I have seen many street performers throughout the years in Florence. I have met those whom have tried to mimic the magic of Houdini; musicians have also established themselves in the little bohemian square which showcased various amounts of talent and skills. There had been clowns, mimes, and living statues like myself. All sorts. Never a dull moment. None quite as important, however as the accordion players. Or really, my accordion player that I had met so long ago. Generations have passed since then, now an elderly man takes the place of youth. I watched this elderly accordionist deliver melodies from his enchanting squeeze box, time had etched itself into his skin, the same way it has done to mine. His eyes were framed with tributaries of wrinkles and laughter lines. Amongst the music was the flurry of dark haired children dancing to their own tunes of innocence and youthfulness, ignoring the irate expressions of adults having to manoeuvre around them. I felt the tinny of the accordion sound accelerate my heart beat, the only way the accordion can and I swayed to the spell of the music, falling deeper into my memories of the musician I once loved.
Street performance is not as popular as it once was. Cynicism has become a symptom of the preforming arts, where if a real definition is not clear performances are ridiculed and deemed to be ‘pointless’ and ‘a waste of time’. The square where I spent my happiest years was covered in colour. Flower boxes with glowing violets and periwinkle lined the plentiful obscure shops which were often vintage themed, selling antiques, clothes, knick knacks. Little bistro’s, bars and cafés were scattered throughout. Sometimes lights and lanterns would hang and twist down the larger street lamps illuminating everything in a magnificent orange and red glow in the evening. And littered all around would be my creative troupe. Some would practice to simple magic tricks, others card games. A few seized their own visions of living statues and would shock passer-by when they moved suddenly. In the height of bohemia and entertainment it was the most wonderful place to be. I had chased bohemia for as long as I could remember. I was a child that ran in the forest outside her home in her bare feet to feel the soil mingle with my strangely pallid skin and as a teenager I would become my art, painting my naked body in vivid colours, feeling them merge into me. I believed my body to be a canvas, and I treated it as such. I left my parental home on the outskirts of Tuscany at an early age and eventually settled into a small apartment in Florence. In my early stages of adulthood I had evolved into the art of street performance where I hid every inch of myself behind masks, paint and costumes. As a child there had been elements of loneliness, which is not to be confused with disliking my own company. Often I was frustrated by the lack of beauty that my peers were able to witness and so I immersed myself in the exquisiteness of nature, music and literature. Inspired by my lonely years in Tuscany I sought likeminded beings that I could enchant and entertain. One day I bought a second hand wedding dress and white fabric. It was worn at the seams, splitting in unsightly areas and the pristine white was now an awful cream colour. It was perfect. In my naivety had never experienced an intense love for another being before and thought then that such things were a farce, so I became the dishevelled Bridal Statue that gave flowers to patrons and simultaneously poking fun at convention.
I had been preforming for several months, and although the pay relied on the generosity of the public (which was not very often generous at all) and my hours standing perfectly still were trying I found a routine that I was safe in, although not necessarily happy. The same artists had been preforming with me, and after each long day we would take off our masks and change out of our costumes to become ourselves once more. Often we would go to a bar and celebrate being back in our own skin, something that was becoming more and more of a rarity. On one day, a day not particular at all, a shift had occurred in our dynamic. I noticed a strange wheezing musical noise being played above the chattering tourists. Many were flocking to the opposite side of the square, under a little porch. I strained my eyes to see but I had posed in the opposite direction and was unable to move until I was paid to. I had never heard an accordionist before; the instrument was a strange alien to me, something that didn’t belong. I was almost irritated with the obstruction that had tempted me to move and distracted me. When I was able to proportion myself freely I saw him for the first time. My accordion player manipulated his instrument in a way that I had never seen before, his motions were fluid and constant, his body swayed in time with the Parisian music expressing an almost feminine quality emphasised by his incredibly lean body and long hands. Every day I would pose in certain ways just to steal a glimpse of his slicked back dark hair, or the way that his coat flowed around his striped trouser leg. His top hat would irk slightly when he got too enthused and he had a habit of stopping to cough into a little polka dotted handkerchief. His face was long but delicate with sunken cheekbones a pasty complexion, giving him a glow that only a sick person would have. He never spoke to any other performers and scarcely would give anyone eye contact. He just played his accordion from sunrise until sunset before lurking off into the shadows of the alleyway.