He plays music in the streets on a violin made of white birch wood.  Children are always gathering around him, dancing to his music.  He stops and plays for them, for as long as they want.  I usually see him at evening time and dusk, or in the pale hours of dawn.  I think he loves the hours when time is not so busy and minds are not so set.

I can’t sleep tonight.

Life has built up, and the chaos is becoming too much.  I don’t want to face tomorrow, and sleeping will only bring it to me faster.  I slip out the front door and into the moonlit streets.  The city is washed in silvers and blues, cool and sleepy, waiting for the impossible to happen.

There’s something about how one thinks, once the sun goes down.  It makes you believe things, do things, say things you wouldn’t have before.  I wonder if perhaps I didn’t stop walking, I could go on and on until I wander into a different life.  I could walk farther than the deadlines and expectations.

I could run away, and never look back.

Faint music floats by me on a phantom wind.  It’s soft and longing, and for a moment I almost believe it is the echo of my own yearning.  I almost believe the music is coming from me.

Night has that sort of effect on the mind.

The sweetly haunting music pulls me, and I turn from my path to the edge of the city.  My slippered feet are silent on the cobblestone streets, and the music is telling me that I’m floating.  I haven’t felt so light in a long, long time.

I find him on second street, playing his white violin that gleams almost silver in the moonlight.  He is walking slowly, like someone with all the time in the world.  I am not the only one drawn to his music, and I pause just short of joining the handful of night wanderers.

There’s a girl, holding a younger boy’s hand, both of them wearing tattered clothes a size too small.  Behind them is an old man, bearing a lost look in his tired grey eyes.  At his side walks a teenage boy, with bruises on his knuckles and sadness on his shoulders.  To his right is a woman with a smock buttoned over her nightgown and paint staining her fingers.

The music turns into something welcoming and warm as the violinist turns to look straight at me.  The stars are in his gaze.  He smiles and I suddenly have the courage to join the others around him.  His pale bow glides long over the strings, and we all follow as he starts walking again.

I offer my arm to the old man, and he leans on me with the weight of forgotten years.  A small hand slips into mine, and I find the girl and boy at my side.  She looks up at me, clinging to my hand with all the strength of a frail, tattered heart.

The music wraps around us, morphing into something full of happy memories as we approach a home with its lights still on, casting a yellow light over the shoulders of a young man standing in the open doorway.  His face, full of worry, melts into relief at the sight of us, and we all stop in the yellow light.

The violinist turns to the old man, his music swaying back and forth with the sounds of home.  The old man’s eyes clear for a moment, and he pats my hand before releasing my arm.  He walks forward, and the man in the doorway comes out to meet him.  Together they walk inside, the young man turning his head to offer a nod of thanks before closing the door behind them.

The violinist nods back, his music gathering us up again as he leads us on.

The moon is high overhead when we stop at another house.  Window boxes hold sleeping flowers, their closed buds the colors of paint flakes.  The violinist looks over at the woman with stained hands and frustration in her steps.  She is looking at her window boxes with a wistful sort of gaze, as if she wants to paint the night sky on them.  Fantastical, playful notes fill the air, and her footsteps shed their weariness as she walks inside.

We go on, and the music becomes aching and sad.  I am tearing up, though the music is not mine.  I look over to the boy with shaking hands and red-rimmed eyes, and I feel the music open up like the arms of a loved one.  The boy takes one unsteady breath, and tears start streaming down his face.  It’s a release, steady and long, and it lasts until he is at the entrance to his apartment.  He pauses with his hand on the door, and the music turns soft and gentle.  His shoulders lift just a bit, and he offers us the slightest smile before he goes inside.

It is just me and the two children with tattered hearts.  We turn onto my street, and the violinist starts playing a new tune.

My mind is clear, my thoughts finally sorting themselves into places I can find them again in the morning.  Stopping before my front step, the music nudges me to go inside, but I can’t.  Not yet.

There is still a small hand holding mine, and I don’t really want to let it go.

Desperately, I look to the violinist.  The girl slips her hand out of mine, and she walks over to him, catching hold of the hem of his coat.  He nods to me reassuringly, his music telling me it’ll be alright.  The little boy looks up at the violin, his eyes wide as the moon, and the violinist looks down at them with a soft smile.  He will look after them.

The music is pressing sleep on me now, and my eyelids are heavy.  It chases me even after I am inside, filling me with dreams and courage.  Tomorrow is coming, and I will rise to face it.

My head sinks into my pillow as the music fades into the night.

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