His fingers moved over the strings of his violin with ease and without effort. The bridge, the neck, the strings, and the bow was an extension of his talent as well as his soul. His emotions and feelings rose from deep within his body, moved through his arm, through his wrist, through his fingers, and became audible as the bow gently touched the strings. The constructed sounds filled one of the famous streets in the city from early in the morning to late in the evening. With restaurants, bars, books shops, vendors, and convenient stores surrounding him, his setup was as perfect as could be. People of all ages, sitting at the table, or walking up and down the street were exposed to the man's experience and talent. His long black hair hid the holes in his worn-out clothes as he sat behind sheets of music entertaining the people who were listening and walking by. He returned to the same spot every day, setting up his music stand, his chair, and laying out the violin case in front of him. He then returned back to his small apartment, where his wife was waiting for him with warm tea and with whatever food she could prepare that day.
The sun rose, and Fernando prepared himself and got ready for the day. It was Friday, and the streets were always busier at the start of the weekend. He exited his building, walked down towards the corner where he always performed. As the day went on, his music filled the street, and people tossed a few coins and notes into the violin case. It wasn't much, but enough to get him through the week. That was the pattern of his life. To play music so that he could survive from one week to the next.
While walking home, he saw someone standing at the front door of his building. It was a man with a white beard and a curly mustache. His outfit made it clear that he was doing very well for himself. The man then leaned against the wall of the building with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other.
" Beautiful evening isn't it", said the man while taking a sip from the bottle.
Fernando just ignored the man and placed his things on the ground in order to open the front door.
" You play very well. How long have you been doing this?"
Fernando opened the door and started gathering his belongings before entering.
" Since I was ten", answered Fernando.
" How old are you now? If I may ask."
" So young and so amazing! You are amazing! Incredible! You make a lot of money, yes?"
The man was now walking around in the street pretending to play the violin, instead of holding a bow, he was holding the cigarette.
" No, I wish I did. I thought I would, but it seems that people don't care that much about music anymore."
The man placed his hand on Fernando's shoulder and then took another drag.
" Would you like to make a lot of money?"
Fernando stopped at the threshold of the door and turned around.
" Doing what?"
" Making music of course."
" What do you mean?"
" I mean making money playing that violin of yours."
" Same place. Same time. Nothing unusual."
" But I have been doing that for the last ten year. How will any of this be different?"
" You are right. Nothing will change. Unless you use this."
The man revealed a thin black case from his coat. He presented it to Fernando and shoved it under his arm.
" Who are you?" asked Fernando.
" Me, I am a man of the arts. I travel the world to watch great performers and musicians. And I am here in this city to watch one of the greatest performances ever.
" And this box under my arm? What am I suppose to do with this?"
" Use this tomorrow. I will see you after the performance. It seems that you and I live in the same building. What a coincidence."
The man gave Fernando a tap on the arm, turned around, and disappeared into the evening, gulping down his wine and smoking the last bit of his cigarette, before flicking it into the street.
Fernando opened his apartment's door and placed all of his things on the floor.
He closed the door with one hand while holding the thin black case in his other hand. The case was smooth and had no labels or words on it. He walked into the kitchen and placed it on the table. He opened the fridge and grabbed an apple from the compartment in the door, then returned to the kitchen table, pulled out a chair, and made himself comfortable with both elbows on the wooden surface. The apple was cold as he sank his teeth into the flesh. With the fruit being held in his mouth he opened the thin black case. It was a violin bow. The bow seemed to have been made from a reddish wood, but the hair of the bow was different. It was black hair instead of white.
Fernando took a deep bite and placed the apple on the table, got up, and fetched his violin. He stood in the small living room of the apartment, his violin balanced between his left shoulder and left cheek, and his left hand placed at the neck. He placed the new bow on the strings and pulled to release the sound. It was the purest, sharpest, and most beautiful sound he ever heard coming from a string instrument. He continued playing. The bow was like air in his fingers. He didn't even notice it. It felt as if he was conducting a symphony with an orchestra instead of playing a single violin. The experience was suddenly interrupted by his wife entering the living room. She gave a shake of her head and pointed with her finger towards the ceiling. Silent lips made it clear that the music was not welcome at that hour. Fernando sighed and placed the instrument back into the case with the new bow resting on top.
