The Unanswered Question

29 June 2019 in Writing

The accordion lies dismembered on his workbench. The front grille and rear shell, having been removed and placed near the window, throw pearlescent shadows on the wall. Pins and small screws rest on individual scraps of paper, identified by designations written in spidery handwriting. It’s a cipher only he understands: A1, Z2, H, 5, O.

He stretches the bellows from one end of the workbench to the other and begins examining each fold for bugs, or holes, or both.

While working, his mind drifts but he doesn’t realize it. He wonders what love is, and if he will know it, if he were to love. He cradles the keyboard end of the accordion in the crook of his arm. Closing his eyes, he tests each key, measuring the squeaks and clacks on a meter in his inner ear, deciding which are acceptable and which need adjustment.

Later in the day, after lunch, he will perform the same test on the bass buttons. There will be brief moments of confidence, such as when he thinks to himself that there are far more buttons on an accordion than on a woman’s body, so surely … with his expertise— But then he will falter and abandon the thought. He will test the last two rows of buttons, again, as penance.

Confidence, with women and with love, eludes the technician. He wonders what love is while applying a pinhead’s worth of musical instrument grease around the threads of a screw. The inner deliberations continue as he returns each screw to its place. “One, two,” he murmurs as he turns the orange-handled screwdriver. Sometimes, “Three.”

That night, the accordion recovers on the workbench.