By the moss-grown
wall she stands, near the entrance to the station, calling to the milling
people with her flute
, calling them to a world where pasture
s grew in place of bus shelter
s, and where the roads were made by sheep
Most heard her, few heeded her, perhaps a few thought she was mad: for she had no busking cap at her feet, and though the day was grey and spotted with rain, she had a summer dress on, with floral ribbons and a wine-dark velvet belt.
Fifteen, I guessed her, or an older music student elfinly young for her years. I was one of the few who stopped to listen, unobtrusively: she did not seem to be inviting an audience, just leaning against a wall playing music for her own meditations. As to what it was she drew out from her oaten reed, I could not imagine. Not the vigorous and familiar showpieces of Vivaldi and Bach, but more pastoral, simpler.
She met my eyes once, briefly, and I turned away. The bus I had been pretending to wait for came, disgorged, filled, and followed the bus I really had been waiting for, into a wet and unappealing town. Still I stood. Still she played. Occasionally she rested, for a very short time, then began again with a series of low trills, as if testing it. I pictured her enticing birds to commune.
Again she meets my eyes and this time smiles with a question, a sad question, perhaps asking why I am the only one who seems to hear her truly.
Someone photographs her. She and I notice at the same time: a whirr, a snap, an intrusion of the mechanical into the unearthly. She reacts with the same ill-concealed scorn that I feel, that someone should try to capture her image without her music.
Unearthly I think, then I correct myself: earthly, above all, earthly music from an earth more fundamental and lasting than the asphalt laid upon it. She taps the voice of the deep earth.
I have to choose whether to catch the bus arriving now, and be free of the thickening rain, or expose myself as an auditor enchanted and helpless. If I stayed, what could I say to her? How could I ask her to play more and deeper on her flute, release more of the earth's hidden word-hoard, tell me stories about rains while the passing crowd ignores us?
The roar of the bus drowns her sound for a little, and its bright red sweeps her delicate colours from my sight. The fluting fades. I hesitate.
Turning round, I choose. But she is not there.