Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Notes & Notice

Notes & Notice

There is something quite satisfying in the crunch of his black boots on the hardened snow. It litters the field in heaps and clumps, brown earth and green grass visible here and there in the white landscape. But to his eyes it is a carpet of white extending–– unbroken save for his solitary trail of lonely footprints–– all the way to the edge of the park where the rows of silver beech tree trunks stand like a field of pillars, enclosing him in his white world.

He reaches the spot where the old fountain used to be. There’s still the containing cement wall and the dias that the bronze mermaid had stood on, spouting her slimy water into the algae ridden pond. But then some parent groups had complained that the mermaid, though appropriate by the standards of 1910, was completely inappropriate for children–– especially her small, round breast that trickled into the pool–– and so the statue was removed and the pool was drained and the concrete containing wall soon sprouted into obscenities and pictures both colorful in meaning and shape.

He sighes as he glances over the carnage of the fountain–– as he likes to think of it. But today is not a day for sighs–– he recalls–– and places the small black case down on the containing cement wall blooming in graffiti and abstract art. The silver latches, as polished and immaculate as the day they were formed, open with a satisfying snap-crack against the hard exterior. He opens the case and undoes the knots, taking out the violin and the bow.

The violin is black, as somber as his attitude and his vest and his long black coat. He’s dressed that way to make a point–– a visual statement to go with how he feels. He slips out of his normal gloves and pulls his special pair from the interior of the case. As his hands slide through the wool, his fingers–– already pink in the freezing air–– furrow out of the holes cut in the finger portions, ready to move and flex and play. And freeze if he doesn’t hurry and start playing.

He hops the low cement containing wall and crunches over the fallen snow to the dias. There are still the green remains of what was once brass pipes sticking out of it, but by carefully placing his feet on either side, he has taken the mermaid’s place. He has become the new statue. He brings his violin to his chin, already tuned before he left the apartment. He places his fingers on the board. And the first note sings out over the snowy landscape of the park.

He plays like this every Tuesday and every Thursday. It’s a tradition by now that’s caused enough interest that he sees his regulars–– who in turn invite friends to sit on the benches and listen to him play. None of them stay for long. None of them knows what his art really means to him. They think its just some cute song, some nice notes, with a warbly bit thrown in near the middle that they don’t particularly care for. And then some leave money. He had been excited when he saw the first few notes and had immediately hated himself for feeling excited. He wasn’t out there to make money. He was out there to make a point about loneliness and inevitability. And about love.

Love. That was why he started playing every Tuesday at 1:15 and every Thursday at 3:02. Love. He would play and the joggers would jog by with their headphones in. And the children would run by, making obscene gestures and jokes he was certain he hadn’t known at their age. And then would come the lovers. Oh the poor, stupid, unfortunate lovers. They’d stroll by, arm in arm or hand in hand and think to themselves what a lovely tune and isn’t this so romantic. Having no idea that the song he plays is no more than a swan song for his own love, a song of pain, a song of anguish, a song of the millions wrongs that love commits daily against the hearts of man.

But they just sit and smile and kiss and walk on and he stays on his dias and plays. At least most days he does. And most days he makes a fair bit of change. In fact, he won’t admit it to anyone, especially not himself, but he’s pulling enough right now to only have to work part time at the coffee shop. Which is not bad at all. At least. That is most days. And though today seemed like most days seemed with the crunching snow and the children and the joggers and the park, he has no idea how different today would be.

The sound of his song is struck mid chord by the punctuation of her voice.

“Oh, a violinist! I love violin music!”

He holds his breath and then wills himself to keep playing. And not to turn. He’s thought about it. Fantasized a million times. Dreamt that this day may come. He had seen it. She’d be walking in the park and he’d be there, standing on the dias cold and lonely in the snow with the saddest music the world had ever conceived on the muses and she would feel her heart break in anguish and remorse and guilt. And regret. That was important. She would miss him and realize what she’d lost. But then she’d be filled with the longing to have him back. She’d want to run to him. To embrace him. To kiss him and hold him and make love to him. But she wouldn’t. She would stand there and feel all the guilt and remorse and regret and emotion and longing wash over her until she could barely contain it and then, she would walk away. And maybe he’d make eye contact with her right then. At that moment. A field of broken snow between them. Yes. That was how he’d imagine it would happen.

Except, he’d never imagine the man’s voice that follows.

“Would you believe if I told you I’d hired him to play for us today?”

And she giggles.

“Gary! You liar! I know you didn’t! You had no idea I’d bring you to the park!”

And he laughs in return.

“Alright, fine. You got me.” And at this point the voices have reached him and are stopping, “Want to sit for a while?”

And he does stop playing. And stops breathing too. But doesn’t turn yet. He simply lowers his instrument and waits to hear. Can she honestly not remember that this was the spot. Here by the dried up and forgotten fountain she’s brought her new.... lover.... the very spot that he had first kissed her. On that Tuesday. At 1:15. The very spot she had broken up with him on that Thursday at 3:02. He feels lancing heat ride up his neck.

“No, it’s getting cold.”

And she giggles as they finally come into view of him and he hears the man’s response.

“I can fix that when we get back to the room.”

And as they pass around the fountain towards the path that leads out of the park with his lonely set of footprints in the snow, the man stops and untangles his arm from her. He reaches inside his Armani coat and pulls out a wad of money. And drops it in the small casket.

“Hey, can you play us something up-beat, buddy?” And he grins a grin that says he knows exactly whose standing on the forgotten fountain’s dias.

And as much as he wants to punch the Armani coat right off of the bastard, his arms seems to rebel and raise and start to play an Irish jig. His heart hates him for it. But his arms and fingers will not let him stop. They play and his eyes begin to tear up as he watches the two dark figures walk out of the park.

