Can someone love and hate a city all at once? The new chill of winter blows, hitting my cheeks as I stand on the balcony of my father’s condo in the middle of Manhattan while his Thanksgiving party rages on the other side of the building. More than fifty people came to celebrate and drink until God knows when. I know maybe five people at the party and tried to make an escape.
It’s only been my father and me for years, and I know he feels the need to make holidays bigger than they really are for us. I’d rather spend that day with just the two of us. I don’t like being around a lot of people, and the party below makes me uneasy in my own home. Even more so when I don’t even really know the people. My father, being a top lawyer in New York, has a lot of people in and out of his life. New faces always seem to be popping up.
I’m only here for a few days before I’m back off to university once again, but this has been the pattern for the last eight years. I come home from boarding school or uni to a list of things or events that we will do or he’d like me to do, never really giving us much time alone. It’s almost like my father fears the silence between us. I know he loves me. I’m just not sure he knows what to do with me. Sometimes when he looks at me, I wonder if he only sees my mother. A woman I know he cares nothing for. Maybe even hates, though he tries to pretend he doesn't.
Placing my hand on the clear glass railing of the balcony I look over the edge to the people hustling down the street below, on their way to anywhere and everywhere.
I lift my violin to my collarbone, holding it in my left hand, resting my face on the side as I let my eyes fall closed. The music flows, drowning out the sounds of the city, and the tension leaves my body. This is the one place I feel like I can play for an audience, something I’ve never really wanted to do. Do I love to play? Yes, more than anything. But I never felt the need to do it for others. My father says it’s because I’m shy, which is true, but I don’t think that’s what really stops me. It feels intimate. I pour more into my music than I want to share with just anyone.
I know my mother loved to be the center of attention. To put on a show for all those that would give her attention, or so the whispers said. Who knows what’s really true. There was always a lot of whispering growing up, and I know my father tried to shelter me from that. He says I’m a lot like her, but if the stories are true, he’s wrong. I have no desire for material things and no wish to hop from one man’s bed to another. Nor do I wish to use a child as a ploy for financial gain. I also don’t like when people watch me, and I don’t draw attention to myself. It’s a trait I apparently hadn’t inherited from either of my parents.
I play for the whole city, but no one knows I’m here. The music flows from me, and it makes me feel like I’m somehow connected to my mother. I’ve only ever seen a few pictures of her. She was long gone by the time I was four, and photos are all that remain. I remember nothing about her, just little fantasies I cultivate based on what the other girls at school have.
This is the only show I can bring myself to put on. I can’t remember my life without a violin in my hand. Always the shy girl, but something about it makes me feel like I come alive. Each note leaves me and enters the world. It’s a piece that I put out there and it belongs only to me. Saying so much without saying anything at all.
The music slides through me to my core, where I put everything I have into it, feeling the world start to lift from my shoulders and drop all around me. Normally I find peace here in this place, but today it’s like I can’t reach that spot. So close but still so far away. The loneliness pushes in and I don’t want to be alone. I feel myself lean forward, trying to get closer to the people below.
It does nothing; the peace doesn’t come. I play harder, moving my hand quicker, the movements pushing me towards it. But the harder I push and the faster I go, the farther away it moves.
The deep word startles me, making me spin. A man grabs me, pulling me towards him. My body goes easily, melting into his. I stare up into the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, finding a little bit of the peace I was looking for moments ago.
“You shouldn’t play so close to the edge.” His deep voice rolls over my skin, warming the winter chill that has coated me. His concern is sweet.
I should tell him he shouldn’t stand so close to me, but the words don’t come. I just stare up at him. His midnight hair is just a little long, such a contrast to the brightness of his eyes. Everything about him is a contrast to his eyes. The rest of him seems dark. From the hard set of his jaw to the little crook I see in his nose, and even the small scar that marks one of his eyebrows.