A Shanghai Story – Tim Jamieson

Every day for three years she welcomed the mornings in her apartment and waited for the violinist to begin playing. Some mornings the tone was melancholy, thoughtful and slow. Others frantic and full of movement and passion; sometimes deeply dark and full of sadness. On occasion the notes danced from the sky as if it was raining music. In any case, no matter the feeling she always left her apartment in one mood or another brought on by the moaning strings from above. She embraced the emotion that consumed her for the rest of the day until she returned home, cooked dinner and went to bed; ready to wake again to the notes of a brand new day.

If the mood was right and the cadence caught her fancy she would dance long remembered ballet steps around her apartment. She adored dancing as a young girl but as she grew, the intensity became unbearable, so she stopped. She developed a bust and a backside and decided the prima ballerina dream was unattainable. Her teacher was ruthless and she still carried with her the fear of getting flabby underarms. When they were in formation with limbs poised perfectly in the air for what seemed like hours, her instructor would come past and pinch each dancer with a searing grip, catching the skin under the arms between fingernail and thumb. And she’d say something like, “You don’t want to get bingo wings now do you darling?”

She painted and drew and read by her window and most often she did things alone. She liked it that way. She had the music to fill her mornings.

Until one day, it stopped.

She was distraught. Maybe the player was ill? But, she thought to herself, what if they moved out? Or died? She knocked on every door but no one could understand her. She went to work deeply unsettled that day. And the next, and the next, until a week had gone by without a sound to fill the lonely quiet of her morning.

After seven days she couldn’t take it anymore, left her apartment, walked down the stairs of the yellow building and bought a violin from the shop down the dappled tree lined road. She returned to her apartment and burst through the door.

Despite not knowing what she was doing she sat at her table, raised the violin to her chin and filled the silence with a long drawn out note pulled across the strings; a lament for the absence of a friend she never had. It turned into a passion and a dream she never thought possible. She played every morning, and then every evening until most of her time was filled with music.

* * *

The man clicked the door shut on his new apartment, walked down the corridor, into his study and sat down at his desk. Finally the move was finished and he sat in the quiet of the room, closed his eyes and soaked up the quiet. He opened his eyes and reached for his notebook and pen. He’d had a few ideas for his novel and he finally had time to put pen to paper. He touched the nib to the surface and started scribbling. Faintly he could hear water drip into the sink from the leaky tap and he tried to block it out and concentrate.

Suddenly from above the sound of a violin sliced through the air. With surprise he scratched his pen across the paper creating a tear of smudged blue. He cursed, set it down and sat back in his chair. It only took him a few moments for him to realise the music was quite simply, beautiful. He looked up at the ceiling and thought to himself, he was going to like it here. He picked up his pen and started writing, thoughts of fixing the tap quickly left his mind.

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