The music stand and the music sheets were placed on the tarmac. He unfolded his chair and placed it against the stone wall. The case of the violin was placed in front of the music stand, with a few coins inside as an example of what was expected from those that were passing by. The new music filled the fresh morning air. Everyone in the street stopped with what they were doing. They turned to face Fernando and slowly approached him. As they approached the musician they took everything out of their pockets and threw it into the violin case. Soon coins and notes spilled over the side of the case. After a few minutes, Fernando stopped playing. He got up and placed his violin on the chair. Filled with surprise and amazement, he stood over the case and stared at the pile of coins and notes. For the rest of the day, Fernando played his violin and people showered him with money. That evening he burst into the apartment with paper bags filled with cheese, bread, and cured meat. Two bottles of wine were showing themselves from the one paper bag, and boxes of chocolate and candy were stuffed in all of his pockets. His wife came from the kitchen without holding a cup of tea as she normally would.
" Fernando, where have you been? Where did you find this?"
" I bought a couple of things for us."
" With what money?"
" Money I made playing in the street."
" Don't lie to me. Where have you been and where did you find the money?"
" I performed in the street using my violin and people gave me their money. Why are you asking so many questions?"
" Are you doing anything illegal?"
" Emily, please. I told you. I performed, and everyone gave me their money."
" Promise me you are not doing anything illegal?"
" I promise."
The look on his wife's face made it clear she was not convinced. She moved closer and wrapped her arms around him.
" You should take it easier my dear. Your hair is starting to turn gray."
" That is because I worry about you all the time and I have to work double shifts at the restaurant every day."
" Well, you don't have to worry anymore. We will have enough money soon and then we can leave this place."
" That sounds nice", said Emily holding her husband.
She suddenly grabbed one of the paper bags and opened one of the bottles, as well as helping herself to the cured meat, and the box of chocolates.
That evening the kitchen table was covered with coins and notes. Fernando made piles of coins and notes and counted how much money he made that day. There was a knock at the door. Fernando walked up to the door and was greeted by the man with the white beard and the curly mustache.
" How was your first day?" the man said opening the door and letting himself in.
" It went very well. I made more money than I thought I would."
The man walked into his kitchen looking at the table and gave a loud whistle.
" How is this possible? Why are all those people giving me their money"
" Because they like your music. You are a very talented artist. Do you have any wine?"
" So where did you go this evening?" asked Fernando while pointing and directing him to the refrigerator.
" I went to get my ticket for the performance. Front row seats." said the man while helping himself to a bottle of wine.
The two men moved to the living room and made themselves comfortable. On one of the old couches. The man removed a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. The match ignited, and little puffs of smoke escaped from behind his hand as he lit the cigarette. Then he gave a deep sigh.
" The bow is yours to keep until after the performance. It is such a hassle to carry around everywhere."
" But why did you give it to me?"
" Because I like great music and you make great music. I am rewarding you for your dedication and hard work all these years. I am simply trying to help you. Now stop complaining so much. You will ruin everything the mood tonight."
" So you want me to keep the bow. What do you get in return? How much of the money do you want?"
" Money? Me? No! I just want to relax and watch one of the best performances ever. That is all."
Fernando made his way down to the street where he performed. A few of the familiar places had changed. Some of the bars and restaurants have converted into offices and electronic stores. These changes have gone unnoticed Fernando thought to himself, and it must have been due to the long days of playing music and trying to satisfy the audiences. Not only had the street changed, but the season as well. It seemed that winter came earlier that year. He readied himself and shoved his chair against the same wall as always. He noticed that the wall received a new coating of paint. He relaxed, exhaled, shook his arms, and got ready. The new bow glided over the strings and the musical spell worked instantly. The melody pulled the people towards him. Their jackets opened and the coins and notes were grasped tightly. Soon they flung it into his direction. A confetti of coins and notes. The groom was Fernando Borelli, and the bride was a new bow with unknown origins. The coins and notes fell into the case nonstop and lifeless like leaves and acorns at the start of winter.
The door opened slowly and he stumbled into the apartment with his violin and bow under his arms and holding the case with both hands. Fernando called his wife and closed the door using his foot. Emily revealed herself from the bedroom, already wearing her outfit meant for bedtime. Fernando opened the case and poured the coins and notes onto the floor. The rumbling of the coins hitting the floor echoed throughout the small apartment. The rattling lasted for a few seconds and then disappeared. Emily didn't move. She stood there staring at the pile of money and notes on the floor.
Emily stepped closer. The light for the living room fell upon a woman's face that is familiar to him but seems to be older. She went down and picked up a handful of the coins, and Fernando stepped closer and grabbed her hands.
" Emily, are you all right?"
