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indulge in nostalgia or sentimentality except for what you channel into your song. I could have used a friend, in other


words, though I doubt this deficit had anything to do with the haunting I experienced. The fun I was having made up for my lack of close companionship. I reveled in the idea that I had no contacts in Brussels. I’d had hopes for Astrid, my standoffish landlady, but she wouldn’t have been a contact even if she wasn’t summering in France. She didn’t like me, nor I her. And I didn’t know I was lonely any more than I knew people could become haunted, like castles or old fountains. Had some crystal-gazer told me they could, I wouldn’t have believed him; and if he’d said it would happen to me, and on a specific night, I’d have inwardly scoffed at his prophecy. Astrid had a bad feeling about me when we met, but that’s because she was a poor judge of character. The woman would have had second thoughts about subletting to anyone, I imagine, but I couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t trust me with her living space and its meager furnishings. Another contact I didn’t have was my


next-door neighbor. I’ll call her Madame Bouet, her real name, since she’s certainly dead by now. She was my landlady by default. My rent money went through Astrid before it got to Madame Bouet, but Madame owned the building. The ninety-six-year-old, who stood four-foot-nine leaning on her cane, was all but deaf; and if she understood it at all, I gathered she didn’t cotton to Astrid’s and my subletting arrangement. So she didn’t like me either. And since she spoke almost no English and could barely hear the American


26


“. . . I didn’t know I was lonely any more than I knew people could become haunted . . .”


French I yelled at her, try as I might, I couldn’t charm her into letting go of her suspicions about me and my Bohemian lifestyle. To get to the stairway that led out of the


building, I had to walk past her door, which she liked to leave open, although she usually sat out of sight. My comings and goings interested her as they would an old gnarled bridge troll whom you never see and you’re not sure is actually there. The night of my haunting, I slipped out


just before sundown, undetected. Upon arriving on the square, I listened around for a good player or two to befriend. When suspecting that talent lay behind a waft of melody I heard coming from somewhere, I’d follow the sound to its source like an animal after living blood. I could smell good song. On that night, I didn’t hear a single note in the area.


While a little surprised at the quiet, I was


untroubled by it. I liked to play solo, mainly. Most musicians or groups around and about La Grand-Place exhibited only varying degrees of mediocrity. Sometimes, those acts or performers would approach me, thinking a fiddle would spice up their repertoire. They saw me as a means of making extra lucre. I was fine on my own, thank you. It was a Saturday night, and I was sure to do well, if earnings be the measure. The United Nations was hosting a


celebration of itself on the square that night. I


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