I wrote this in my first year of university for an assignment. It is the first completely and utterly fictional piece of writing I had ever attempted, and in a lot of ways still needs heavily editted. But it was a start. It was signifcant, because I'd nothing in the well of inspiration, and then someone said hello after a long time, and I've been writing albiet erraticly, but still always writing, since then :).
I have seen many street performers throughout the years. There had been clowns, mimes, living statues that would mimic my grey appearance and my stony expressions. No performers are quite as important, however as the accordion players. More accurately, my accordion player. Generations have passed since then, now an elderly man takes the place of youth. I watched this accordionist deliver melodies from his enchanting squeeze box, time had etched itself into his skin. His eyes were framed with tributaries of wrinkles and laughter lines. Amongst the music was a flurry of dark haired children dancing to their own tunes of innocence prompting life and movement back into the now desolate square. Some parents perched on the ledge at my feet, and leaned against my crumbling legs, waiting for their children to tire so they could carry on with their errands.
The tinny sound of the accordion awoke me for the first time in what felt like an eternity, igniting me the only way the accordion can. Gripped by the spell of the music I tumbled deeper into my memories of an accordionist I once loved.
For as long as I can remember I have stood tall and magnificent in the square of bohemia. Artists and Philosopher’s would bewitch and attract the public, living statues would stand amongst me and frighten passersby. I would watch what I could of the magicians and artists. The square was almost on fire with passion and colour. Flower boxes with glowing violets and periwinkle lined the plentiful obscure shops, little bistros, bars and cafés were scattered throughout. Lanterns would hang from the larger street lamps lighting everything in a brilliant orange glow. Often I would be decorated, real flowers would replace the stone ones that were in my hair and hands, and I would almost look like a real bride instead of a fading replica. However when the artists and patrons went home and the sun set I would be alone in the evenings, with no distractions and no one to observe. In those times I ached for excitement, movement and colour. I wanted to feel the electricity in the air and watch the people express their freedom in ways that I never could.
That was until one day, a day not particular at all, I was not alone. I noticed a strange wheezing musical noise screeching through the night air, stopping and beginning again like it was not quite sure what it was doing. It sounded like an animal had been terribly wounded and was gasping for breath while howling at its attacker. However irritating and distressing the noise was, I listened further on until it changed into a melody, almost quite reaching a full song. I dared to open my eyes to see what creature was before me. Instead I saw a man, my accordion player. He sat crossed legged on a little porch, swearing to himself whenever he missed a note or his timing wasn’t quite right. He was a lean gentleman with very slender fingers and bony shoulders. He was clad in Victorian attire complete with pointed shoes that emphasised his pixie like feature. His face was sharp and pointed and he wore make up like a mime. It would be easy to mistake him as a woman in the dull moonlight but his gruff and gravelly voice gave him away. He was interesting to observe as he would fidget and cough pulling out a polka dotted handkerchief, growling to himself after he had allowed himself to be distracted again.
“Bloody instrument, bloody stupid, stupid instrument.” He would grunt repeatedly to himself, unaware that I was across from him hanging on every perfect note that he could muster, and sympathising with every failed attempt that he made. He carried on playing until the sun came to claim its rightful place in the sky. He looked up, mumbled something to himself and began to pack up his instrument,
“Until next time, my adoring public!” he exclaimed before taking a slight bow and skulking off into the shadows of the alleyway.
Every evening I looked forward to my accordion player’s little concerts. As the weeks went by his mistakes became fewer and his profanities were less. His mood would be elated when he would finish a score with one or two mistakes, so much so he would wrap his skeletal arm around the pole of the porch and swing from it joyously, cackling with laughter in the darkness. I often wondered if he would be the same if he knew I was watching him so intently and concluded that I was glad he didn’t, there was something more honest about his music and his reactions that would be tainted if he knew I was aware. My accordionist may have been adorned in fine threads and his make - up may have been exquisite and intricate, but he was not an observant chap. It took him almost a month of his secret performances to realise that there was indeed a member of the audience present. For the first time he noticed my silhouette facing him. He took a few step forwards, leaving his beloved accordion behind him and placed a gloved hand on my foot poking through my heavy gown.
