The violin sits on his bed patiently, as though waiting for the moment when his hands will reach over and pick it up. But he ignores it. He instead faces the wall—blank, hideous, beautiful—and goes over the day's events again.
First there was the lightning storm with the sunrise. He smiles at the memory. There's something special, he knows, to lightning. It's not the danger, he muses, but rather the way it lights up the sky. The way instead of staying stereotypically yellow and zig-zaggy, it dribbles across the sky in all forms—purple, yellow, white and even green balls, flashes, stripes and explosions—and then it's like watching a fireworks show. You never know what's coming.
Then—he stands up to stretch out his legs—there was his shower. Half an hour, maybe an hour, letting the cold water run over him. He knows he isn't supposed to waste water like this, not with the water shortage and all, but he woke up covered in sweat and his face felt swollen. And after watching the bolts and flashes across the sky, he felt he needed to cleanse himself. Hence the shower. He hopes they won't notice the extra charge on the monthly water bill. It's not often anymore that he gets to shower as long as he wants to. He wonders what happened to all the water in the world. How was it that once people could shower as long as they needed without having to worry about shortages? Still—he sighs—life is like that sometimes. He'll be more careful tomorrow.
After the shower, he wrote. Sentence after sentence. Cursive here, print there. One page was even all-caps. He smiles as he recalls the perfect evenness to each letter, how they all fit like typed splotches of ink on the page. There's a mechanical beauty to that, he thinks. It's not just me. Anyone who'd look at the notebook would admit that it's beautiful. His fingers twitch against his leg, dancing lightly.
Breakfast. He glosses over that part every day but it's important today to remember. Was it cereal or toast? Or eggs? He closes his eyes, as though by doing so he'll be able to bring the image to mind quicker. After a moment of contemplation, he knows—knows—that it was toast. Yes, of course. Toast with a small streak of butter across the northern half. He'd pretended the slice of bread was a compass and had tried to remember what direction was north, so as to eat the bread accordingly. If the buttered half was north, he had to eat it in the direction of the compass. If he was facing north, he had to start with the southern half. After a moment's thought, he'd realized he was facing southeast and had turned the slice of bread. It tasted dry in his mouth.
And after breakfast. He needs no memory tricks to remember this part of the day. The violin on his bed is a screaming reminder. Yes. The concert.
His hand scuttles across his knee and onto the bed with a mind of its own. His fingers—narrow and strong—curl around the zipper and tug just a little, just enough for the zipper to open slightly, to make that noise. It cuts through the silence of the room and he winces. But his fingers live a separate life, like a ventriloquist, and open the case completely. Now his legs are moving without his command and he's standing, holding the entire violin between his left thumb and middle finger. He lifts the violin to his shoulder, places it there comfortably and lets it stand. His neck long ago learned this position, where his hands fly free and only his jaw clamps down on the edge of the violin. He knows it cannot fall, cannot break.
He wonders, vaguely, if the same applies to him.
He lifts the bow gently now with his right hand, gripping the neck again with his left hand. Just in case. He taps the bow against the strings, hearing the thwacking sounds that emerge from hair and string contact. Spiccato. The bow bounces lightly against the strings and he relishes the sound, even as he notes the out-of-tune string. He twists the knob until the sound is just right and exhales deeply. Now he can begin.
He starts with a few of his old favorites. Simple, stupid tunes. He plays them slow and fast, changing tempo sometimes in the same measure. It's fun, this game. He slaps the bow again and plucks and saws at the strings. The sounds fill the small space awkwardly. He wonders how much an apartment with good acoustics costs. He smiles ruefully even as he plays. Even the cheapest apartment would be too expensive for a boy with no money.
Concertos. Sonatas. He cannot decide. Some days he knows exactly what to play to get his fingers warm but today his heart just isn't into it. So instead of forcing it out, grunting through mindless effort, he sets the bow aside, places the violin back in its case, and zips it up. The music fades away from the room and within ten minutes it's as though he never played. He is back in his chair across from his bed, staring at that white wall. The violin is silent on his bed.