An Ear For It
“Ladies, gentlemen, Willkommen! And Bienvenue! Welcome! I am your hostess, Ginny Sinclair.” She paused for applause, or some recognition. “Thank you. Well, you are all in for a treat tonight, and I am glad you have taken that step, that chance, to fill your hearts with the music of love among those who love music. Welcome, to our twelfth “Speed Dating for Songbirds!” If I may paraphrase Pablo Picasso: “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
“Our previous get-togethers have helped many of the participants find their perfect duet partner; Contraltos find their Altos, Bassos harmonious with the Sopranos of their dreams. Tonight, I’m sure many of you will get to star in your own Musical of Love.”
Ginny looked out at her crowd. Many were obviously nervous, with a few more put-upon faces dotting around. The smiles of anticipation filled her enough. She hoped. Each gathering drew smaller crowds. Ginny smiled with outer confidence as she walked in the light of the room, her red dress’s sequins casting out tiny bursts, her idea of enchanting them all. Herself as well, as her insides were wavering and withering, counting how many First Seating envelopes she was passing out to the men and women.
Brave face on, she continued her spiel. “I’m glad, so many of you partook of the lovely Italian buffet that Mrs. Chang laid out for us tonight.” A smattering of applause went round, as Mrs. Chang went into the kitchen to take a nap. “Just a reminder, the food is included in your admission price, sadly the wine is not, but…” She looked around, making sure to make eye contact with all, “…but, your hearts, ears, and voices, they are the main course.
Please open your envelopes. They have your Opening Numbers seating. The first of your heartstrings to be plucked. Let the beautiful music of this night begin.” As the assemblage started to make their ways, she added: “Break a leg, but not a heart.”
Charles still had his small plate of linguini with, he thought, clam sauce, in his right hand. The left held a glass of red wine and the envelope. He fumbled a bit, trying to spill or drop anything, finally managing to open the envelope. Pulling out and unfolding it, he looked at a musical notation sheet. Charles saw that he had to find the Middle C/Treble Clef table. It was clever, he thought, and frustrating at the same time. The lighting had lowered when the hostess finished her into.
He was hoping to find the compliment to his clean Tenor. Looking around, he didn’t notice that he was walking right towards Ginny until he bumped into her, spilling some of his wine, dropping the sheet of paper, and almost dumping his plate of linguini. Her red sequins glittered across his face, hiding his blush, as they both knelt, gingerly, to retrieve the seating invitation.
Their heads bumped into each other.
His “ouch” came at the same time as hers, causing them to hold. There was a melding, a perfect counterpoint to the other, rich and, he felt, melodious. They grinned, stood, and Ginny pointed Charles in the correct direction. He nodded his thanks and set off to the table that had been right behind him.
Charle’s first partner was already waiting at the table. Leaning away from the table, he noticed the amount of black she sported, from hair to makeup to dress to fingernail polish. It was those nails that took in his attention as he sat and introduced himself. Silence, except for the drumming of her right hand’s nails on the tabletop, a staccato version of Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt Abhanden Gekommen.”
“Yeah, I’m lost to the world, too,” he thought. He introduced himself again. A long rest took place as she stopped tapping, placing her hand flat down. He waited for the return name. Instead, she took a deep breath, held it, and then purred belted out part of a musical number from “Damn Yankees.”
“Hi, Lola,” Charles answered, glad she forewent the Kinks song. So, he wanted to keep this going, took his deep breath, and sang out “I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I’ve information vegetable, animal and min…”
Ginny had rung the bell by her side. “Gentlemen, please move to the table to your right.”
As he got up to move, Charles saw Lola look over to her next. He didn’t say anything as he moved along.
The rest of the evening proceeded to fumble along. Every opening number was met with an interlude, some dialogue, a parting, and the next act would be dinged to change scenes. Some of the women there was really nice harmony going on, meshing but falling flat by the ring of the bell. Others were audition nightmares. Off tempo, musicals versus opera, pop versus blues, folk versus death metal; world apart styles.
In the end, he was a solo act again.
Charles realized he still had his plate of linguini, ice cold now and congealed. He had brought it table to table, losing the wine glass somewhere along the way.
A shrill “You leave. Now!” brought his attention to Mrs. Chang by the kitchen, bus bin on a table to her right where she was flicking ashes from her cigarette as she pointed to it.
Charles quickly moved to deposit the plate and food. At the same time, Ginny, who had been busing the tables at the end, came quasi-running with a single glass that held no wine, not even a drop.
They bumped into each other again. Again, their “Ouch!” rang out true, blending and moving into laughter. Apologizing to each other they continued to laugh.
Mrs. Chang harrumphed and moved them along, locking the door to her restaurant behind them. If they had looked, they would have seen her mouthing something that could have been a song, but in reality, was a string of very inventive curse words.
Ginny and Charles stood there on the sidewalk, smiles plastered on their faces that were slowly starting to fade. It was late, very little foot or car traffic around them. The awkward silence that dropped around them was broken by squealing brakes caused by the traffic light turning red. The glow from the headlights surrounded them.
Charles mouth quirked shyly upwards. Looking at Ginny, he thought of a song by Chicago that had held him ever since he first heard it. “Nothing to lose,” he thought, and began to sing:
“After all that we’ve been through
I will make it up to you, I promise to…”
Ginny’s smile resurfaced as he sang. She picked up the next two lines:
“And after all that’s been said and done
You’re just the part of me I can’t let go.”
They finished the song together in perfect mellifluousness.