He always makes a point to ask you how the novel’s going, every time he sees you. Honestly, you’re not even sure when you told him, or if, and the gesture strikes you with singularity each time. He has slender fingers and a slender staving artist’s body (a vegetarian), and you think it a metaphor. There was never any meat to the two of you, just two skeleton hands trying to hold each other together.
You look on as he plays the piano for a room full of mothers and fathers at a friend’s birthday party. You watch the way his body moves with each note, and you wonder if he plays girls like that in bedrooms, finds the right chords, stretches half-bent moans into long octaves, and makes concertos with the sweat beads of two bodies. If you’re being honest, it’s the reason you went to prom with him. He wrote you a little melody with cheeky rhyming lyrics that labelled you witty and pretty and frankly it was more thought than anyone had ever given you, so you said sure and took the flowers he offered you.
You remember the car ride there was so quiet, you were struck that there was no music, even when his fingers brushed your neck as he gave you that pendant with the too-short chain that you thought ruined your whole get-up. Maybe it was then, in the red pickup truck amidst the nestled quiet that you blurted out the thing about the novel and how stupid it was but still you were determined to finish it.
Three years later, each time he asks you about its progress, it’s a gentle reminder. A line in the sand marking the distance between you two and that night, when you told him after to just drive on home and still no music. Now here he sits playing Debussy’s Danse and sometimes the dogs walk in and out of the room but besides that it’s silent as all of you watch his fingers dance, and you think about adding a piano-playing neurotic to the novel you’ll probably never finish.
Melissa Fitzgerald is an English student at Northeastern University with a writing minor. She thinks “love” is the loveliest word in the world, but melancholy is pretty too, in a different way. Her work has been published in Corvus Magazine, *82 Review, and Indiana Voice Journal.