“Hello madam, all dressed up and no – where to go? Me too.” He laughed to himself. In one fluid movement he jumped on my ledge and placed his arm around my shoulder. My marble heart skipped a beat.
“At least I’m not playing into oblivion, tell me am I getting better?” he asked almost mockingly. I wanted to move my cemented lips and reply; I had so much to exclaim. Instead I said nothing. I did not move. I did not breathe. I stayed in the same position I had been in for my whole life but wishing more than ever I could move freely with my accordionist.
“Never mind petal. This one’s for you” he jumped down, took his accordion and began playing once more.
Every night he would play for me, sometimes sat on my ledge, other times he would stand from his little porch like a makeshift stage. As his confidence grew he would leap and move as if he were dancing. He was able to manipulate the accordion in a way that made every note magical, like it could almost bring me to life. He would not only play for me, but sometimes he would talk to me too. He told me stories of his childhood; he told me about his interest in street performance and mimes, his voice harsh and gruff as he was partial to a cigarette, or twenty. Often he was really talking to himself and I just happened to be there. It was like he was recalling the story of life, frightened that he might forget it sometime soon.
His interaction with me only prompted a terrible yearning to be able to answer him back and dance with him in the cool summer air. I would feel my base tremble as I tried to move my body back and forth, but bits loose rock would merely fall as if a gentle breeze had pushed them over. I had tried this while he was sitting on my ledge and a rock hit him square in the head, he looked up at me quizzically and laughed,
“If you wanted rid of me you could have just said!” he coughed into his handkerchief spluttering and choking violently.
His coughs were becoming more frequent and he often grabbed at his chest as he began to wheeze, like he was now an accordion being played.
“Well, you’re in luck” he picked up the stone that had hit him and flicked it back over me. “You’ll be rid of me soon enough. Bloody appointments, hospitals. You know they won’t even let me take my accordion with me? They’re horrors, they are. I’m getting pretty good too. Wouldn’t you say?”
I could feel loneliness creep up to me again like an old friend I’d have rather forgotten about. I had no idea how quickly my accordion’s health would deteriorate, and how little he would come to visit before he would eventually die. Most of my evenings were held in silence as I stared expectantly into the alleyway my accordion player would usually emerge from. Occasionally he would come and visit but his make – up was often badly done and dark shadows lurked underneath his once sparkling emerald eyes. His clothes were unkempt and ruffled, and his dancing and laughing was replaced by him huddled against his porch almost cradling the accordion as if it was a small child. Sometimes he would wrap himself up into a little ball around my feet and weep, holding onto his ribs like they were going to separate themselves from his body.
Seeing my accordion player stripped of his art and elegance left me burned. I had never before seen suffering such as his. I had only seen laughter, creativity, people brimming with potential and joy, not tears and skin shrinking around bones. I had not seen handkerchiefs spotted with blood or weeping men begging to stay alive. And like him, my body too began to break as my accordion player got weaker and weaker. When an artist had tried to dress me in flowers my shoulder had crumbled to dust in his fingers. Parts of my gown were becoming loose and falling off during day time performances. I was sectioned off to keep people safe. I was quarantined from life going on around me.
I didn’t know he had died; his visit became sporadic and short. It had pained me so much to see him in the midst of death that I began to close my eyes and shut off my ears whenever I saw his frail limp body collapse onto the porch. I only assumed he had gone when a single red rose was left on his make shift stage when I had awoken from a deep, consuming sleep. I often wonder who left it there and wish I could have left something for him too.
As the years went on I was repaired, only to fall apart once more. Eventually the time and effort felt like it was wasted among the artists, and they focussed on their own work instead. Sometimes, however, once and a while someone with an accordion would pass through and play like the old man playing for the children, and I would wake up and feel alive, remembering my jubilant, peculiar accordionist and reminisce about the days where my days and nights were filled with colour.