A Lost Day

A Lost Day

A Lost Day 1920 1441 DeMisty D. Bellinger

You have to interrupt your planned day. This is not abnormal; often, things go wrong. Not just in your life, but in everyone’s life. Still, today was going to be the day that you master the Saint-Saëns. For once—or maybe for the third or fourth time—you were going to actually practice for four hours with little breaks in between and, maybe, you were going to practice a little longer than four hours. You were going to get through the first movement of Saint-Saëns’ third concerto with no mistakes because you only have until December, and December will be here before you know it, and that is when you’ll have your first rehearsal with the entire orchestra (December 2; it is on the calendar). From memory. Or mostly memory. Eventually, you’ll have everything memorized.

You worry that the conductor for Riverwest Symphony Orchestra is too young. But what is too young? Besides, everyone has to start somewhere. And it is a community orchestra, so you consider this a way to give back to the community. And you are happy with the diversity of the orchestra. It will be the first time that you won’t be the only black musician or one of the only two black musicians on stage. So maybe your worrying distracted you, or maybe it is too dry (there is nothing like the odd dryness of Wisconsin winters. Is it the weather or is it the effect of the furnace? Whatever it is, your skin is always dry, your hair is also dry, and your instrument too sharp whenever you take it out of the case), but your D-string peg pops, cracks, and is finished. Fuck.

You still have your student violin. Of course, you could just use that for your four-hour session, but no. You have to interrupt your planned day. You have to pack up your violin again and take it to Lake Michigan Strings. On your way there, you almost hit the biker—and who bikes in November? In Wisconsin? You scare the biker nearly to death, then calm her down and put her in your car—and drive her to where she is going. “I’m a violinist,” you say. Like she cares. Your instrument is in the trunk; she didn’t have to know. But you want to impress her. You want her to know that yes, black women can and do play classical instruments. You want her to know that you could make a living from your art. So, you lose a day.

Before you accompany her upstairs to her apartment, she asks if she could ever see your violin. You say it is broken. You open the trunk of your car, then open the case, and pull back the velvet and satin cover to show her. “I popped a peg,” you say.

“That sounds nasty,” she says.

You think about being witty by saying something like, “Well, I’m a nasty woman,” but you don’t. How could you even tell if she is interested? You look at her and see, that yes, she is interested.

Some time has passed, some actions were taken, and you’re in her bed. Your violin is on her coffee table. She is making some Italian dish—homemade noodles and vodka sauce. She says, “I was going to make it for myself, but I have enough for two.”

Soon, you’re eating with her and forgetting about the time. She mentions your broken violin and you shrug. “It’ll get fixed,” you say, realizing that your statement sounds like fairies would come flying through her opened window—and why is her window open? It is November. In Wisconsin!—and get to work on your busted D peg.

“When do you move in?” she asks. You both laugh. And after you finish eating, you make love again. You like how she’s both soft and muscular. Her belly is pudgy and her thighs are giving, but her biceps and her calves are strong and sinewy. She smiles with her mouth closed as you kiss her neck and when she climaxes, she’s silent.

Your brain gets silly. You’ve got yourself attached too quickly, again. Why are you imagining a future with her? Why are you thinking about times you’ll cook for her? You don’t even know her taste in music. Is there someone else in her life? You don’t know!

While still holding her, you look at the clock. It’s nearly four and Lake Michigan Strings closes at five. You imagine Jack cleaning shop, finishing up a lesson or a sale, sanding down a bridge. “I should go,” you say, not moving, still holding her.

“Your violin,” she says. “I know. Will you invite me to the concert?” she asks.

“Of course.” Maybe you should start packing your house up. Maybe you will move in.

She politely wiggles out of your arms. “What kind of music is it?”

“Art,” you say, worried about classical getting mixed up with Classical, when Saint-Saëns is Romantic, and you think of saying this but remember what happened with Me’Shell, who said you were too bougie and not bohemian like she thought. But would this one—was her name actually Becky? No, it was Beth. You just called her name—be so turned off by your knowledge of art music? “Classical,” you say. “He’s a Romantic composer, late 19th, early 20th century.”

She’s getting dressed without washing. That’s a turn off.

“Any composer I would have heard of?”

You get out of her bed. You look around you. “You have a towel or something? I’m going to quickly freshen up.”

“Of course.”

 

You make it to Lake Michigan Strings at 4:43pm. You can see Jack inside, straightening out guitars and music stands. You rush in and smile at him. “You fell in love again,” he says.

“What?”

“In love. It’s a long ways from spring, honey, so you can slow down with the love affairs.”

“Don’t call me honey, Jack.”

“Am I wrong?”

“It was probably just a one-night thing. Or day. Hey, you got any pegs? I’ll let you call me honey.”

“Let me see.”