She glances back, and she’s frowning. He’s not sure. But she seems to look at him a bit too long. As if she’s buried his memory so deep that she can’t even recall it when she’s looking him straight in the eyes. But then, he’s changed since then. He probably wouldn’t recognize himself either. And so she turns away, not even a look of recognition. And as they walk out of the snow veiled park he hears her last words.

“Did I ever tell you–– I once dated a violinist...”

And he finally regains control of his fingers. And he drops the violin and the bow. And he more falls than jumps from the dias and half walks-half stumbles to the edge of the concrete containment barrier. And he places the violin into the case, its small casket home, and places the bow in its place, and closed the latches with snaps that are less satisfying now. He doesn’t even pull his normal gloves back on. He just needs to get out of there. He just needs to get back home.

Home. It’s an apartment in the city. It looks like brick but its just cleverly disguised concrete. There’s snow in small heaps here and there. But for the most part the sidewalk is bare and gravely with the last traces of the salt tossed earlier in the morning. He takes the stairs. He doesn’t want to have to talk to anyone about how unseasonally cold it’s been. He reaches his door, unlocks and wants to slam it except that Mrs. Jenkins always calls and complains when he does. He closes it resolutely instead–– he tells himself. He walks into the small apartment and flicks on some lights and then turns them off instead and opens the wide bay window. Let the dull grey light that seeps through the clouds wash his room in tones of white and grey and shadow. Let it reflect his mind and his heart and his soul. He places the case on the kitchen counter and then proceeds to fall on the couch.

The television sits invitingly in front of him, calling him to watch. But he doesn’t feel like watching anything right now. The book his friend leant him is on the coffee table. He’s at  really good part. He could pick it up. He doesn’t. He could make food. Except he’s not hungry. He gets up anyway and starts boiling some water. That’s a start. He leans against the kitchen counter and opens the cupboard. Pasta. Fine, his mind says, whatever is easiest.

As he slides the pasta into the warm water, somewhere in his mind he recalls the way she had said that he spoiled it when he did that. That he should wait until the water boils. He didn’t do it on purpose today, but some part of him is glad he did. He watches the water and waits for it to boil. And waits. And waits.

While he waits, he picks up the violin case, the jangle of change reminding him of his money he’d earned today. And the wad of bills from the man. He opens the case and takes out his pull. A hand-full of coins, a guitar pick, a cigarette, a fake million dollar bill that has the message of hope on the back, an unopened condom, and the wad of money. He hesitates to pick it up, feeling dirty, and then not caring. It’s all 20s and it’s all real currency and the first thing he thinks is that he’s never held so much money in his hands in his life. And probably never in his bank account either. The next thing he wonders is just exactly what kind of man walks around a snowy park with this much amount of cash in his pocket. And then just gives it away. Probably the kind that wears an Armani suit into the snow too. He hopes that it’s drug money or mob money or something that makes the man just a bit more real and a bit less.... dare he think it... better than him.

He drops the fake bill and the cigarette into the trash. He keeps the condom–– even if he doesn’t have a use for it right now–– and the change. And that only leaves the wad of cash. Then he throws it away too. He won’t take it. He leaves it. He doesn’t want anything to do with the man. Or with her for that matter. He had fantasized about her coming to the park but deep down he hadn’t really ever wanted her to come. It was like a messy divorce. She had gotten his heart and dreams. But the park had been his. Tuesday at 1:15 and Thursdays at 3:02 had been his.

And he feels the resignation that simply wants to hand over custody to her and be done with it all. Maybe it won’t be as bad. Maybe he doesn’t have to go out there and play his heart break out anymore. But he knows he can’t. He can’t because it has become so much more than just his heart or his pain. It has become his art. It has become his place. Those ignorant joggers and obscene children are his people. Those misunderstanding listeners, they are his audience. And the money’s not bad too. Maybe if he got a bit better he could end up making even more. Enough to quit the coffee shop all together. And besides he knows that he can’t let her chase him away.

But his thoughts are interrupted by the sizzle of the boiling, starchy water overflowing the pot and hitting the warm element beneath. He hadn’t even noticed that the water had started boiling and he begins to frantically look for his oven mitts. A few slammed cabinet and cupboard doors later and he still can’t find them when he recalls that he’s already wearing gloves. He picks the steaming pot up and carries it to the colander in sink and tosses the pasta and the water in together. He hangs his head over the sink as it is enveloped by the reaching clouds of sticky steam.

In the morning he rolls off of the futon. He stumbled to the kitchen in his boxers. The open violin is still on the counter top. The remains of the pasta and the butter and the garlic and the cheese from last night are still out, along with the empty bottles of wine. He begins to clean the kitchen and run water for the dishes and put things back where they belong. And he picks up the phone. And he calls his boss at the coffee shop. His voice sounds stronger than he’s expecting, given how he feels.

“Hey, yeah, I was wondering.”

And he opens the trashcan and pulls out the wad of money and places it on the counter and wipes the coffee grounds and pieces of garlic peel off of it as he keeps talking.

“Would I be able to go from part time to full time?”

He fishes for his wallet inside his coat. And places the bills inside his wallet.

“No, the violin thing just isn’t working out anymore.”

And places the wallet back into his coat pocket. And goes back to doing the dishes in the sink as he cradles the phone next to his ear.

“I’m not really sure why. It’s just a feeling, that’s all.”

And he dries his hands and hangs up and holds the receiver in his hand. And he walks across the room to the phone’s cradle on the glass side table next to the couch. The light from outside is still diffused by the clouds, though it is the light of the early morning and the new day and it seems to have just a bit more white to it. Fresh like fallen snow across his couch and coffee table and side table and phone cradle. And there is something quite satisfying in the finality in the click of the phone as it slides back where it belongs.

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