The Black Violin

I was never much of a fan of classical music. I liked it well enough as background when someone was trying to seduce me, or while we were having sex, but I'd get bored sitting in a concert hall. But my last boyfriend was studying music composition at the conservatory, and because it was important to him, I let him convince me to go to the graduate concert with him.

If only I'd known.

I enjoyed the first performance, a piece for classical guitar, but I was dozing off by the time the violinist took the stage. He carried a black violin, something I'd never seen before. I couldn't tell if the instrument was stained or painted or if the wood itself was black, but it sucked at the light in a way that drew the eye more than if it had reflected the spotlights back to us. A friend of mine, a former lover who was an artist, would have called it negative space.

The violinist looked to be in his mid-twenties, dressed in black pants and a black shirt with a mandarin collar. He had a beautiful face, a face I associated with Romantic poets, sensitive and sensual, dark hair curling across his forehead and past his ears. He bowed to us, lifted the black violin to his shoulder, and began to play, and I sat up in my seat and sucked in a breath and my fingers tightened around my boyfriend's hand. He squeezed back, probably pleased that I was enjoying the concert that he'd dragged me to.

But it wasn't really joy that I felt. The violinist was striking, no question, and a part of my brain filed him away for future fantasies, but it was the music that reached out and grabbed me. I could feel the power in his wild playing, power that stirred something deeply buried in me. My cock twitched and when I closed my eyes all I could see were men in obscene poses, hands and mouths and tongues and asses and hard, eager cocks -- myself, my boyfriend, strangers. I bit my lip. My boyfriend whispered something to me but I couldn't hear the words, I could only feel his breath in my ear. My head was full of fierce, wild music, more so than anything one instrument should be able to produce, otherworldly music that should not have been capable of filling an entire concert hall.

It was power and passion, and suddenly I understood the stories of the sirens, how men could be so enchanted by a disembodied voice that they would sail into the rocks.

I opened my eyes to watch the stage; my boyfriend and I were close enough that I could almost make out the violinist's expression. Then the music changed, slowed down into something more sensual, untamed but not as ferocious. The violinist was as beautiful and otherworldly as his song, and he swayed with the music as his bow stroked back and forth across the strings and his other hand moved up and down the neck of the violin. I'd never heard or seen anything so overwhelmingly erotic.

My boyfriend let go of my hand to stroke my thigh, and while my body responded -- I could feel my heart racing, could hear my shallow breaths -- my mind was somewhere else. The violin had begun to climb back towards the almost savage music of before. My boyfriend's fingers crept higher up my leg. The music reached a crescendo. I trembled with an incipient climax.

And then there was silence. From the stage, from the audience. The violinist bowed, apparently unperturbed by the lack of reaction, and walked off the stage.

The audience seemed to draw a collective breath and come back to itself, and then applause filled the hall, loud enough to bring down the ceiling. I stayed in my seat, afraid to move, and stared at the heavy velvet curtains on either side of the stage. I watched them shake slightly in the wake of all that thunderous applause. I waited for the violinist to bring his black violin back onstage, waited for an encore, another piece, something, anything. But there was nothing.

A chamber music quartet followed, and after them a pianist, but I couldn't pay attention to any of it. I closed my eyes again, hearing that passionate violin, seeing the violinist absorbed in his playing.

That night I fucked my boyfriend like a man possessed. I couldn't explain to him what had gotten into me any more than I could explain to myself why I'd been so drawn to the violinist at the concert. I could hear the music almost beyond my reach, teasing me and driving me, and after a while it was more important than anything else. My boyfriend was no longer enough for me. He humored me for a while and then grew annoyed and said he felt abandoned, and we broke up.

I don't miss him. I know I should at least feel guilty for driving him away, but he was a composer, not a musician. He didn't play. He couldn't help me. He hadn't even gotten a program at the concert, which is absurd considering how important those concerts were to him, so I never learned the violinist's name. I suspect my boyfriend threw the program away because he was jealous of the impression the violinist had left on me.

Sometimes I feel as if my life has spun out of my control, as if everything I do is now lacking. For a while time I haunted the conservatory, trying to catch a glimpse of the violinist. I cornered a professor and described him, but all I got was a vaguely threatened look. I bought all the CDs I could find that contained violin solos played by pretty dark-haired young men, but I couldn't listen to any of them more than once. None of them sounded like him, or pulled the same response out of me that he did.

Now, because searching for it is fruitless, I try to drown the sound of that violin in dance clubs, spend my nights gyrating to electronica, to techno, to songs that are more beat than melody. I listen to DJs constructing their set lists out of man-made music, I dance under hot lights to throbbing bass lines and repetitive beats, I fill my head with music without a soul. But I can still hear it late at night or early in the morning, a haunting melody following me home.

I keep looking for the violinist, keep listening for him. I don't know what I'll do or say when I find him, but I will find him, because he's the only person who can make me myself again. He put this music in my head with his demonic violin, and only he can take it out.

(originally published in the Torquere Press anthology Monsters)