I pulled my cap down lower, over my eyes. This was always harder if I could clearly see the people: nervousness over the ones who stopped and shame over those who didn’t. The cap didn’t prevent me from seeing them, but it helped. Checking to see that everything was ready, I began sliding the bow gently across the strings of the violin.
I teased the string, one note singing out clearly to the throngs of people. I let it ring, knowing the power it contained to perk ears. I heard footsteps stop. I let the note peter into nothing. I let the silence hold for a moment, well as much silence as you can have on a busy street corner. I repeated the note.
The music took off. Notes that followed were slow and long, though, not as long as the first. Gradually, I increased the tempo. My fingers glided smoothly, finding each note with precision. The music climaxed. I’d stopped paying attention to the people lingering around me; the sound of coins clinging into the open violin case at my feet; to the cars honking; to the general everyday music that belonged to New York City.
I climaxed. The note hung once more in the air. I could almost feel anticipation of the few that had actually stopped to listen to me. I picked up the music again softly, holding each note carefully. In my mind, I saw the one word instruction on how to play this part.
So that’s what I did. I softly let the music die. It ended with the same note as in the beginning, hanging in the air, not that anybody would know. Nobody hardly ever stayed to hear a full song.
I lowered my bow, giving myself a moment to recover from the rush playing always gave me. I always started my set with that song. It was my favorite. It had lots of major/minor shifts and beautiful harmonies that left me hungry for more. It was dramatic and I loved it. It deserved so much more than a busy street corner, even if it was close to a fountain. It needed the fantastic acoustics of a concert hall instead of being sucked up by music-hating vampires, otherwise known as noise. But it’s not like that would be happening anytime soon.
Some people clapped for me, realizing I’d finished the song. There was an increase in the clanking of coins before people started drifting away. You don’t clap for a song like that. It was a serious mood killer.
I watched the people wander away for a moment. My eyes found those of a boy, probably my age at eighteen. He was sitting on the edge of the fountain, watching me. I turned away, feeling a flash of anger. He was, what I liked to call, a leech: absorbing the music as it pleased him, but giving nothing in return. He hadn’t dropped any coins into my case. He just wanted a free show. I tugged my cap down lower over my face and turned back to my music.
My anger fed into my violin. I selected song after song filled with intense technical skill. They were the real money bringers anyway. I hardly stopped to breathe between numbers. Whoever said playing music wasn’t a workout, had never played music well.
Fine, okay, I don’t know if anybody’s ever said that, but the statement still holds. I would be feeling this in my arms tomorrow.
I ended my set with a few impressive, but less exhausting songs. More clanking of coins as people realized I was done. As the crowd dispersed, a kid ran up and scooped some of the larger bills from my case before fleeing.
“Hey!” I yelled after him. I couldn’t leave my stuff and the rest of my cash to go after him, so I had to settle for clenching my fists as he disappeared. Some of my listeners looked at me sympathetically and dropped a few more bills into my case. I gave them soft expressions of gratitude.
A special compartment was built into the bottom of my case. I opened it and tilted the case, swiping all the coins into it before any other urchins got clever. Minus what the young boy had taken, it looked like I’d made a pretty good stash for two and a half hours’ worth of playing. As I closed the compartment and secured my violin and bow carefully inside, a twenty dollar bill drifted down, landing across the strings. I closed the case lid over the money before the extremely generous tipster could rethink. Twenty big ones! I snapped the clasps into place and looked at the tipster still standing over me. Apparently, this one wanted to talk.
It was the leech, I realized with surprise. He’d leeched two and a half hours of music. He seriously didn’t have other things to do. At least he’d paid for his pleasure. I guess that didn’t make him a leech after all. But I still felt inclined to call him that. For some reason, I felt like it applied.
I stood quickly, lifting my case with me, so he wasn’t so loomy over me. “Thanks,” I nodded at him, forgetting the leechiness and remembering the twenty now pressed up against my violin’s strings.
“You deserve it,” he smiled. “You’re very talented.”
I paused to examine him. He had dark hair that curled just above his ears and crystal blue eyes. His face was pleasing to look at. He stood five or so inches above my 5’5. His body was lean and well defined. He had to have girls crawling all over him.
I wondered where he’d ditched them at.
“Well,” I said awkwardly, “thanks again.”
I slung my case over my shoulder and walked away. I could tell he was stunned at my abrupt departure without to looking back. He probably had more to say, but I wasn’t in the mood to make pleasantries with him. I wanted to get home to talk to my little brother and count today’s haul.