The sidewalk was cold and unyielding. She was supposed to be at the grocery store, not sitting on the sidewalk outside of a downtown bar. The sound of music filled the air and her head. She could hear it from where she had parked her car two blocks away. It drew her forward to the outdoor bar like a pied piper.
She had no urge to see him, or for him to see her. She just wanted to hear the music. She missed sitting in the audience and listening to him play. That was the only thing she still missed about him. She had spent months getting him out of her system, untangling him from her heart, but that one thing still remained . . . her love of watching him get lost in his music. So she sat on the sidewalk just listening.
The street was dimly lit and shadows filled all the corners. She had found a shadow to hide in so that he wouldn’t see her. The street still teamed with late-night, weekend revelers enjoying the fading moments of their Saturday night. Usually anxiety made her unable to be around crowds of people, but on that night she was thankful for them. The constant flow of sharply dressed men and women acted as a curtain obscuring any view he might of had of her.
She lit a cigarette, inhaled, and let it out slowly as the notes floated through the air to her ears. They surrounded her like a comforting blanket. Her eyes closed as she let the music hypnotize her. The air was cool and damp and the first hints of fog were starting to roll in off the river, but in that moment for her there was nothing else but the music. The keyboard was light and joyous as the guitar played improvised riffs that drove people from their chairs to dance. The bass was deep and subtle, like a whisper in her ear. Driving it all forward was the him, the drummer. His sticks flew over the cymbals and drum heads with lightning speed in a pattern that was simple but elegant.
Behind her closed eyes she replayed all the times she followed him from show to show. Bars, restaurants, parks . . . anywhere he could set up and play. For months she was faithfully in the audience until the night that she realized that he had become more important to her than anything else. She had spent months spinning endless lies to her family, friends, and coworkers just so she could sneak away to watch him play. He welcomed her in the audience and over time came to expect her to be in a chair clapping and cheering for him. She let herself believe that he needed her there more than he wanted her there, but deep down she always knew that she was only lying to herself. One night after a show she knew she had to unravel the web of lies she had woven around herself and she had to leave that life behind for good. The music was the last vestige of that former life. It was the one string she hadn’t gotten strong enough to cut.
So she sat on the sidewalk, her cigarette burning down to the filter, as the music wove around her like a spell. Minutes passed unnoticed as the song continued on. The voices of people in the street went unheard. All she could hear was the music as it carried on and on through the night air carrying her with it. The speeding notes became a frenzy tightening around her body like a vise that she welcomed. Her heart and her memories raced with the speed of the song. She didn’t need to see him to know that he was as carried away with the music as she was. She knew that his body was no longer moving under it own accord, that it was the music that was moving him, just as it moved her. That is what she missed. She welcomed it the way a drug addict welcomes that first taste after a glimpse of withdraw. She could feel the music taking her higher and higher. She needed it. Her body longed for it, and she let it carry her away oblivious to everything else around her.
Then it was done.
A blur of sticks flying over drum heads and a final crash of cymbals brought it to an end.
She sat for a few more moments on the sidewalk, reluctant to open her eyes and break the spell. She didn’t want to give up the shadows and the anonymity that they provided as she allowed herself to get as lost in his music as he did. But the music was over. The spell was broken. The chill in the air replaced the warmth of the music. The voices of weekend revelers filled in the emptiness left behind by the music. The forbidden high had already begun to wear off, lasting only as long the music carried through the air. It was over.
She flicked her burned-down cigarette into the street, slowly stood up from the sidewalk, and walked away. She had briefly glimpsed him, but he never saw her. He never knew she was there that night. It would be a secret that would remain forever between her and the shadows of that cool, hypnotic, downtown Saturday night.