The Violin

It was the absence of things that struck me.

The front door had closed behind me and then—nothing. No warm kitchen aromas. No “Hi, honey” from Karen. No explosions or gunfire from Caleb’s video games.

I stood perfectly still.

“Karen? Are you home? Caleb?”

The silence felt pointed, aggressive. My hand tightened on the leather handle of my briefcase.

There’d been no phone calls or messages. Something must have come up. Caleb was probably hanging out with friends, but where was Karen? Shopping? A movie? But she never goes to the movies on her own. Maybe she was just out somewhere and her car had broken down.

I loosened my tie, took the phone from my pocket and flipped it open. My thumb was poised over the zero button when something caught my eye in the next room. An envelope sat propped against the vase on the dining table. There was a name written on it—my name—in Karen’s handwriting. A rush of thoughts, indistinct but chilling, and a rush of blood to my face. The phone closed shut with a decisive click.

I walked over and opened the envelope. Three sheets of white tissue-thin writing paper. Dark blue ink.

Dearest Simon,

Do you remember how we met? Joan had dragged you to my graduation recital, even though you didn’t like classical music very much, and introduced us after the concert. You smiled like no-one I had ever seen before and told me how my playing had mesmerised you. And I giggled with embarrassment because you were gushing with so much praise. You looked nervous but you asked me out for a coffee and from then on we were inseparable. Do you remember?

We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. We would make love almost every day and we even kept count of how many times we did it but then gave up once we got past five hundred! We had such insatiable appetites back then. Such passion and dirty minds! Even a trip to the grocery store would turn into an erotic adventure. Remember that day in the fruit and veg section…!!

We were so happy. You got tenure at the university, I taught violin at the music school and eventually we were able to afford our first house. Then Caleb came along. What a blessing he was! Everything seemed blissful. And right.

I paused at the end of the first page. An uncomfortable feeling. Everything was in past tense. We were so happy?

Which brings me to the point of this letter. For a long time now, things haven’t been the way they used to be, not like when we were younger. And with Caleb going to university next year, it’s made me think a lot lately about the past—and the future.

Nothing much seems to change—our routines have become ruts, which happens to most married couples sooner or later, I guess. I know it was my choice to stop teaching, but ever since then I’ve been feeling more and more unhappy and dissatisfied. I felt myself become distant—from everything, including you. And over time, a feeling has grown inside me that wants something more—a lot more.

I miss who we used to be. Who I used to be. Once upon a time, the violin was my life, but as you know, after so many years of teaching, my desire to play slowly vanished. And the world of academia seems to be draining the soul out of you too—I can see the tiredness in your eyes. Whatever happened to the smile that I fell in love with? I rarely see it anymore. The realities and monotonies of life seem to have worn us both down.

I need to find some passion in life again—creativity, joy, adventure. There were moments in recent years when I thought perhaps I would only find those sorts of things with someone else. A couple of opportunities even presented themselves. But I didn’t follow through with them, Simon. I couldn’t.

Shit. The memory of the one time I’d strayed, long ago, resurfaced in my mind, bringing with it the heavy guilt that I thought I’d managed to leave behind me.

There was one more page.

Anyway, Caleb won’t be home till later tonight—he’s at Josh’s place. But you’re probably wondering where I am right now. You know that old abandoned warehouse over on Baker Street? I’m trespassing, I suppose, but I’ve been coming here quite a bit lately while you’ve been at work—it’s big and rundown, but best of all, it’s quiet, a good space for thinking.

I feel like I’ve reached a crossroad and I’m not sure where things are going at the moment. Please, meet me at the warehouse. We need to talk.

Love, Karen

Panic flooded through me like a broken dam. Ruts and routines? I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but it was true. On the other hand, I didn’t realise things were so bad that she had to write a letter about it. Letters carry such a weight about them, they mark a line in the sand—statements that demand attention because they’re articulated in material form. And the weight underlying this letter dropped like an anchor into my chest.

My head was a blur. I paced around for a few minutes, re-reading parts of the letter, trying frantically to comprehend what Karen was really saying. I didn’t want to crystallise the thought, but in my heart I felt the truth: she’s going to leave me.

I pocketed the letter, opened the front door and left.

* * *

The light was fading. I drove to Baker Street on automatic pilot, my body steering and changing gears, my mind crowded to bursting with anxious thoughts and a sense of foreboding.

The warehouse loomed like a black monolith against the darkening sky. Why the dramatic location? It seemed unnecessarily theatrical. Why not simply talk at home?

I spotted Karen’s car and pulled up behind it. A dilapidated wire mesh fence with barbed wire on top stretched around the perimeter of the site. I got out of the car and looked for a way in. It took a minute or so until I found an opening in the mesh big enough to slip through. Overgrown grass and nondescript rubble obscured the ground. There was no obvious entrance to the building at the front so I made my way around the left hand side and found a doorway that appeared to have been broken into some time ago.

