Where We Were

April 25, 2017 | leaving to return

“Music is about sound.” This was enough for him. His gaze returned to his laptop. He squinted as he zeroed in on a phrase and erased it. It wasn’t worthy of his next record in academia. She waited for his fingers to complete his thought.

“And words. Lyrics.” Lori added. She chewed on a salad leaf quietly. It was tasteless and cold, but she’d spent too many of her per diems on pasta and chowders in the past few weeks.

“Even then, it’s the quality of the voice singing them.”

“But the words themselves are important. They give meaning to the music.” She thought of a tangible example. “It’s like how we build our decks. We can’t just present walls of numbers.”

Nate shook his head. She could see a fleck of dandruff in his dark coffee hair. “I still think they’re distracting.”

“How do you explain four years in a capella?” She asked.

“It was fun, but we sang the same pop stuff that everyone else did.”

“Right, there was the whole thing about wanting people to come see our shows.”

He rolled his eyes, and she could see thin red veins spidering out around his irises. He needed sleep. She shifted away to let him work while pretending to check her work phone. No theorems for her, just bullets to rewrite. She leaned lightly against his shoulder and speared another clump of leaves.

—–

“That was amazing.” She sighed and watched her breath take and lose shape in the cold air.

A co-worker who ended up having to take a redeye to a client site in Fresno gave her the orchestra tickets. “For you and Nate.” They were all in the same boat. Anything that could extend the life of a relationship a little while longer was not to be wasted.

Nate nodded in agreement. “Not bad, not bad. Some of the middle started to lag, but you couldn’t really tell.”

She didn’t have as sensitive an ear as he did, but for once she just wanted him to not temper his enjoyment. Their enjoyment.

“Well, I thought it was magnificent.” Lori ambled over to the symphony entrance. “Come on, let’s take a picture here.”

“It’s too dark. It’s probably going to come out grainy.”

“It’s okay. Just so we can remember coming here.”

He shrugged and put his arm around her shoulders. She snapped a few shots and ended up deleting four.

They hurried down into the subway station when the wind started picking up again. She paused on the steps, surprising him.

“You want a picture of that?” Nate pointed to the station’s name in tile on the walls. “You see it every day.”

“Tonight’s different. We got lucky with these tickets, and we listened to beautiful music in a grand concert hall.”

There was a time when she wouldn’t feel silly about explaining this or had to do it at all.

—–

The client site was five stops from her hotel and just one from their old apartment.

She did not miss the intense squeaking of the old subway, but being able to read while in transit was a welcome break. The PA made the announcement for this station. She looked up.

Discarded newspapers still floated along the floor, and although the man was a different one, he also sold cheap beaded jewelry on one of the waiting benches.

As he’d said, she used to see this every day. They hadn’t spoken since she accepted her new job on the west coast. The sunshine better suited her mood, and last she’d heard he had moved somewhere a little further south to pursue tenure.

It wasn’t worth commemorating. Or was it?

To hell with what he would’ve thought. She shuffled the contents of her bag around and searched for her phone. The camera loaded. She looked out the window, searching for the station’s name on the walls. Waiting for the couples in black and white, satin and tulle, accent jewelry to part ways. Her thumb hovered over the shutter button. Then, the train lurched and lunged forward, re-energized but resisting. The wheels groaned and whined against the tracks. No one would wait for her sentimentality.

The glow between her fingers faded to black. She withdrew her hands into her pockets and out of the cold.


Also published on Medium.

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