Nathaniel fidgeted like a teenager, then repeated his preference for the tunnel.
Nathaniel was sitting by the window and his own shadow fell before him. The idea seemed to grow on him.
"I wouldn't have thought of it," he said. "Yeah. This is a brand new tunnel."
Third Suite: The Conversation
Nathaniel stayed away from the apartment for days after the lesson, then surprised everyone by asking to leave his cart there for several hours while he copied sheet music at the public library. But that was it. He didn't go back, and he said he had no interest in the apartment for anything but lessons from Peter Snyder.
"Will you give me violin lessons?" I asked Nathaniel the day after Thanksgiving.
Sure, he said.
"Great," I said. "I'd like to do it at the apartment."
He's a smart man — cagey, even — and good at sniffing out a ruse. I think Nathaniel was on to me, but he agreed.
I didn't envy the poor man. I took guitar lessons for several years, but didn't even know how to hold a violin. We sat in the courtyard last Wednesday and Nathaniel was patient and gentle, making me think teaching could one day give him new meaning and pay his bills. He had selected a simple piece of music for me to try but quickly gave up on it and asked me to just try and get something — anything — out of the violin.
What I got sounded like the torture of several small animals.
"There," Nathaniel said. "You get a sound and work with it. It's frustrating, but if you admire the violin, you'll weather the frustrations. Desire, discipline, diversity."
Nathaniel had a white shirt tied over his head. In one pocket of his blue cardigan was a tennis ball, in the other a dinner roll. He took out a copy of Beethoven's Ninth and began playing effortlessly.
By the time he switched to cello, he had drawn a crowd. One resident approached with a battery-operated drill and gunned it in rhythm with the music. Two other residents stopped and said they were musicians.
I suggested they start a band.
Nathaniel liked the idea, and he also liked it when another resident, wowed by his moves on cello, handed him a dollar.
"Dynamic," the resident said.
When everyone was gone but the two of us, I steered the conversation to Nathaniel's mother, who died several years ago.