‘HE CAME before the day Karl died.
It was late afternoon, and the city had a drowsy dusty look, the traffic on St. Charles Avenue roaring as it always does, and the big magnolia leaves outside had covered the flagstones because I had not gone out to sweep them.
I saw him come walking down the Avenue, and when he reached my corner he didn’t come across Third Street. Rather he stood before the florist shop, and turned and cocked his head and looked at me.
I was behind the curtains at the front window. Our house has many such long windows, and wide generous porches. I was merely standing there, watching the Avenue and its cars and people for no very good reason at all, as I’ve done all my life.
It isn’t too easy for someone to see me behind the curtains. The corner is busy; and the lace of the curtains, though torn, is thick because the world is always there, drifting by right around you.
He had no visible violin with him then, only a sack slung over his shoulder. He merely stood and looked at the house—and turned as though he had come now to the end of his walk and would return, slowly, by foot as he had approached—just another afternoon Avenue stroller.
He was tall and gaunt, but not at all in an unattractive way. His black hair was unkempt and rock musician long, with two braids tied back to keep it from his face, and I remember I liked the way it hung down his back as he turned around. I remember his coat on account of that—an old dusty black coat, terribly dusty, as though he’d been sleeping somewhere in the dust. I remember this because of the gleaming black hair and the way it broke off rough and ragged and long and so pretty.
He had dark eyes; I could see that much over the distance of the corner, the kind of eyes that are deep, sculpted in the face so that they can be secretive, beneath arching brows, until you get really close and see the warmth in them. He was lanky, but not graceless.
He looked at me and he looked at the house. And then off he went, with easy steps, too regular, I suppose. But then what did I know about ghosts at the time? Or how they walk when they come through?
He didn’t come back until two nights after Karl died. I hadn’t told anyone Karl was dead and the telephone-answering machine was lying for me.
These two days were my own.
In the first few hours after Karl was gone, I mean really truly gone, with the blood draining down to the bottom of his body, and his face and hands and legs turning very white, I had been elated the way you can be after a death and I had danced and danced to Mozart.
Mozart was always my happy guardian, the Little Genius, I called him, Master of His Choir of Angels, that is Mozart; but Beethoven is the Master of My Dark Heart, the captain of my broken life and all my failures.
That first night when Karl was only dead five hours, after I changed the sheets and cleaned up Karl’s body and set his hands at his sides, I couldn’t listen to the angels of Mozart anymore. Let Karl be with them. Please, after so much pain. And the book Karl had compiled, almost finished, but not quite—its pages and pictures strewn across his table. Let it wait. So much pain.
I turned to my Beethoven.
I lay on the floor of the living room downstairs—the corner room, through which light comes from the Avenue both front and side, and I played Beethoven’s Ninth. I played the torture part. I played the Second Movement. Mozart couldn’t carry me up and out of the death; it was time for anguish, and Beethoven knew and the Second Movement of the symphony knew.
No matter who dies or when, the Second Movement of the Ninth Symphony just keeps going.’
– Anne Rice, Violin (Knopf, 1997)
(Violin photo: Pinterest)