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A Rest is Silence
She took the stage. No, I don’t mean “she went onstage” or “she walked onto the stage,” because that would do her no justice. She took the stage, like a bully would take a toy from a child. It was just her and her beautiful silhouetted shadow from the spotlight, daring everyone, demanding that everyone look at her. Look at me, her figure seemed to be saying. I am beautiful. I am what you want but cannot have. I am what you desire but you cannot touch me. I am above you all.
She wasn’t cocky about it. It was just a fact that she knew and I knew and everyone in the crowded auditorium knew; she was just stating it for the world to know and recognize it. I sat in the crowd, drinking her in and basking in her moment with her, she whom I was dating, she whom I loved.
“Yes,” she had explained to me, “my ex-boyfriend will be performing a duet with me onstage.” I had immediately shut down, saying I wouldn’t allow it, that it was just wrong, that it should be me onstage with her and no one else. But, gradually, I was swayed, and now the curtain was up and the music was playing.
Her ex, tall and strong and assured, walked onstage. He didn’t take it like she did. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Maybe I was a little biased. So what? Don’t I have a right to love my girlfriend and hate the guys who treated her like crap?
He took the stage and started singing. All the hate I had been feeling prior to that moment instantly dissolved and was replaced by an epiphany I dreaded having. Biased or not, about one thing I could be sure: he had a beautiful voice.
When he sang, it was almost a cue for all the grannies in the audience to turn on the waterworks. In all honesty, I was close to tears myself every now and then. That voice was so clear and so pure, yet still so powerful, like water flowing from a tap before it hits the sink. He wouldn’t just sing the melody, his voice would dance around the notes, sidestepping one and twirling through the next. His voice was the voice of an angel.
He sang, softly at first:
God that was strange, to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend.
Smiled and said, “Yes, I think we’ve met before,”
In that instant it started to pour.
There was something unusual, something different about how he sang it than how he usually would have. A hitch in his voice? A crack in a note? I knew for sure he hesitated just a moment before he sang the word “smiled”. It haunted me for only a moment before slipping out of my conscious as I saw him sneak a glance at my beloved and grin surreptitiously.
It bothered me. Why did it bother me? I was becoming irrational, which was not one of my good things to be. I tried to focus on something besides the looks those two were stealing.
The orchestra kids had no idea what they were doing up there. I knew most of them had never accompanied a vocalist before, and it showed. I wasn’t even sure they were playing in the right key. Either there was a plethora of accidentals, or they were seriously musically challenged. My instincts leaned towards the former, and the next verse confirmed my suspicions. He continued to sing, looking at her. I wondered why I was so upset that he was looking at her, then shook it off and tried to focus on the music:
Captured a taxi, despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name.
His vibrato wavered on the edge of tears and then restrained itself. I noticed the tears glistening behind his eyes and dismissed the growing unease. Turning to look at her, I saw a strange look on her face.
We had had some problems recently. Fighting, mistrust, the whole shebang. I’d grown concerned about her practices with her ex; she’d been upset with me for being concerned. I didn’t know why. It was a perfectly logical concern. Wasn’t it? I thought so, and I told her so. She hadn’t said anything, just stared at me with that look that meant “I’m fighting an internal battle right now and I’m really confused as to what to do.” The same look she was wearing as her once-lover sang the inconceivably perfect and imperfect song he had practiced for weeks.
She was looking at him. Why was she looking at him? I wanted her to look at me and see the person who had supported her and been there for her after they had broken up, who had kissed her, who had told her, “I’ll always be here for you.” She knew exactly where I was sitting. Why wouldn’t she look me in the face?
The piano tinkled its way through the instrument break like an ice skater would slowly make her way around the rink, pausing here, twirling here, a flourish there. It was simple and elegant, a tapestry of oxymoronic ideals. The music weaved its way around me. I struggled to breathe. The music snaked around my head. The music was slowly suffocating me and I could do nothing to stop it.
She started to sing after the piano had finished its beautiful, terrible solo, leaving me gasping for air.
The scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin,
Tried to reach deep but you couldn’t get in,
Now you’re outside me, you see all the beauty,
Repent all your sin.
I was floundering in the blue faux-velvet seat. People were giving me funny looks and I didn’t notice a thing. My eyes were centered on the stage, the stage where my fears were playing out in reality. She was looking at me, staring at me, when a half-gasp slipped through her perfect lips and was amplified by the microphone. I was powerless to stop anything else that unfolded, yet the suppressed emotion was still beating against the walls of my heart, screaming to be let out, to leave the building, to walk away from this eternal moment of torment. I chose to ignore it.
They turned to face each other, as I had been warned, and sang the next lines together, moving closer all the while.
It’s nothing but time and a face that you lose
I chose to feel it and you couldn’t choose
I’ll write you a postcard, I’ll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love.
She looked at me once, her expression twisted. Her ex quickly touched her chin and returned her face to him while I internally screamed at him not to touch her, while I internally begged her not to choose this, while I internally sobbed and rocked back and forth in mourning.
They drew close and began to dance as the orchestra, almost comically, fumbled through the string feature. They, the orchestra, were sloppy and coarse, but in that unpolished tumble of melody they found beauty. They, the dancers, were too perfect for me to watch.
Some say the best part of dance is the expression on the dancers’ faces. I always thought that wasn’t true, but when I saw the faces of my beloved and her previous love, I knew I was wrong. They looked happy, they looked striking; they looked like they were in love. They broke apart, floated to their microphones, and let their voices issue forth ephemerally. She looked at me the entire time.
Live through this and you won’t look back…
Live through this and you won’t look back…
Live through this and you won’t look back…
They continued, unabated, into the next verse. I saw the light glistening off of her face. Oh God, she was crying. She was blinking silent tears down her face. She was crying, her ex was crying, the audience was crying, and I was crying too. The loss of a few can lead to the mourning of a thousand. She drew a shuddering breath and forced the last verse out of her lungs as the last remnants of our relationship slowly unraveled.
There’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave,
You were what I wanted; I gave what I gave.
I’m not sorry I met you, I’m not sorry it’s over,
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save.
Her eyes were fixed on me. Her lower lip trembled and I could see her mouth form the words I’m sorry. As the world came crashing down around me and the auditorium crumbled to dust, I ripped my gaze from the stage and stood up. I ignored the tears falling from her face and ran from the theatre.
There is, I think, nothing more to say.
After that fateful night, I took a long walk. I thought about who I was, who she was, who he was, and how everything ended in less than five minutes. Five horrible, wonderful minutes that trod the line between beauty and agony, fire and ice, light and darkness, wanting something and having it.
I often lie awake at night, the refrain of that song playing in my head like a memory of a silent movie. I have memorized every line of her face, every step she took, and yet I still cannot fathom why she chose him on that night. It has become my guilty secret, the event which I should, by all means, have forgotten about, but alas, that night keeps coming back to me. I wonder where she is; who she’s with, if she’s happy.
I am old now, and age has not been kind to my features. I toss and turn in reminiscing, and my back creaks and groans like an old attic. My wrinkles are deep, deeper than they probably should be. The light grows dim outside my eyes. I believe the world is fading away, slowly. But this, my legacy, will justify my miserable existence. This work, my memoir, my last memory as the lamp flickers.
When I was in the band program, my director would always tell me, “A rest is silence.” But no one ever told me how awful that silence would be. How it would slowly grow over you, like moss over a stone, and claim your voice. How the silence would slowly fill your life and leave you to drown without a backwards glance; how it has left me to perish, slowly, painfully, wistfully.
I bid you the fondest of farewells.