I stepped into a bedroom with a four-poster bed and a poofy white comforter. A little head stuck from the top of the comforter. She was smoking, completely horizontally, and with her head barely visible! A bottle of whiskey sat on her end-table, but it looked pretty full. I blinked hard, then stared--this must be the cantankerous DYING woman. What was she, recovering from a frat party?
"So you're the fiddle lady? You're not what I expected at all. You're much older."
I studied her, then before stopping myself, responded with, "You're not what I expected either. You don't even look like you're dying."
Her daughter, who had led me into the room, turned very pale. Then, so did I--the queen of saying the wrong crap, always.
I thought I'd get the smack-down from "Old Smokey," who still puffed away at that Camel Gold, but as she looked at my apologetic face, she suddenly burst out laughing...and coughing, and laughing again.
"Awe, kid. You're too damn honest. But so am I."
I bit my lip and smiled at her. "Mrs. Beck, I like you."
"Ya, that happens from time to time. I'm usually an acquired taste, but the people who like me right off, I figure those are the good ones." She grinned so wide, showing several missing teeth and even a big silver one that Lil Wayne woulda gone crazy for! "So what do you got, kid?" she asked, and I bent over to begin taking my violin from the case.
"I'm gonna play some oldies. That's what I heard you like." I snapped my shoulder rest into place, tightened my bow, and was ready in 20 seconds flat! "Mrs. Beck," I said, because I'm super direct, "you keep calling me kid, but you said I'm older than you expected."
"That? Anyone under fifty is a kid to me! And they keep bringing pre-teens over to see me--like they're doing a good deed or something. Why are you here anyway, Elisa? Why did you come?"
I thought for a minute. "I guess, I just want to make you forget whatever it is that you're going through--even if it's just for a minute. Focus on something else, and enjoy." I set my violin on my shoulder. "So, I have a favor to ask you. Set down your cigarette, and close your eyes."
She kinda snort-laughed, set her ciggy down, then snuggled into that huge white pillow and closed her eyes.
"Now, as I play, I want you to picture a story."
And I started. First I played the beginning of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel. The music started out quiet--a trickle of spring rain. "When you're weary, feeling small." The words swam around my head as I played. "When tears are near your eyes, I will dry them all... I'm on your side when times get rough, and friends just can't be found. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
Little tears seeped from the sides of Mrs. Beck's eyes. She looked so utterly beautiful, like an elderly Snow White or somethin' with her sheered, dyed-black hair, and leathery face. But instead of lying there, waiting for the kiss of her prince, she was dying, waiting for the kiss of God.
Tears suddenly came to my eyes too, and I told myself to quit being such a freakin' pansy. I shut my lids and instead of letting my emotion escape through the weakness in my eyes, I pushed that pain into my arms, my hands...my fingertips. And I played that violin, like a flippin' lover--it cried in my arms, wailing over the melodies and having so much power it couldn't help reacting to the sheer feeling flooding my body. I knew Mrs. Beck and her daughter could feel the very sorrow that was deep in my soul--for them. Because that violin was a magnifying glass, exemplifying exactly why I was there, who I was, and that I wanted to offer at least some semblance of peace.
"Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way...."
Then my bow grew with deep friction and strength, and I transitioned into notes and melodies that just came to me. My fingers and violin took over. That's the funny thing about me and my fiddle; I think I have control, then that damn thing takes over like an addiction. I have the roadmap, but my fiddle has the details that always take me there--a good friend, leading me home.
The song swelled, over and over. At one point, I realized the window at the foot of Mrs. Beck's bed was open, because a gust of wind rode in on a high note. It was right after that, when my fingers and bow slowed to a stop. The notes descended to my D string, and the weight of the music left my body. The song...was over.
I held my violin at my side, that freakin' extension of self. I faced the window and closed my eyes. I didn't want Mrs. Beck or her daughter to see that I was crying. I even prayed the wind would come again, and God would dry my tears. The Becks were sad enough. They didn't need to see some kid--over thirty--crying because she "felt bad."
"Elisa," Mrs. Beck rasped. She beckoned me to the side of her bed. I wiped my eyes, then obeyed. She reached out her wrinkled hand, with that soft, paper-thin skin, and grabbed my fingers. "That...Elisa, that was beautiful."
"What did you see," I asked, "when you closed your eyes?"
"Something from when I was a kid. Something I thought I forgot. Me and my mom and dad were walking in a field." She took a very deep breath. "I miss them. They were good parents."
I had to twitch my nose just to keep from crying. After all, she'd probably be reuniting with a lot of people soon. I put my violin away, then hugged both Mrs. Beck and her daughter.
"It was nice meeting you both," I said. Then, I left the house, and I never saw either one of them again.
Life...it's a gift, but sometimes it sure is a strange thing.
A 33-year-old kid