“Stages and Violins” Inspired by State Street

As the dust and debris blew through the afternoon wind, Charlotte walked home from school on the same road she always did. She passed the candy shop, the barber shop, the magazine stand, and the bookstore every day, in that order, to go home. Slung over her shoulder was her backpack, heavy from the days reading and in her hand was her leather bound notebook, where she wrote down the events of her life, and the events of her mind. Not many people were out this afternoon, and she liked it that way.

She walked and heard at a distance the violin girl that always played Beethoven melodies in front of the old, abandoned theater. She was sitting on the curb today, her violin case open for change, but only a few nickels and dimes occupied it. Charlotte listened to the strings play and decided today was a good day to sneak into the theater.

The entrance to the theater was worn down and eroded by wind and rain. The paint peeled off in layers, flaking on the ground. She was always able to wedge the door ajar slightly to slip into the foyer. And so she did.

It smelled like stagnant air and old carpet, with a twinge of a wood smell. Cobwebs lined the corners and the room was a dull gray with hints of gold from the afternoon sun. Charlotte’s mother had recently told her that the city planned to remodel the theater and re-purpose it for offices. But Charlotte hated that idea. She knew that there hadn’t been a performance here for decades and knew that it was just empty, unused space, but it held so much more value than that. It was a quiet space for solitude.

She entered the theater. The seats lined on the ground were becoming decrepit and the fabric lining the seats was fraying. A fine layer of dust covered the ground. The empty space of the theater loomed before her. She was sure it was once beautiful. Charlotte’s grandmother gave her photos of her at Charlotte’s age at this very theater. Standing in the foyer. Sitting in the third row. Sitting on the apron of the stage after the production. Charlotte loved this photos, she taped them to pages in her notebook.

She picked a seat and opened her notebook to the pasted photographs and began to write. She documented the sights, sounds of the wind through the breaking rafters, and the smell of the interior.

After feeling the ghosts of the performers dance around her and the imaginary applause, after seeing the flash from old cameras brighten the room, and after watching rats scurry across the floor and after she wrote down anything she could think of, she left the abandoned place behind, knowing that she didn’t have control over what they did with the building. It existed in photographs and on her pages. She exited the theater into the light of the present day, and chose the direction of home and walked as the violinist played her out.

2 thoughts on ““Stages and Violins” Inspired by State Street

  1. Pingback: State Street, Santa Barbara | The Captured Word

  2. Lauren, you have a way of teleporting someone right in to your story so they can see, notice, and wonder along with you. Thank you for this trip down State St. I enjoyed sitting in the old theater and smelling the smells, seeing the faded colors and noticing the signs of deterioration of the once-lovely venue. I hope Charlotte returns to the theater on her way by someday, and in remembrance of her grandmother, gets up on the stage and dances for her imaginary audience. Maybe she’ll even hear her grandmother applaud. Anything can happen in the imagination. 🙂

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