What was once presumably an office now looked like the aftermath of a bomb blast. Pieces of wood, bricks and twisted metal lay scattered on the floor. An upturned desk. Graffiti on the walls. Dirt and rubbish. And something else. I stopped and focused my attention. I could hear music. A faint, drifting, intricate melody. The beauty of it cut through the ugliness of the surrounding decay like a gleaming sword.

Led by the sound, I stepped carefully to the doorway on the other side of the room. The light struggled to penetrate further. I waited for my eyes to adjust and then entered the cavernous space of the warehouse. The music was louder now and seemed to come at me from all directions. I walked slowly into the open area and looked around. There was Karen, standing at the opposite end of the building, silhouetted by a shaft of light from a single window. She was playing a violin.

I watched her and listened. I couldn’t identify the piece but I felt sure it was something by Bach, something I remembered Karen playing long ago. The familiar melody flowed and turned with a perfect inevitability.

But what was all this about? The letter, the old warehouse, the music. It seemed more and more like a strange vivid dream. Perhaps it was Karen’s melodramatic way of revisiting the past before saying goodbye. My stomach clenched.

I moved toward Karen as quietly as I could so as not to disturb her. Cascades of arpeggios swirled and reverberated around the warehouse. Darkness. I kept my eyes down, careful of where I was treading.

Several steps further and then I kicked something. A harsh scraping noise on the concrete floor shattered the atmosphere. The Bach stopped mid-phrase. I froze and immediately looked up. Now that I was closer I could see something even stranger. Karen was standing on a large square of tattered carpet, facing away from me, facing the dirt-encrusted window—and she was utterly naked.

I gasped and held my breath. Tense silence. The dim light wrapped around the curved edges of Karen’s body and her violin like the supple touch of a lover’s hand.


She didn’t turn around, she remained facing the window.

“Take a seat, Simon.”

Her tone was calm, unhurried, straightforward. Like a pond of spring water. She paused, then raised her bow and resumed the melody at the exact point where it had cut off.

Karen’s nakedness shocked me. What was going on? Was she all right? Her behaviour seemed bizarre, even dangerous, but despite my alarm, Karen seemed to be very much in control of herself. A still point with a whirl of musical energy revolving around her.

I looked for a seat. There was an old dusty sofa off to one side, its upholstery torn in places. I walked over to it, sat down, and waited.

Karen’s nude body moved with the ebb and flow of the music, her long dark hair, untied, swishing from side to side down her back, her breasts swaying slightly, in time with the music. With each upstroke, the bow pierced the air like a lance. After reaching a peak, the melody wound its way down and ended on a long sustained note that seemed to hang in the air like a leaf floating on the wind. After her bow finally left the string, the sound continued to echo around the vast black space, eventually disappearing into the dank air.

Karen waited for a few seconds, as if for an imaginary applause, then lowered the violin from under her chin and turned to face me. Her expression appeared peaceful. My gaze locked onto her eyes and I ventured to speak.


“Yes. I’m a little out of practice …”

“It was beautiful, Karen. Beautiful.”

She smiled faintly and bowed her head a little. I began to stand up.

“No, Simon, stay there. Please.”

I sat back down, unsure of how to proceed. She obviously didn’t want me to approach her. Seeing her standing naked before me however, I couldn’t help but cast my gaze over her form, thinking how much it looked like the shape of her violin. Her body was so familiar to me, every curve and hollow known, and yet here, now, it seemed as if I was looking at her for the first time, her skin luminous in the dusky window light. Her unabashed nakedness daunted me—and worried me.

“Are you okay, Karen?”

“Actually, yes, I am.”

“Sweetheart, why are you playing the violin … here … naked?”

Karen looked at her bare feet momentarily, then raised her eyes to meet mine again.

“It must seem crazy, I know, but I wanted to show you who I am. Me. The truth of me.”

I let her words sink in.

“I came to this place because it seemed to me that my life looked exactly like this giant rundown empty warehouse. And so I felt that this place, here, this was the point I had to start from, to find my way back, to find the essence of myself again.”

“Karen, I—”

“Look at me, Simon.” Her voice trembled. Her eyes glinted. She stretched her arms out wide, holding the neck of the violin in one hand, the bow in the other. “This is who I am. I’m not perfect. But it’s who I am.”

A knot formed in the base of my throat. I’d never seen Karen look so vulnerable and so strong at the same time.

“Karen, I love you … ”

She slowly lowered her arms to her sides and waited for me to continue.

