She Plays the Violin- Part 4

A few days later, Violet goes to her first concert that doesn’t feature violinists playing Schubert and Beethoven. Her friend Sophie takes her to a place in Norfolk, which is an hour’s drive away. Sophie’s brother Caz, who is friends with the bassist of the band they’re going to see, is at the wheel. This is lucky for Violet and Sophie, who still aren’t old enough to drive.

During the drive, Violet stares out the dingy window at the expanse of the bay unfolding next to the highway. Sophie keeps asking her, “Are you sure you want to come to this? Really sure?”

“It’s too late for me to change my mind, even if I wanted to,” Violet says finally.

Sophie is fifteen, but could pass for seventeen because of her orange lipstick and liquid eyeliner that she flicks up at the corners in thick, Amy Winehouse-style lines. She already has three piercings on her right ear, and she’s had beer before. Violet met her three years ago, when Sophie was the best viola player in the middle school orchestra. Now, though, Sophie splits her time between the viola and the electric guitar, and spends weekends traveling to shows in Norfolk and Richmond and Virginia Beach. She isn’t nearly as good on the guitar, but Violet would never tell her that.

They pull into a parking lot. Violet unfolds herself from the car and looks around: a nail salon, a Latino grocery store, a Chinese takeout place, an empty Blockbuster that still hasn’t been filled by anything else. Then, in front of them, a Mexican restaurant and bar. “Here?” she says. “Seriously?”

Caz rubs at his neckbeard in a vaguely irritated way. “The Hacienda is a great venue. You’ll see.” He starts walking towards the door. “I gotta go help them set up their equipment,” he says, over his shoulder. “You guys just grab a table or something. Order chips.”

The Hacienda is dimly lit and smells like processed, fried meat. At the back of the room, behind a row of half-filled tables, is a small stage with a few lights pointed at it. A few guys in black shirts and tattoos dotting their arms are wrestling with a nest of cords. “Is that them?” Violet asks. “The band?”

“Yeah,” says Sophie. She orders a bowl of tortilla chips with watery salsa, and as they eat, Violet peppers Sophie with questions.

“How many years has Long Division been around? How many shows have they played? What’s their style? Where’d they train?”

Sophie catches Violet’s wrist. “Look. This isn’t like one of our string concerts. These guys have just been together a few months. And I don’t know if they’ve been playing their instruments for much longer than that. That’s sort of the way it is with punk.”

“Oh,” says Violet, and wishes she’d worn tighter pants, or some eyeshadow, or a pair of combat boots. Everybody else looks a little bit like Edward Scissorhands.

People are starting to drift towards the stage and grimy dance floor at the back, so Violet and Sophie follow them. Caz is in deep conversation with some friends and doesn’t acknowledge them or introduce them to anyone. They huddle into the small crowd and wait for the sound check to finish. The lights cast Long Division in a deep blue glow, making the band members look like bioluminescent fish at the bottom of the ocean.

“Hey,” says the lead singer, who has shaggy hair and hollow cheeks. “Thanks for coming out, everyone. It’s great to see all your faces.” Scattered applause. “We’re Long Division, and we’ve been working on some new material this past month.” He pauses for a moment, almost shy. “You wanna hear it?” Caz and his friends hoot and stomp their feet. Without even introducing the song, Long Division launches into their first piece.

All of a sudden, an insistent drumbeat and a buzzing guitar seem to set the very air around Violet on fire. It comes out of nowhere, this sound: no prelude, no buildup. The singer’s voice hovers somewhere between talking and roaring. She can’t make out the lyrics. Even though a sign on the door said that smoking is banned inside, clouds of smoke knot and unknot themselves in front of the stage lights. Beside her, Sophie is jumping up and down, pumping her arms as high into the air as they can go.

For a moment, Violet panics. She asks herself, What am I supposed to do with my body? and What will they think when they realize I don’t know how to listen to this music the right way? Then she realizes that, for the first time in weeks, nobody is looking at her. Nobody is measuring how she reacts. That’s when she stops pushing against the music and lets the current of it enter her, spilling into her muscles, pooling in her veins. She gives herself up to the unsteady ache of the sound.

After the band finishes their first song, Violet has to sit down and gulp a glass of water, the way she would if she’d run a mile around the track during gym class. She knows that something is different – that something has rolled a stone away from the cave of her body. She just doesn’t know what, exactly, or how. “Are you okay?” Sophie asks, and Violet can only nod.

Long Division introduces themselves. The lead singer is Scott, the drummer is Eddie, the guitarist is Dean, the bassist is Pat. Now that Violet knows their names, they seem like friends. “That last song was Belladonna Game. We’re gonna follow up it with another. This one is called Year of the Dragon,” says Scott. His voice is already throaty from shouting. “So keep giving me everything you’ve got.” Violet pushes her glass away and throws herself back into the crowd as the next crest of sound crashes down around her.

Afterwards, as they’re driving back, Sophie says, “I wasn’t sure if you liked it or hated it. I’ve never seen you do that before.”

“I don’t think I ever have done that,” Violet tells her. She recognizes the energy that had lived inside her for the past hour. It’s the same kind of energy that swells in her chest when she’s flying through the notes of a piece and hits every one correctly. She’s just never known it to take over an entire room. During her own performances, audience members sit in neat rows with their arms crossed. Tonight was so different that she wonders if it’s even right, to call them both music. She wonders what her mother would have said, then pushes that from her mind.

“So did you like it or not?”

“I can’t wait to go back,” Violet says simply.

Read Part 5