Joe walked up the aisle in resignation. Burgundy seats watched each stride from the shadows of the empty auditorium. Each step came slower, with a heavier movement he attributed to a hearty dose of cold feet as sweat prickled at the back of his neck and dampened his palms.
The wooden stage creaked. His footsteps echoed up to the painted ceiling and the gilded angels emerging from marble pillars. The heavy stage curtain was parted for him, and he walked quicker now, his destination the metal folding chair just beyond.
He did not sit; a violin already rested where he ought to, its varnished gleam apparent even in the shadows and beneath a layer of silk swaddling. He unwrapped the instrument and tied the silk scarf around his neck. It smelt like rosin, like a violin should.
He lifted the violin to his shoulder and set his jaw against the chinrest. His fingers moved with quick memory, dancing over the strings as his other arm reached for the bow. Once the bow had felt as awkward as a fifth limb, but he no longer remembered those days; the wood and horsehair was an extension of him, a sword in its own right.
Closing his eyes, the virtuoso raised bow to strings and began. The first quavering notes rose slowly, piercing the darkness. The chandeliers glowed with soft light, slowly illuminating the shadows and dusky aisles. Patrons appeared, men and women, as if out of the night itself. They watched in stillness, filling the hall with wonder at the angelic music.
And the violinist played on through the silence, his body bending with a musician’s passion as he passed through trills and crescendos and consoled his nerves with the perceived emptiness surrounding him.