The intra-office memo had been missed. Somewhere in his brain, he means by this, long ago. Instead of queuing up Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” as the soundtrack for his life, more specifically, the “personalities” who live in his brain stem or limbic system or prefrontal cortex chose, at random, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
And what exactly goes best as an upwards to two-decades long montage to the soundtrack of “Piano Man”?
He will tell you. Even when you raise a hand to him on a Monday morning as you’re hurrying past him going the other direction to say, “How are you?” (meaning: I recognize you and I like you but do not engage with me), he will stop you and for ten or fifteen terrible minutes while standing there in the cold, he will tell you. They’ve been wanting him to play the melody and sing the song that makes them feel alright. But he can’t shake the feeling that he’s been a lonely guy pandering to an even lonelier audience, night after night.
What he’s really saying, of course, not too difficult as it is to read between the lines, is that he’s not been happy. For a really long time, none of them have been happy, and that’s kind of disturbing, isn’t it? There’s John at the bar, for instance, who thinks he could be a movie star, if only he could get out of his life.
Besides only about a thousand papers to grade, you have a colicky baby at home, your wife hasn’t slept for more than two hours straight for the last three weeks, and all you need, therefore, on this freezing morning, is this guy getting all up in your grill with his woes. ”Uh-huh,” you say and glance for the fifth time at your phone, just in case he hasn’t caught the clue. He hasn’t.
He says, finally, “We’re all sharing a drink we call loneliness.”
And you say, “Yes, but it’s better than drinking alone.”