“Technically perfect but lacks heart and soul. No colour or shade apparent.”
I’d been expecting it but the report crushed my last fragile hopes. I picked up my violin case, head bowed, eyes averted. “I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
My tutor sighed. “I’ve one last suggestion, Anna. A friend of mine may be able to help you.” He scribbled a few lines on the back of an envelope and handed them to me. “If he succeeds, I’ll see you next semester.”
I was tempted to scrunch the paper up and toss it in the nearest trash can, but somehow a sliver of hope emerged from the ashes of my dreams.
The friend’s name was Joshua and the address was the corner of Main and 23rd. It was a hot summer’s day and the city sweltered. People lounged in the shade and grey concrete radiated heat like a kiln.
I heard the violin before I turned the corner. The notes were pure and bright and bubbled with life; the life that perpetually evaded me. A crowd swayed in time to the music, applauding wildly as the melody came to an end.
Joshua was a stooped man with long silver hair in a braid. He wore open sandals on his feet and cut off jeans, frayed around bony knees. I noticed all this, but it was his shirt that hit me with an explosion of colour. It was a flamboyant mix of emerald, sapphire and ruby, blended with amethyst, gold and coral.
“Are you, Joshua?” I enquired although I already knew he was. I introduced myself and told him my sad story. “I can play anything but I can’t find the colour and life I need to make it come alive.”
He leaned against the wall and gestured towards my violin case. “Play for me.”
Reluctantly I pulled the violin out. “What should I play?”
“An Irish jig.”
I started to play, the notes perfect, timing impeccable but it was grey and flat, even to my own ears.
Joshua held up a hand. “Stop.” He pulled the colourful shirt over his head and handed it to me. “Put this on.”
A nervous giggle burst past my lips. “I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can. It’ll help you break out of your mould.”
“Your grey mould. Look at you. It’s no wonder your playing lacks colour.”
I looked down at sensible pumps, black longs and sober grey shirt. Maybe he was right. I reached out and took the shirt, still warm from his body. I hoped it wasn’t sweaty but it just smelled faintly of cologne. I slipped it over my head and glanced in a mirrored shop window. The exuberance of colour actually looked good on me, the sapphire matching my eyes and the gold, my hair.
“Now what?” I asked.
“Play,” he instructed.”
I played the first few bars and he held up his hand. “Still no colour.” He shook his head. “Look around you, girl. Look at the park over there, the white swans and yellow sun, the green trees and purple shrubs, the blue lake and pink roses.
I looked and the colours saturated my vision. “I see it ... and it’s beautiful ... but I don’t know how to express it.” I told him.
“Let’s try this then.” He picked his own violin up. “What do you see in your mind when you play this jig?”
I shrugged. “The musical score? Where I’m going to place my fingers.”
“And that’s your problem. You need to close your eyes and see a barn full of folk, having the time of their lives. There’s yellow straw and tables with blue chequered cloths, bottles of red grape juice and bowls of green salad.”
He began to play; lively notes that swelled with colour and life. Feeling rather foolish, I closed my eyes and joined in, swaying as I pictured the imaginary scene. Slowly I started to feel the colour pouring through my fingers. The creativity was amazing and I only realised later that Joshua had stopped playing. Breathless, I opened my eyes and the crowd clapped and whistled.
Joshua leaned against the wall in his white vest and cut off jeans. “That’s more like it. Come play with me every day this week and your problems will be solved.” He picked up his violin case and sauntered down the street. “And keep the shirt.” He called over his shoulder. “It suits you.”
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