Jen’s wedding day was approaching, and while we hadn’t been the kind of friends over the last fifteen years that we had been in elementary school, we reconnected at a mutual friend’s stag and doe, and she had expressed her anxiety over a last-minute-quitting violinist for her wedding day, so I agreed to help her out.
Two weeks later, we met at a hotel in the city to walk down to the church and get a feel for the acoustics, and she coincidentally forgot to mention that it wasn’t just a violinist she hired, but we were also joined by a pianist.
I almost puked when I saw him, but I actually puked in the basement bathroom of the church, which I’m certain echoed throughout the deserted, silent, midday nave when holding it in had become a dangerous game, and he still acted like we were just-now-acquaintances instead of estranged slam pieces.
I can’t remember which drug-induced trip I was on, a late university night, when I watched a TED Talk or got balls deep in behavioural psychology dissertations, when I learned that the tell-tale sign of someone being “into you” is the slight raise of eyebrows when they see you. It could be ever-so-slight, so you have to pay attention, or it could be complete bullshit from a hallucination because you can’t trust anything an addict tells you, really, but I saw it again, like the first time I saw him look at me at that house party in 2010 where I was broken-hearted and so was he, and the eyebrows twitched upward when I finally caught his eye.
But now we are strangers destined to play our own instruments, side by side on Saturday afternoon.
So, after an eyebrow twitch, and a nervous vomit, we let Jen enjoy the pre-wedded bliss as she carelessly took us through the song list and schedules, and cocktail hour, and first dance, all a little too strict and formal for yours truly, but I knew my accompaniment was born of this formal, straight-laced world, which is why he chose to sell me drugs and fuck me on that night he turned 21, and I didn’t even say happy birthday.
Fuck this guy.
We played along for a light lunch and a glass of wine, and then went back to Jen’s hotel to play together for her so she could “finalize our sound” — whatever the fuck that meant. And it was nostalgic. It made me think of the way he’d touch me, push me, and that time I looked at him and caught him, as he thrust upon me, falling. I don’t know what for, but I have only seen that look one time before and it broke my heart, so I had to get out.
A couple more glasses of wine and it was becoming a dire situation of not making it home to my own bed before sunrise, but I was not bothered to be accompanied on my way out of Jen’s hotel room. We stood together in the elevator, not a word to be exchanged, not even a glance, but the smell of his cologne plaguing my memories, and I could taste the cigarette lingering flavour of his filthy mouth. Who knew one person could be so toxic to the senses.
I could see his white knuckles clenched so tightly on the elevator railing when I dared to glance over to him. The elevator doors flew open and it was like waking from a dead sleep after a terrifying nightmare.
“You catching a train at this hour? I’ll walk you over to the station,” he finally said.
I never fell in love with him but I loved the melodic lilting of his voice. My god.
“For safety,” he added, obviously forgetting my incredibly perpetual distraction.
When we got to the station, the last train had left an hour ago. We weren’t even close. I reached for my phone to look up a hotel close by.
“Please, don’t think anything of this, but you could crash at my place. I live a few blocks away. Don’t waste your money for a couple hours of sleep.”
The offer seemed reasonable.
Like the gentleman he’s always been, he offered me the privacy of his room and bed, and resigned himself to the couch, but even after borrowing a t-shirt to sleep in, and settling in to his bed, I found my exhausted self struggling to fall asleep. And he must have felt the same. We started talking. Across the apartment, through the never-closed bedroom door.
For someone so melodic, so musical, a creator of beautiful sounds, he had that disappointing silent laugh, a simple exhale of breaths through his nose. And the slight raspiness his tired voice acquired reminded me of the time we were together and he pushed a strand of hair out of my face and I slapped his hand away and left. I never fell in love with him.
But I didn’t realize I missed him.