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D. C. al Coda MAG
It was supposedto be a dark and stormy night, if it had to happen at all.Instead, it was an early summer evening. The kind of nightwhen time stops to allow you to notice every part of life. Thekind of night I run barefoot down the street because, for somereason, the pavement seemed cleaner and softer thanusual.
Soft music lingered in the dark air from a blockparty nearby. It sounded like Bud Powell, or perhaps DukeEllington. The notes were scaling the piano in a random order;it was obviously improvisation. The unsure feeling before eachnote reflected the musician's spontaneous and unpreparedperformance. He continually tried to return to a coda, butsomehow couldn't find his way back.
As I approached theblock party I saw a girl who was my camper last summer. Sheoffered me her half-melted ice-cream cone, a generous offerfrom a five-year-old. I refused it with a smile, and continuedon, barefoot, through the calm streets. The familiar smell ofa barbecue made my mouth water and my stomach growl. I thoughtof the ice cream cone. It seemed more appetizingnow.
The parked cars helped me find the party. Inoticed Paul's green car near the corner. I smiled as Iremembered the time we curled up in his trunk together, justto see if we could fit.
Teenagers stood in groups; sometalking quietly, some laughing loudly and others juststanding. Rap music boomed through the air. It sounded likePuff Daddy or Jay-Z. There were no surprises or uncertaintieslike the jazz playing earlier, but maybe uncertainties arewhat make a song worthwhile.
Ifloated between the huddled crowds in front of the house. Theconversations were typical. Who was Samantha's new boyfriend?Did you hear about the party that got busted by the cops lastnight? She did what? Did you see what that new girl waswearing at the pool today?
Yes, typical conversationfilled with comments about other people. I wondered if my namewould have come up if I hadn't been standing in the circle.Probably. Best friends talk about each other behind theirbacks in this small town. My eyes started towander.
The skaters were dressed in their typicaluniform of baggy jeans and an "anti-something"shirt. They were practicing new twists and turns on theirsticker-festooned skateboards on the front steps. I laughedunder my breath as I watched each fall; none seemed to be ableto perfect a trick. Yet, I had to admire them. They, alongwith the musicians, were among the few people who could careless about high-school gossip.
"Hey, who actuallylikes this music?" Jon screamed above theruckus.
He rushed to the stereo and interrupted the rapsong. People turned in his direction. Conversation died downand everyone looked at him curiously.
"Allow me tointroduce my band, Down In Front," hescreamed.
The members of Down In Front went wild.Guitar riffs filled the air while the drums and bassreverberated through the audience. People were smiling andstarting to dance.
There he was. Paul. The boy who usedto run barefoot through the streets with me. The boy who usedto offer me his half-eaten ice cream cone. The boy who used totake me out for coffee and listen to my thoughts on life. Theboy who made me listen to him play his guitar for hours. Theboy who used to be my best friend.
The song ended thesame time my eyes started to burn with tears. I blinked themback to listen to the next song. The drummer switched hissticks to a softer pair and Jon switched to his acousticguitar. Paul sat with his guitar and held the microphone closeto his lips.
When you were here before, I couldn't lookyou in the eye.
My lower lip began to tremble. Heremembered. I looked up; could my tears be those ofjoy?
You're just like an angel.
He was singingour song. I watched his eyes scan the audience. He was evenlooking for me!
You float like a feather in a beautifulworld.
I pushed my way to the front of the crowd so hecould find me. His eyes were still focused in the back. Iwanted to scream and yell and say, "I'm here! I've alwaysbeen here."
You're so very special.
Ilistened to the familiar song fill my head. It'd been so longsince I'd heard it. It seemed different. Paul added someimprovisation. The song was transformed into somethingdifferent; yet the melody was still the same.
I saw himsmile as he locked eyes with someone in the back of theaudience. His girlfriend made her way to the front so he couldserenade her. My tears flowed. I cut across the audience tothe bathroom where I exploded in loud sobs. She stole my song.She stole my best friend.
I buried my face in thecorner of the bathroom. My tears trickled from my eyes insynch with the broken faucet. I pressed my tear-stained faceagainst the peeling flowered wallpaper. I cried for my lostfriendship. I cried for my lost song. I cried for myloneliness.
"What happened to us?" I asked myblurred reflection in the cracked mirror.
"We grewup, Rachel. We grew up," said a trembling voice behindme.
My tears were so loud I didn't hear the music stopand the doorknob turn. Paul stood behind me. His tears weresilent, but even louder than mine. He put his hands on myshoulders; his skin peeled around his nails. Everything seemedto be falling apart.
"The ice-cream cone must bemelted by now," I whispered under my tears.
Ithought of the uncertain notes. I thought of the skatersfalling outside. We stood there for a long time. Longer thanany of the barefooted walks I had ever taken.
"Wecan make this work again, can't we?" Paul finallyasked.
All I could think of was the pianist whocouldn't make his way back to the coda.