My fourth time at the Writing Gym and we did a collective character exercise again, this time with two characters. I didn’t include every detail (ran out of time) and it’s pretty rough but below is what I came up with from the following:
- Andrew, 55-year-old male currently in Sfat, confused about religious affiliation, single, violinist, self-employed, originally from London
- Linda or Leah, single, in her 20s, bartender/cellist, Conservative Jewish American
The sun was too strong. The light bouncing off the pale stones felt like lasers sharpshooting towards the centers of his eyes. Dazed, he wiped his stubbly face on his still-damp shirt, not sure how he got here, on – what is this street, anyway? He must’ve still been in Sfat because he couldn’t recall getting on a bus last night, but then again, how could he trust his own judgment at this point?
Andrew sat on a low stone wall on the side of the road and with his fingers, mentally ticked the facts he was certain of: I’m in Sfat – yes, definitely in Sfat since the stones shown like white ghosts and the northern hills created the panorama that was his point of view. It was a mid-June morning – the sun was strong and it must’ve been fairly early because he could spot the blur of a shepherd dog chasing goats over the side of the road in the yellow brush on the hillside below. And he was not yet sober – the waves violently crashing in his skull could attest to that fact.
Next to the spot where he had woken up, he saw his violin, as if it had been carelessly tossed to the ground. His eyes moved toward the nasty dent in the back panel. He searched his mind to uncover the truth behind that inharmonious circumstance, but his head gave up in angry discord.
He started to remember a woman with a young face – yes, it’s slowly coming back – a woman in her mid- 20s, offering him a drink sometime before things got intense. It must have been dusk, because the stars weren’t yet visible. He had thanked her and asked her name, but she had only smiled. He recalled her questions – honing in on his hometown of London, and why he had been in New York before he had wound up in Sfat. There was a barrage of questions, an outpouring of drinks, a meeting of a few other wandering lost souls, and after that he only remembered playing his violin, moving across vodka-soaked stones for a crowd of young revelers in a dimly-lit Sfat alley.
Coming-to, Andrew wondered exactly who she was. She was young – too young – and she was curious – too curious. What had she really wanted from him? Certainly not a free Saturday night concert in the streets of Sfat.
Andrew rose, steadied himself, and began walking toward the damaged violin. It looked sore, it looked tired, it looked defeated. As he bent to pick it up, a memory hit him. It was when his then-wife was in the hospital after their daughter had been born. He hated to remember it but the scene came flooding back with the sadness of the damaged instrument. He had come to visit her the day after the birth, still unsure of whether he’d stay or go. Sometimes, over the years, when he had (rarely) looked back at this period of his life, he could honestly claim she had known what would come next. Sometimes he justified it by saying she had just wanted a baby all along, so in the end, they both had gotten what they wanted.
His fingers ran over the strings and he lifted the violin to his chest. He looked up and then he saw her. The girl from the night before. She was carrying something big, but his vision was blurry.
“Oh,” he squinted into the sunlight and noticed she was carrying something.
“Hi,” she answered, and looked sadly at the violin. “Shame about that.”
He had so many questions, but he started with the obvious.
“What happened last night?”
She sat down on the low stone wall and looked across the hills.
“It’s possible we both owe each other apologies,” she said.
She paused and then began: “I’ve been looking for you for about 12 years. I didn’t really want to know as a kid, I just wanted to live happily and truthlessly. After all, how could I want someone who so clearly hadn’t wanted me?”
Andrew looked up suddenly. He noticed her green eyes then. He also noticed what she was carrying – a cello case.
“I’ve been living here, watching and waiting… unsure if I really wanted to know. But I was also angry. I wanted my due. How could someone be so carefree? Wander the world and never consider the chance at love they had so easily tossed aside?”
She ran her fingers along the hard case tucked in her arms.
“When I discovered you were a musician, it seemed like my only hope for feeling a connection. I had to hear you play. I had to know I have a future. After last night, well, I guess that’s the one part of this where I don’t feel disappointed. So… thank you. And… sorry about your violin.”
Andrew couldn’t wrap his head around the improbability of the situation. His long-lost daughter had hunted him down, followed him to Israel, sought him out in Sfat, lured him into a seemingly impromptu street party and gotten him disheveled and drunk so she could confront him at this moment.
He felt his ex-wife at his ear, an ominous note playing off her lips.
“Anyway… now I know. I’ll be returning to the States tomorrow. You’re free to find me when you like… if you can come with the words I need to hear.”
She stood, patted the cello case, and headed for the street. Then she turned around.
“By the way… happy Father’s Day.”