Emily started to cry.
" Yes, I am fine. We have just been very busy lately in the new restaurant?"
" What new restaurant?"
" You know, the new Asian restaurant on the street where you perform. I have been working double shift every day because I needed the money."
" But you don't have to do it anymore. You can relax now. You can open the coffee shop that you have been talking about all these years."
" That sounds really nice, but I never see you. You're always playing and performing for those people. Sometimes you are gone for such a long time."
" What do you mean?"
" Are you doing anything illegal?"
" No! Never!"
" Are you seeing someone else?"
" Emily, what are you talking about?"
Emily bursts out into tears again and grabbed Fernando around the waist, clenching the coins and notes in her hands.
" I just miss you so much when you are away."
" I miss you too. Don't worry! Soon everything will be better for us."
The small apartment came alive with the footsteps of Fernando getting ready. He went into one of the bedrooms and removed his old suitcase from under the bed. It was a dusty brown suitcase that belonged to his father. It was big, sturdy, and when he was a child, his dad pretended to pack him into the suitcase and travel around the world. He placed the violin case inside the suitcase, as well as the fold-up chair, the stand, and his music sheets. The early morning has not surrendered to the rising sun yet, and the cold air was overwhelming. Each breath he exhaled was a white, warm, cloud of air. The street was starting to come to life, and the lights were reflecting from the tarmac. The smell of coffee, breakfast, and fresh bread lingered in the air. As he approached his place, he noticed how all the walls of the buildings have been repainted. The old street where he performed almost all his life had changed overnight. It had a new and modern feel to it. He sat down on his chair and went through the music sheets. The notes were like words in a diary, reminding him of when and where he performed and played in the past.
" Early bird gets the worm my parents always said," the voice said from behind him.
The man with the white beard and curly mustache was standing behind him peering over his shoulder looking at the notes that were running up and down the bars on the sheets of paper.
" I have big plans for today."
"Oh really? Plans for what?"
" Hopefully I will make enough today so that I can leave this place, and move to a new one. A better one."
" And how are you planning on doing that?"
" It is Sunday. The people always enjoy visiting this place after the morning sermons. So when they show up, I will be ready for them."
" That sounds like a very good plan. Where will you go after this."
" I don't know. We still have to decide. What are you doing here?"
The man with the white beard walked in front of him and into the street. He placed his hands in his pockets and gave Fernando a smile.
" I am here to see the performance. It will be starting soon. I know you will be too busy to see it."
" Ah yes, the performance," said Fernando while getting ready to play.
" Well, I am late for the opening scene. Take care."
The man walked down the street and Fernando waved at him using the new bow. The street became busier by the minute. People were already standing at tables, and goods were being carried home to be transformed into breakfast.
Fernando closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He placed his fingers on the strings. The steel of the strings made perfect contact with the tips of his fingers. He pushed the bow and the sound of the violin was unleashed into people in the street.
That evening he unlocked the door to his apartment and he dragged his suitcase onto the wooden floor. He turned on the light of the living room. The furniture had been replaced, and the wallpaper was gone. The kitchen was tiled and the new steel stove stood in the place where he uses to boil the water for his tea. A noise came from his room. The handle of the door made a clanking sound and an old man appeared.
" Who are you? What do you want? Get out!" yelled the old man.
" What do you mean? This is my place?" replied Fernando.
" I am calling the police!" said the old man as he retreated back into his room.
A woman's voice came from the room. She stepped into the living room slowly and carefully. Her face was old and her hair was black and gray. Her figure was thin and she supported herself using a walking stick.
" Fernando? Is that really you?"
Fernando gasped and dropped the suitcase when he realized who it was standing in front of him. He ran closer to the elderly woman and grabbed both her hands.
" Emily? What happened? What happened to you?
" You disappeared Fernando. You were gone for a long time."
" What do you mean? I went down to the street, and I brought back the money as I promised I would."
" Where did you go? You were gone for such a long time?"
" No Emily, I didn't go anywhere. I went to the street and now I am back."
The old man reappeared from the room, this time holding a wooden club.
" The police are on their way! Get out now! Go!
That evening Fernando Borelli left his apartment confused, boarded a train, and left the unfamiliar city as a wealthy and lonely man at the age of twenty-five. While staring out the window at the strange city in the distance, someone sat down next to him.
" Bravo! Bravo! What a performance! The plot was spectacular! Just magnificent!"
Fernando turned around to find the man with the white beard next to him.
" I told you I would see you after the performance."