Violin Lessons

There is an old man who can be found in the centre of town. He teaches violin. Dressed in a navy suit, unsmiling, balding yet not bald, will never be bald, but perpetually sombre, receding, he walks the length of the high street, back & forth, advertising violin lessons with a sign held against his chest. Dress how you want to be found by the paramedic, he thinks to himself; his mother told him to polish his shoes, his father made him polish his shoes. Among the Big Issue vendors, the sleepy-eyed homeless, the pirate on stilts who wrestles balloon animals, the fishmonger and bakers, among the florist stalls and Witnesses, bratwurst carts and patisserie, he walks, never teaching violin, but always letting people know he can. He has cards in the supermarket and Wilko’s, at the back of the instrument shop, you might recognise his name. Like any other animal in the forest, he is only visible when he moves; otherwise, no one sees him, except, perhaps, the young man who sleeps in the old Debenhams doorway.
    No one speaks to the old man and the old man speaks to no one. He putters by the florist’s buckets – buckets of deep green, in which the bold old fidgeted water, gurgled and spat out, stalks and blooms – then rounds about back to the beaten path, holding a sign in front of him. It is a sign protected against the rain and his grip. The sign reads VIOLIN LESSONS.
    During summer, when most were indoors and not learning violin, I saw that he was there, in the centre of town, beneath the full tree outside the old Debenhams. The tree speckled his crossed frame as he sat with the sign before his feet: VIOLIN LESSONS. It was hot, yes, and he was scowling. Where did he find time to teach violin if he only spent it telling people he taught violin? It was something, yes, that this lumbering soul in the middle of town played violin when no one else was watching. Maybe somewhere there is a child holding the money their mother gave them. Until then he will hold the sign in the middle of the high street.
    She played violin. She played violin before I met her, when she was younger, until she no longer sought to impress her father. Her body had grown below the violin; fingers long and strong. It was a fancy of mine that maybe if I had lessons from this stranger, maybe if I learned to play violin, then maybe I would have understood her more. There are different body parts and different people; she was hands; hers were fingers; the bow peaks and dips.