They applaud and beg for an encore. He grins and goes back for a passionate version of Moonlight Sonota. More people gather on the sidewalk.
He gets up and bashfully walks away amidst more applause, "I'm done now, have to shake the nervousness from my hands."
"A perfect moment." says a woman who has curled up in one of the chairs. I agree silently.
The park grows quiet now as the watchers begin to dissipate. There are only three people left, talking amongst themselves. This is my shot. I walk over to the bench and drop my bags. There are two songs I can half-remember, one from Amelie and another by Patrick Watson. I play these a little nervously, and gaining courage, enjoy a few more minutes of experimentation. Letting the notes and chords roll out into the air. It is exhilerating, playing outside.
I finish, and without looking back, pick up my things and start walking again down Notre Dame. My hands are shaking. I understand what the man was talking about. And the woman in the chair was right.
This was a perfect moment.