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There was a violin in the corner, but he couldn’t play it anymore. So it just sat there, and it collected dust the way his ex-wife had collected records.
Those records were insults. Little tauntings, each and every one. The music always reminded him of how he couldn’t play it anymore, and how much she needed it. And she would get it, from him or not. If not from him, then from someone else. And so she did, and he hated her for it. And he hated himself for it. And she hated him for it, too. “Why can’t you play?” She wouldn’t ask it, but those eyes would, and those lips that had gotten so much tighter over their years.
The records had never collected dust. She had always cleaned them. And now they were gone, and it was just the violin. The violin collected dust faster than anything else, he thought. Faster than the television and faster than the books and faster than the empty shelves in the closet. The strings were the worst. Each one was a thick and fluffy strand of pure age.
Was it still in tune? No. But would it play? Would the bow still purr the notes out of the wood? It might. He wondered this for an hour, and then he wondered where the time had gone. And it wasn’t just the hour that he wondered about.
His hands didn’t hurt anymore. Not as much, at least. Maybe he had just gotten used to it, or maybe the nerves had deadened after all those years, or maybe his joints had fought off the pain. The will to return had beaten the will to quit, perhaps.
And he had finally found a pill that warded off the shakes, to some degree.
His rocking chair groaned almost as much as he did when he rose from it. The floorboards squeaked as he hustled across the room to that place in the corner where the violin had been sleeping for so many years.
He picked up the instrument and placed it in the crook of his neck, cradling the bow with the awkward naturalism of a bird that had no memory of how to clutch its branch. His eyes flitted up from the hairs of the bow an instant before he began playing, and he saw the clock on the wall. Not recently, it had stopped.
And then he began. On the first note he played, it came back to him. Not the music, but the pain. Sharp, instant, old, familiar, and blinding. But then the music returned. After the first three notes, the violin seemed to tune itself back into order.
Where have you been? Didn’t you love me? I’ve missed you.
His fingers cooperated enough for him to play the right song. And they worked, they really worked! It hurt like nothing ever had, but it was beautiful.
And then, he was done. The song wasn’t over, but he was done. He placed the violin back on its stand, the bow with it, and rubbed the tears from his eyes with his knuckles.
He sat back down in his rocking chair, and it groaned again.
A minute passed. Quiet as always. He looked up, and he stared at the violin. There was something different. At first, he couldn’t tell what, but then he saw it. He saw the new clean spots on the strings where his fingers had been. He brushed the dust from his calluses.