Sunday, September 09, 2012

La Vita Nuova

He hadn't turned up for work. There had been no calls, no apologies. It was completely out of character, that's what his fellow players said, though none knew him very well. They couldn't tell you if he preferred dogs or cats, tea or coffee. He was quiet, competent, and reliable, they knew that. But that was all.

His sister raised the alarm. She had left several messages for him, with a creeping note of concern in her voice. The messages went unheard, she realised, letting herself into his flat a week later and retrieving them herself. No-one else had called. His violin, a 1914 Audinot, sat in an open case on his bed. His dress suit hung behind the door in a cellophane poncho, and five white shirts, similarly sheathed, jostled in the wardrobe like commuters. She found his shoes on the table in the narrow kitchen (the table was a hinged flap meant to drop down to save space but there was only him and the stay underneath, disused, was now immovable). The left shoe had been buffed to a dark brilliance, its pair lolled on its side, streaked with dried-out polish. A cigarillo had burned itself out in the ashtray. An open window. The absence of dust was a kind of bareness.

He reappeared after a month. His sister had never seen him with a tan, even when they were kids. His eyes, too, seemed more deeply coloured.

He had sat at the table smoking, polishing. A blackbird settled briefly in the plane tree outside his window and rehearsed, twice, a trill of pure notes. He knew that if he did not get out right then, at that moment, he would never get out.

He came back to sell the violin. He'd find something cheaper and live for a while on the difference. Learn the language, offer lessons, feel the sun on his neck.