Posted on February 2, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair2.2.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Philip Hartigan February 2, 2015: If you listen… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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There’s this guy plays violin on the tube, just by Marble Arch. Violin or fiddle, I don’t know shit ‘bout music and I don’t know the difference. He’s old, this guy, and he always looks lost. Not the sort of desperate lost. Not the cut my wrists lost or the help me find my way lost. He just looks lost in what he’s doing, you know. Like he’s become one with the fiddle or violin, or one with the music.
He’s like thirty years older than me, maybe forty, and he’s a bit disheveled, but like that, when he’s playing, it’s as though all his years have left him. I hear him before I see him, hear the music all dragging and soft. I feel it sort of tugging at my insides.
There’s this guy I used to know and every time I saw him I just sort of felt my legs go weak and pins and needles in all my parts. He was pretty like a girl and when I saw him I just wanted to kiss him and unbutton his clothes, right there where we was. It’s never the same tune the guy in the tube’s playing, but the effect on me is always the same.
I’m usually on my way to work, or on my way back. If he’s not there, then there’s a hole in my day or my night. But if he’s there, well I feel lifted up. I feel like I’m a child again and I’m in church and everyone about me is singing and looking like they are with God and happy.
I look at the faces of the other people walking past, and though they none of ‘em stop, I can see they are listening. I can see that their faces is softer and that their steps is slower and closer to dancing. Some of ‘em drop pennies or pounds into his open case, tossing ‘em carelessly as though it is nothing, not even looking at the guy and not saying a word; but you can see in their faces that it is something.
I’m the only one who stops. It looks like I’m the only one. Every day I stop, even though I will be late for work and old Mr Thomas will scowl and scold and tap his watch to show that I’m late, tapping it with the flat of his forefinger, and he’ll make me give back the time I have taken from him, giving it back from my lunch break. Still, every day I stop, and I listen, letting the music play through me, letting my body sway with it, and like than it could be I am the fiddle or violin he is playing.
‘Play me,’ I say under my breath.
He’s fifty, if he’s a day, and there’s gray in his hair and he stands a little crooked and he looks a little crumpled in his skin. But just for the time he is playing, he is young again, and I wait till he’s finished the piece he’s playing and then I ask him what it was. He tells me every time, but though I want to and though I try, I never afterwards remember what he’s said it was.
I drop some money into his violin case – or fiddle case. And I smile and I tell him he plays beautiful and I smile again and go on my way.
When I am a few steps from him, he starts up again, and it is a different tune, and it almost pulls me back, and I feel a weakness in my legs and pins and needles on my toes and my fingers and I look about me for someone pretty that I could imagine kissing.
Journal Prompt 2015-2-2
It all happened so quickly–really without thinking. So it is amazing that it happened at all. Just jumped off the subway downtown rushing along the platform to get to my important meeting. Carried with me the laptop with slide show all prepared: all the details for the presentation. My mind flooded with the anxiousness of preparation. Would I have all the right information? Would the hours spent gazing at my laptop be enough? Would my marketing strategy be persuasive? Would I seem unready or not qualified? My mind was racing faster than my legs could carry me.
And then suddenly there he was. Off to one side near the escalator so I nearly missed him. A sad looking man in an old brown suit. Easy to overlook with his furrowed brow and downcast eyes. A very lonely figure, the sight of him stirred me even before the sounds from his weathered violin penetrated my senses. One moment I was rushing to outrun my anxiousness. The next my feet immobilized by the presence of this lonely sentinel.
The music: how it held. The sad faced minstrel never looked up so focussed was he on his mission. The violin kept rolling out a steady pulse of emotion as if the breath of life itself was coursing through the air. The soft low tones poured out across the platform drowning out the sharp sounds of the conductor’s call and the rattle of the steel wheels moving through the station. Gone was the power point with its carefully crafted images. Gone were convincing lines I had so carefully rehearsed. I wasn’t even anxious about the time: my meeting would wait. It was all gone. Replaced by the warmth of the embrace from this man in a worn brown suit and his violin.
His hand-made sign called out in a voice of affection. He made no effort to look up to see if anyone responded to his embrace, but let the rich voice of his violin speak his universal message. And what a voice it was. A medley of the classic and the popular. From Puccini to Piaf, the Beatles to Beethoven. His bow moved without effort from the lowest staccato rhythm of life to the highest trill of exuberant celebration. The white tiles of the subway station shook off their soot and echoed the passion of his song. In the hands of the violinist the station became a holy place, a sanctuary where passers-by were called to shed their troubles in exchange for a moment of peace.
A small crowd gathered round us. Some of them might also have had appointments. Others no doubt had to take the next train. But we all stood in quiet wonder at the event that took place that day. Some of us threw money into his tray as if to pay for this time of joy. I know I threw a couple bills his way. But I also know our money did not really cover the price of what was provided.
Yes actually I was late for my meeting in case you want to know. But somehow it didn’t really matter. My anxiousness had left me and I never looked at my copious notes. The marketing strategy I was so worried about was accepted with applause. But in that moment I was still back on the subway platform held in the embrace of the lone figure in the brown suit and his violin. Life for me would never be the same.
Thanks, David, for this. Hope all is groovy for you! xo
Lindsay: loved your post. Taken with Philip’s portrait. Finally back after a break.
Good to have you back, David. ome n ice things in your piece – liked: ‘The music: how it held.’ – simple and direct.
Shoul proof read my comments! Should say ‘Some nice things in your piece’.
And the last comment should have a ‘d’ on the end of ‘should’. Shit for brains this morning.