Water is a novel by Jeff Rosenplot
 

When you fall in love, nothing
can keep you apart.


A boy who plays the colors of the sounds he hears. A girl who is lost inside her own mind. And a dark family secret that has torn them apart.

How far would you go to
find your true love?
Read sample pages of this book  
The passengers on the 5:47 PATH train emptied onto the platform in Hoboken. Miserable and wet, most avoiding the man with the violin at the bottom of the platform. Leo Baxter played regardless. He was immune to faces. When the strings whispered to him, he was unaware of anything. The jingle of change as it was tossed into his open violin case kept time in his head.

The rain had become a soggy sleet. It mixed with the salty black snow to become what some called a Jersey Milkshake. The crowd cleared quickly and Leo was again alone. He kept playing. The sound of the violin became a warm breath, haunting the vacant platform like the whisper of a ghost.

The 6:08 rumbled to a stop, releasing its passengers and breaking Leo’s trance. He watched them walk by, actively not looking at him, which was the New York way. Leo bundled his coat tighter. The wind was picking up off the Hudson. It cut through him sharp and broad like a machete. The next trains to come would carry only hotel and restaurant workers. Too poor to pay him. He bent down to collect the change from his violin case, tossing the used gum wrapper onto the platform. He pocketed the money—ten, maybe fifteen dollars. Combined with the rest of the day, it came to about thirty-five. Leo gently placed the violin back in its case, wiping the bow with the small white handkerchief he held between his chin and the body of the instrument. Winter made people stingy. But he didn’t play for them. If he played for money, he wouldn’t do so at the Hoboken PATH station. He played because he had no choice.

Leo had been called many things. Gifted, talented, a prodigy, even a savant. He saw music as a physical thing, as real as the steel trusses of the rail platform or the cold black asphalt under his shoes. It spoke to him in a voice more real than any of the dozens of conversations he heard in passing every day. Music hung like an opaque tapestry over the rusted, greasy, colorless streets. At its core was the structure—the magic of the mathematics, an alchemistic concoction of tones and sound that alone were meaningless but together… together the tones and sound became virulent, a plague with no remedy. The fever of harmony, the sharp agony of melody. An infection that cured. Leo saw this not as notes and scales but as colors, sounds, emotion and organic shapes that touched and danced and mutated between all the mundane things. Music was a contagion to him. His only recourse was to play it.

He tucked the violin case under his arm. The sleet had changed to a thick and mucousy snow. His fingerless gloves were soaked through. He took them off, tucked them in his pockets. Leo walked to the river, carried along on the melancholy of the snow.

The Hudson was choppy. No ice yet—too early in the season. On the opposite shore, Manhattan glowed and twinkled like a harlot firefly. Hoboken was Manhattan’s spinster cousin. Too dirty, too small, too fat to ever fit into the glass slipper, it gazed in envy as the party went on without it. Leo looked past the city. To him, it was transparent. The real music lived farther away, deep in the heart of Jewish Brooklyn.

He shook the thought away. It had the power to creep up on him when was least prepared for it. He had spent too many years in active, aggressive avoidance to let it back in now. Instead he let his eyes rest on Manhattan. The snow created a yellow pall of light that made the city look like it was burning.

In time he walked back into Hoboken. His battered violin case was tucked beneath his arm. The case and the precious cargo inside were the closest things to friendship he cared to have. The violin was from a pawn shop, bought on impulse the week he turned ten, with the five dollars in his pocket and the tie clip that had been the only thing his father had left behind. Leo had never seen a violin in person before. He had no idea how to make it sing. But the impulse had been so staggering that he had no choice but to obey. By all accounts it was a terrible instrument. Cheap, uncared-for and moody. The first sounds Leo and the violin made resembled cats in heat. He brought it to a small music shop, bought new strings, had it restrung and tuned as well as could be done. That’s when their love affair began. Leo pulled sound out of the instrument—haunted, strange and beautiful notes. At last, Leo could draw the music he heard out of the air. The more he played, the more the instrument responded. There was no formality between them. No music was written down, nothing was repeated, it was simply the simplest expression of sound. The boy and the violin played each other.

Twenty-five years on, walking through the snow-polluted streets of his New Jersey town, Leo thought about watershed moments. He knew they happened by chance. A combination of timing and luck and coincidence had put him where he needed to be. And the same forces destroyed what they created.

His mother, of course, had seen a saint around every corner, and divine influence in every action. There were specific rules and strict edicts. He had loved her dearly but he knew better. He saw the sound of God, saw it and heard it and brought it to tangible life, and it had nothing to do with a building or a man in a collar. To him, life was a series of surprises. There was no plan. The song was constantly changing. God, if Leo actually gave such a thing a name, was the sound he saw. He played the sound because he had no choice. All else was simply timing.

The snow had become a torrent. Wind blew and icy pellets stung his face. Leo walked the final blocks home with his head bent. The bleak streets of Hoboken were deserted. Even the colors of the sound Leo saw around him had turned mournful.

His home was a basement room, dank and damp at the best of times, prone to rats and water. Leo slept little, and ate less. His clothes were cobbled together out of necessity. His possessions were minimal. A mattress covered in stale sheets, a chair and table he’d found by the side of the road, and a small wooden chest that contained the collected treasures of his time on Earth. His mother’s annotated Bible, a handful of her small crosses, and the rest keepsakes from Brooklyn. Small things, meaningless to anyone else but vital enough for Leo to hold onto. He knew each item intimately, and each led down the dark path of memories he wished never to relive. If life was chance, memories were the anchors that kept the whole thing from blowing away.

He turned the corner onto his block. He raised his head, looked up, and felt the anchors of memory crush down upon him.
excerpt from the novel "Intermezzo" ©2015 Jeff Rosenplot
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