You put your case on the counter and Jack pops it open. “Oh, honey, what did you do to Vivien this time? You torture the poor girl.”

“If you don’t like my playing, you can keep that shit to yourself.”

“Hey, language! Children come to this establishment! Speaking of which, you need another student?”

“Maybe. Can you fix it? I need to practice for an upcoming show.”

“Don’t you always? I can fix it but you’re going to have to leave it here for a day. It’s not just the string. Look.” He shows you the scroll and point at the peg hole. He sighs heavily. You sort of see that the threading is smooth, or not so smooth.

“What am I’m looking at?”

“Some grooving on my part. Some sanding. And you know I have to fit the peg. You want a loaner?”

“No, I want Vivien.”

“You can take her, but she won’t have a D. Now, I’m sure the piece you’re playing needs a D.” Jack takes out a cleaning cloth and wipes the other strings down.

“Just do a tune-up,” you say. “All new strings, please. Check the bridge, too.”

“Yes, my liege.” He bows slightly.

“Fuck you.”

“The children!”

“Hey, Jack,” you casually lean your elbow on the counter and try to look at Jack from the side of your face. The goal here is to present yourself as not really interested, not really caring. You are only making conversation. “What did you mean by saying I’m in love?”

“You want to know how I know? I ask you: am I wrong?”

You shrug. “Like I said. It was just today. I could have been here three, four hours ago.”

“But you were with her,” he says. He smirks because he is so sure of himself. He loosens the strings on your violin. “Want all new pegs? Got some ebony bitches in yesterday. Darker than you.”

You roll your eyes at the casual racism. “I’m sure they’re not really ebony.”

“They are. I’ll give the set to you for only sixty.”

“You’re so kind,” you say and give him a sneer.

“It’s that when you’re dating a girl, you get this euphoric but guilty look on your face, like it’s not okay to be with a woman.”

“That’s probably my mother looking over my shoulder.”

“But clearly, you enjoy being with women. All your long-term relationships are with women.”

“You’re right, but that’s only thus far. I am capable of falling in love with men, too.”

“One-day stand, huh? Did you get her number?”

“I got her everything. We’re going out this Friday.”

“You’d never do that with a guy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Move that fast with a guy. Come back tomorrow around noon. Maybe one o’clock. I’ll have your Vivien good as new.”

“Let me see that loaner.”

“It’s special! Lock up the store and I’ll be right back.”

It is five o’clock. You go to turn off the OPEN sign in the show window and flip the sign over on the door. You physically turn locks. Jack goes in the back, probably to his office overstuffed with Frankenstein projects. He left Vivien on the counter and you go look at her. With the pegs and strings off, the bridge has slid off the body and lay beside it. She looks tragic. The shape of the violin is the shape of a woman. The real Vivien, who gave you this violin years ago, was shaped this way. You were leaving her dorm room as you did so many nights before. She stopped you and thrust the instrument towards you. She insisted you take it for keeps. “I don’t play anymore,” she said. “I never have the time. You are so much better on it than me, and let’s face it: it’s a better instrument than yours any day.” She offered it three times, so you took it on the third time, as she taught you to. You said goodnight and took her in your arms. You kissed her and she kissed back, just like always, those long, sensual soft lipped-kisses.

“If you ever want it back,” you said to her.

“I won’t.”

“I can’t afford to buy this from you.”

“I’m not selling it to you.”

Now, Jack returns with the loaner. You can see that it is well played. He hands it to you and you like the heft of it. You take your own bow and rosin it up. You tune the loaner and you are comforted by its warmness. You play your show-off piece, the Paganini, and it fills the shop with beauty. “Just a loaner, huh?”

“Only for my favorite musicians.”

You play through something slow. It is no one’s composition, just long notes in B flat minor and lots of vibrato that you improvise there in the shop. You close your eyes against the pathos of what you’re playing. You can’t help but think of the girl who gave you a head start in the music world. “It’s better than Vivien,” you say.

Jack nods. “If you want to trade it out, just say the word.”

“The woman who gave me Vivien gave all of her friends wonderful things from her closets, her drawers, her bookshelves. Then she went away. In retrospect, everything she did made sense and didn’t make sense at all. I loved her very much.” You want to say something about the soul of instruments, that you believe an instrument’s sound is grounded in who loved it and who played it, but you know that’s not true—it’s the aging of the wood, the weight of the varnish, the workmanship, the quality of the strings, the setting of the bridge. Nonetheless, you’ve always felt that your own violin is an extension of the woman who gave it to you and of the possibilities she opened up for you in music. It is only now that you realize she showed you what love can be, too. And Jack saw that when you walked in, he saw the love all over your face.

You bring the loaner violin up to your chin and drum the fingerboard. Your skin against the thread of the strings give nearly silent intonations. It was a good instrument. “Give me a case for this one, Jack. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Header photography © Clarabelle Fields.

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