“This is all a bit of a shock. I’m just … I’m not sure what to say … I know we’ve changed as we’ve gotten older, everyone does. Life seems to be like that, you know, things just slip into a comfortable routine, like you said in the letter. I’ve felt it too, off and on, but I guess I just accepted it. I could see that you’d become quieter in the last couple of years … I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t see it, but I had no idea you were feeling so unhappy. And the violin … I’ve wanted you to go back to it, I know it’s a big part of who you are, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to push you.”

“I think if you had tried to push me, I wouldn’t have been ready. But now I am. Simon, I’ve been dying inside. For a long time. It was such a gradual thing that I didn’t even notice it at first. And then later, it got worse, and I couldn’t figure out how to deal with it, so it seemed easier to keep it to myself. But I can’t go on like that anymore. I won’t.”

“I can see, Karen, and I understand. At least I think I do. But to be honest, it’s scaring the shit out of me … ” I paused. My hands gripped the sofa. “Karen, there’s something I need to know.”

I had to ask, but Karen’s newfound self-composure made me dread the answer even more. I took a breath and looked her in the eye.

“Are you leaving me?”

She waited, pondering her thoughts before answering.

“I don’t want to, Simon. Because it’s not just about me. I think you need to find something real again too. And I want to see that in you. I want to see the Simon I once fell in love with. I miss him as much as I’ve missed myself. Don’t you?”

The deep truth of her words rendered me speechless. Karen stepped forward and stood right in front of me, looking down into my eyes with an expression of serenity on her face that floored me with its certainty. But there was something else too. Underpinning that serenity was a quality I hadn’t seen in Karen for years—vitality. Fresh, youthful, and powerful.

Something touched me. Slightly startled, I glanced down. Karen was grazing my ankle with the tip of her violin bow. I looked back up at her but she was watching the movements of the bow, her thoughts seemingly a million miles away. She moved the bow slowly over the hem of my trousers and up my leg. A shot of adrenalin coursed through me. I said nothing and remained perfectly still. Her touch was gentle, sensual. The muscles in my groin tightened. The tip of the bow circled my knee and then moved to my inner thigh. A sharp intake of breath. My gaze travelled along the bow to her long fingers, her wrist, her arm, her breasts and finally to her face. Karen appeared focused, intent. I closed my eyes.

The bow moved up and down the length of my thigh, each slow stroke making me harder, then the tip brushed over the tightness in my crotch. My head swayed to one side and an involuntary groan escaped from my throat.

Karen whispered, “Show it to me, Simon. Let me see you.

Hearing these words, I opened my eyes and looked at my wife. Her body, her face, her eyes, her violin. She exuded a self-assuredness that left me with only one response—to trust her.

I unzipped, grasped my cock, now achingly hard, manoeuvred it out of my trousers, then put my hands aside, revealing myself to Karen’s view. The immediacy of the cool, damp air on my skin heightened the sensation of exposure.

“Simon, I want us to find the magic we used to have in our lives … ” Karen traced a delicate line with the tip of the violin bow up one side of my cock, over the taut head and down the other side. She looked at me, her eyes soft and liquid. “Do you remember?”

Karen was making me remember. Everything she had done—the letter, the Bach, her body, her touch—it was all to resurrect the magic.

“Yes, Karen, I do remember. And I miss it too.”

With each stroke of the violin bow, my cock twitched in exquisite pleasure. Then in one smooth movement, Karen placed the violin next to me on the sofa and straddled me. She wrapped her arms around my neck, one hand still holding the bow, and brought her mouth close to mine. Our breaths collided, creating an urgent hothouse of air between us. Her damp sex grazed my cock.

This,” she said softly. “This is us … ”

Her lips touched mine.

” … me … ”

A second kiss.

” … and you.”

Karen kissed me again. Her breathing deepened and she whispered in my ear. “Fuck me, Simon.”

I grabbed the base of my cock and traced the tip of it along the slick lips of her cunt. When the position was just right, Karen sank down, taking the length of my cock inside her. We both moaned. My hands gripped the soft flesh of her ass and our bodies began to move in a slow counterpoint, meeting, withdrawing, meeting again. Our rhythm gradually accelerated. I moved my hand to the back of her neck and pulled her hot mouth onto mine.

* * *

Night fell. I followed Karen back home. In the solitude of my car, I tried to absorb what had occurred.

The old abandoned warehouse.

The Bach.

The lovemaking.

Something had happened, something had changed. I saw Karen—pure, whole, unalloyed. She breathed music again.

And we breathed again too.

It was a beginning.

© 2008 Nick Nicholson. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Bio: In the past, Nick has tickled the ivories, composed thousands of notes of music, painted pictures without brushes and inhaled photographic chemical fumes for the sake of art. Nowadays, he secretly juggles naughty words on a laptop screen. Nick also has a pretty good job. The current love of his life is the red sports car he recently bought.

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