I fell for you
Slowly, like a decrescendo
- Kristen Camino, The Composition
I looked over and saw her sitting by herself at the table closest to the door. She didn’t look like she was waiting on or expecting anyone, so I assumed she had come here like me - to lose herself in a way that enabled her to be found. Music. She looked like it held her here, rooted in her being just as much as it was rooted in mine. I was awestruck.
She watched me with an inhuman familiarity, her green eyes smoldering and setting me aflame. I know her from somewhere, I thought. Her dark brown hair framed her face, and her hands were clasped together as she leaned back in her chair, her legs folded underneath her chair as she crossed them. She held no novel or steaming cup of coffee in her hands, but she just sat and focused on me, a thoughtful expression on her face that smoothed out after a few seconds into a kind of calm that was contagious.
Suddenly it wasn’t as if I was playing for the rest of the audience – it was as if I was playing for her.
I faltered, my fingers fumbling for what felt like the first time in years, but as I quickly recovered, I noticed her lips turn up just slightly. Her head cocked perceptibly to one side as she listened.
I drifted into a new song. It was one that I’d never played before, but my fingers knew what to do, smoothly gliding along the strings of my bass as if I’d rehearsed it a million times already. I had no idea what it was, but for once I didn’t think that I really needed to. The girl was watching me as if she knew that I was playing it for her, something in her eyes intriguing me, and so I didn’t take my eyes from her until I voyaged to the end of what was now her song.
People started clapping, and before I exited the stage and cased my guitar, I said a quick thanks into the microphone, trying not to sound ungrateful for the rest of the audience, though at this moment I wasn’t concerned about their opinions. I knew that she would wait for me - I felt something unspoken between us – but I hurried anyways.
She was still sitting there at the table, pretending to look down at her hands, but I could tell that she was actually watching me out of the corner of her eyes. I headed her way, noticing how her eyes lit up as she looked up and at me, and took a seat in the chair across from where she was sitting. Her eyebrows lifted in a knowing way, a smile playing on her lips. I knew then that she’d been expecting me to come over, and I had proved her right.
“Would you like some coffee?” I asked her, and she smiled in response – something I appreciated. Her smile spoke more for her than words ever could. I could just see her as being a coffee girl, and apparently I was right, for as soon as I came back with our coffees she accepted it with cold, grateful hands.
“Thank you,” she said, and in those two words I fell in love with her warm, honey voice.
She pushed the hair out of her face and leaned forward, gripping her coffee mug tightly. I wanted to do something - to tuck her hair behind her ear, to touch her collarbone that was so prominent above her shirt, or to just reach over and take a hold of her hand. Instead, I gripped my hands together to keep them from doing anything, because I didn’t know how she would react. I focused on her eyes, holding me prisoner and luring me in with their gold flecks and their guarded expression.
“Where did you learn how to play?” She tilted her head towards where my case lay against the wall by the small stage.
“I taught myself.” She nodded, pursing her lips in a thoughtful way.
“I’m actually very boring,” I admitted.
She laughed, and its musical lilt hung in the air between us. “That’s not true! I find you interesting.”
And there she was doing it again, mesmerizing me with those eyes. It seemed to me as if she wasn’t even knowingly doing it.
“Do you live here? I’ve never seen you around.”
In reply she looked down into her coffee cup. I waited for her spoken response, and after a couple of long seconds she quietly said, “Yeah, I’ve lived here my whole life.”
“Do you go to high school here?” I was a senior this year, turning eighteen next April.
“No, I’m home schooled.” I caught a wrong note in her voice, but I didn’t call her out on it.
I looked at her curiously and said, “I feel like I know you from somewhere... Where have I seen you before?”
She shrugged and kept her eyes cast downward, but I continued to analyze her, trying to put a memory to her face. She looked like she was thinking about what she could say - or what she was allowed to tell me. Why is she holding back? The guilty look on her face confused me, and I wondered what could be so secretive. Was she hiding something?
“Have you eaten yet? Are you hungry? The bread and muffins here are really good,” I lightly changed the subject, and she looked up from under her lashes, smiling at me gratefully.
“Not yet, but I’m actually not that hungry.” She took another sip of her coffee, and I noticed how her lips perfectly parted as she set her cup down, a white sliver of her perfect teeth barely visible. I hurried and diverted my eyes down to my own untouched coffee before she could notice.
She surprised me by somewhat changing the subject back, although I detected hesitancy in her words. “Do you play here often? I come here a lot, and I myself have played here a few times, but I don’t think I completely recognize you…”
“I play here on Tuesdays and Thursdays for some extra cash and the opportunity for practice.”
She nodded, “I’ve played here some Fridays and Saturdays. We’ve probably crossed paths a few times. By the way, my name is Brooklyn. But most people call me Brooke. Brooke Clarino.”
I held out my hand, and then it clicked. I recognized that name! “I’m David! David Berceuse! I do know you! You’re the one who I’d always see here, browsing the books and begging her dad for coffee! Do you remember how we met, in the music shop with our instruments and then running into one another here at the café? We used look for books together and talk about music?”
She reached her right hand out and shook my outstretched hand, her fingers pausing against mine, her eyes bright with recognition. “I remember now! I think that was when I was in 8th grade…”
I grinned wide, thrilled at meeting her again. “I was a freshman in high school then! How did we ‘fall apart’? We didn’t see each other again after those few months, from the middle of summer to fall…”
Yet, it felt like I’d known her my whole life. I didn’t know why, but I felt completely comfortable with her already, having nothing to hide from her. I felt as if she was one of my friends who had gone on vacation for a week and then returned. This beautiful, mysterious, [somewhat] stranger had somehow already wormed herself into me. I felt an urge to get to know her better, wanting nothing else than to just talk to her; she intrigued me in a way that other girls did not, but it felt so natural to be with her.
“You have a really good voice! Do you ever sing?” she asked as she broke my thoughts, her eyes darting down to my lips and back up to my eyes in such a subtle way that I wasn’t sure if it hadn’t been imagined.
“Thank you, I actually don’t put lyrics to my songs though; I just play the music and it says all that it needs to,” to myself I thought that that sounded lame, so I truthfully added, “I’d like to hear you sing sometime, though. I’m sure it would be beautiful.”
She smiled shyly and said nothing, just looked at me and then down to my coffee.
“Not a fan?” She asked, her eyebrows coming together in what I read as confusion. She was probably wondering why I’d bought it in the first place if I wasn’t going to drink it.
“Not really,” I admitted, “But it does warm up my hands.”
She laughed lightly and took another, dramatic sip of hers. “I don’t see how you can’t be a fan! This is my drug.”
I looked at her as if trying to take a mental snapshot, and she noticed and smiled her perfect, dazzling smile. One of her eyebrows lifted so slightly that I knew that it wasn’t something she was doing on purpose, or probably even something that she knew about herself. To know something about her that she wasn’t even aware of about herself felt somehow intensifying.
She glanced at her cell phone, which had been lying beside her napkin on the table. “I probably ought to get going; it’s getting late and cold. But can we meet again?”
“Of course!” I said. “May I have your number? Do you want to meet here tomorrow at noon?”
“Yes and yes,” she said, and I pulled out my phone to get her contact information, appealed at having another chance to see her again so soon.
“Brooke Clarino,” she repeated her name and then put her number in my phone.
“I’ll see you at noon tomorrow,” I told her.
And then she gracefully got up and walked out the door and into my life.