Lenna walked limply down the side steps. She paused and looked around. There was a small space there which her mother referred to as their garden. Some orange marigolds hung their heads from a few stalks across from where she stood. There were weeds all over the place and a few wild creepers climbed over the high wall which surrounded the little space on all three sides. Lenna felt an unfamiliar suffocation as she frantically looked around. Her face was contorted in pain. She needed air! Quickly, she suppressed her emotions and walked over to the marigolds. Absent- mindedly she plucked one and stared at the bright orange. It had started to fade at the edges as though someone had smudged the colour there. She felt nauseous and she tossed the flower away. Wandering thoughts in her mind came bobbing up for air in her head. Why did life deal unfairly with her? Had she lost forever what she most loved? She had fought with all her will against this decision made by her family. Did they not believe in her purpose?
As tears came rushing she made another effort of her will to control the tears. What was the use when there was no one to listen to her pain? Submerging into a world within herself would take away a little of the pain, she thought. She sat down on a patch of grass and closed her eyes. Faces and colours appeared in a dissolve pattern before her closed eyes. She saw the waves swirling in white foam before crashing onto the shore. She saw hills that she had climbed and heard the familiar sound of her dog Ror barking. Had he come to comfort her? But she didn’t move. She kept delving deeper into her self, bringing up pictures and places and animals and people she had once found meaning in. But she shut off the one thing which mattered most to her.
Quite some time passed. The evening sunlight on her face woke her from her trance and she stood up. She glanced around, sighed and made her way back. Her frame was bent as the burden of life hung over her. A desperate prayer came to her lips. “Lord.” She stopped herself. She no longer knew how to ask. She had exhausted all means of asking, trying in every way she could possibly imagine. She walked back into the house to hear the nagging voice of her one parent, who tried to take control of the chaos which surrounded them. She stood frozen on the doorway. There was no solace anywhere. And she slung down on to the threshold.
Day after day, she came back to that patch of grass in the garden. She sat down there and thought about the life she had left behind. Every day she made an effort to forget a little part of her, so that today, her mind could re-call only a few things which surrounded her. Immediate things like finishing some homework, washing some dishes, and some change she saved for her daily bus fare, which she held in her closed fist. She heard her mother call for her. Her mother loved to talk. She was an expressive woman who had lost all her flair and finesse and had become a mess. But Lenna felt strangely unrelated to her. Not only to her, but to all who came near her, she became hostile. She wanted distance. She wanted space. She needed only herself.
As she sat in the hot sun she heard muffled steps. She turned away from the direction of her house but the sound came nearer and then suddenly stopped. Lenna heard a scraping sound and then heavy breathing. Her eyes fluttered open. There was no one around. Then was she imagining? She breathed in calmly.
A high strain of a bow against the string made her gasp. What was that sound? As though from heaven, a few notes and then a string of pearly notes wafted across to her. Was she in her senses? Lenna felt numb and could not move. Maybe she was dreaming. The notes were playing havoc with her senses and she could feel her fingers move by itself. But as quickly as the music started it ended. She did not hear the rest of the sounds of the chair scraping on the grass or muffled breathing. She was lost in her own world and she awoke from sleep when the felt the dew on the grass by late evening. She hurried inside wondering what had happened.
The next day, as she sat there the same thing happened. She heard music which took her away from her world of pain. The third day, she struggled to keep enough composure to walk around and find the source of the music. It was coming from a house or two across the garden wall, she guessed. But by the time she walked out and down the road, the musical spree was over. Besides, the sound was not coming from the side of the houses facing the roads. It was coming from the courtyards. But there were so many blocks of houses huddled together and separated by alleys she did not know which one contained the heavenly music. She was too frustrated to talk to people or ask around and she headed back home.
As days passed, she immersed herself in the evening sonata, never really wanting to break the joy she felt as the music washed over her. Her heart rose with the beats and she felt her steps move into the house. She couldn’t understand nor cared as long as the music played on.
Soon she was in her room, bending down to pick up the violin case she had stashed away into the space above her cupboard. Dust had settled on the hard cover. Nevertheless, she held it like she would a precious treasure. And as she turned, her face caught the twinkle in her father’s eye in the picture she had leaned on her study table. She quickly walked out, dusted off the cover and picked up her instrument. Tuning in so that she would not disturb the player, she slowly joined into the soft melody of “Ode to Joy’.
The stranger beyond the wall paused just a second only to resume his music once again. And a duet ensued, when the notes of the song ‘Rebel Heart’ drifted into the golden sunset. As it came to a stop, the violin slid from her hand and the months of tension broke within her and Lenna burst into tears. Everyday, she came at the appointed time to play with her unknown companion. Life started to show shades of colours again.
One day, she came out and waited for her companion to start but no music began. Impatiently she started to play not wanting to miss the one thread which had saved her drowning spirit. No one accompanied her. All she heard was a rasping cough which irritated her. The next day and the following, Lenna waited punctually for her companion and played by herself for hours on end when she did not get a response. Her mother always watched her silently from the window, feeling her pain but never able to reach out to her.
Lenna became more and more immersed in her own evening music but deep within her she missed the solace of the stranger’s music and presence. So finally, she gained enough courage to go in search of the house. It was a melancholy neighborhood. Serious people walked about and no one seemed to care about her presence there. One man condescendingly told her to go down the street and turn to the right. This would bring her to the violinist’s house. Hesitating, but determined she walked to the house and entered the gate. It was more run down and dilapidated and an eerie silence hung about the place. She went to the door and knocked. A man dressed in an attendant’s dress opened the door for her. Upon questioning, she was led to a small bedroom. It smelled of dampness and stale food. There on the bed lay a wizened old man. He was fidgeting on the bed and threw a rough glance at her before letting his gaze wander around the room. Gingerly, she walked to his side and asked,
“Are u a violinist?”
He did not answer but kept looking around. Lenna looked at the attendant for help and he nodded. She touched his withered old hand and asked again,
“Do you play the violin everyday?”
He did not answer. Anger began to build up within her. Why did she waste her time here? As she got up to go, the attendant brought a violin case to the old man’s side.
At once, his eyes lighted up and he extended his hand. But his shaking hands could not hold the violin case. Tears sprang up in Lenna’s eyes and she turned to leave. She thought to herself, ‘I might be in the wrong house. There just might be someone else.’
Just not ready to give up, she sat back down and took the violin from the attendant’s hand. As she opened the case, she saw the most beautiful Stradivarius violin she had ever set eyes on. Carefully she picked it up and began to play the notes of her favourite song. As the music rose to a crescendo, the old man lifted a hand to hers to stop her. She put down the violin and looked at him. Tears were flowing from his eyes. He rasped rather than talk,
“I think the circle – is complete. My daughter used - to play like yu. I am gifting this violin to yu. Yu ers is not good enough for yu.”
Lenna was too stunned to talk. After a few moments she replied,
‘My father played like you before he died.”
She paused to control her sobs,
“His Stradivarius was crushed next to him, in the accident. He was my favourite violinist and he played like you.”
She went on and on. She did not care if the old man was listening to her but she had to tell everything she had been holding up inside her. And when she stopped finally, she saw that the old man had slept. She got up slowly so as to not disturb him and walked out. Holding the violin to her chest she sat outside in the garden for sometime and then started playing into the night. Somewhere in the early hours of the morning, the old man quietly slipped into a deep slumber never to wake again. But for Lenna life had just begun anew.