The night was young and whispered as the moon illuminated the grey streets of Florence, Italy. Dogs howled and screams echoed against the dirty brick buildings, yet they were as familiar as birdsongs in the forests. Garbage crashed against the moist pavement, its trash soaking in with the rest of the liquid trickling through cracks. Even as misery seeped deep into the bones of the city, even as despondent inhabitants wondered what kept them going for the next day, a single sound cut through the darkness like a knife. Strings of a well-worn guitar caressed like a lover and played like a lament. Notes plucked out from its steel and fell through the air like raindrops. Soon, the clouds overhead joined in with the music, creating its onomatopoeia of precipitation, percussion for the sweet strings. As the music swam through the air and echoed as a beacon of hope, it intrigued one particular habitant of Florence. Agatha rose from her fitful attempt at slumber and shuffled outside in her bathrobe. She had never liked guitar players, especially ones on the street who played their music late at night. It was almost second nature for her to scowl at such things, yet her scowl turned to anger. A lean man in shabby clothing became drenched in the rain, slicking back his raven curls and thumping against his old guitar. When he looked up at her, she saw eyes older than her own and a smile that radiated respect and pleasure of life. “Good evening, bella. Do you have a request?” he asked. Bristling at the endearment, the word brought her back to when Agatha was not a crone, but a beautiful young woman. Her husband used to call her by that name until he found a lover to call it by. Now, the words cut deep into Agatha and hardened her already prickly edge.
“Yes. Get out, beggar. You’re interrupting my sleep and I don’t want to listen to your caterwauling guitar all night,” she snapped, her voice rough as sandpaper. Instead of protesting, as guitar players usually did, the man’s grin widened. He stood up slowly, graceful as a dancer, and picked his guitar up tenderly by its neck. At his full height, he stood well over Agatha’s stout form.
“Of course, bella. I’m sorry I interrupted your evening. Have a good night,” he said, bowing so low his head grazed his knees. When he straightened again, Agatha felt a pang of guilt as he strode down the street, barefoot with his guitar slung around his back and sopping wet. However, he disappeared into the night before she could call out to him. As she walked back up her steps and hardened her heart once more, she stopped for a moment. Her brain racked through her memories to find what song the man had been playing until she recognized the tune. Tears spilled down her cheeks; tears that hadn’t been shed for almost thirty years. It was the first song she ever slow danced to with her husband, and its sweet melody brought up the scent of her husband’s cologne and the warmth of his hands and smile. She sprinted out of the hall, the worn boards of the hallway screaming in protest as she threw open the door and ran to the center of the street. Rain fell in buckets, yet all Agatha saw were the cloud’s tears. There was no sign of the guitarist, and all that remained was the faint echo of a heartbroken string.
This is an excerpt of a novel I started yet never finished. While the entire tale focuses on the mysterious guitarist, this particular part is written in Agatha’s perspective, third-person limited. A lot of books today tell stories of the young and beautiful, people we look up to yet still have so much to learn. There is something special about tales of the old, the imperfect, and those who stumble and fall through life. It brings out a different level of humanity in stories. However, stories about youth should never be easily dismissed. They may have much to learn about what their future holds, but no one, newborn or ancient, knows exactly what lies ahead.