many kinds of notes.
It wasn’t that the spot near the alcove was “officially” his, Sax knew. It wasn’t that. Just that it was near where people he knew sometimes walked, and it was one of the places he played, regular.
Well, he might not play there today, the big black man realized.
The sax player set his battered case down next to the considerably more battered case of the cellist, before him. A nondescript can sat at the older man’s feet, but it wasn’t for tips. It held a paper cup of coffee, and kept the contents from spilling over, in the New York wind.
Not playing for tips, then, Sax thought. Though he was playing. He also didn’t have a sign up. One that “God Blessed” you for leaving money, or told you to “Have A Nice Day.”
The black musician listened to the white one for a long minute, his stocking cap clad head cocked to one side.
"She got a name?" Sax asked, finally.
The older white man sitting on the widest part of the cello case looked up, his view all but blocked by his un-asked for companion. Tall. Long, dark coat, a stocking cap and a crocheted scarf. Sax case. Either blind, or wore dark shades, to give that impression. Might be a smart trick. Might get more donations, that way.
"Everybody’s got a name," the cellist replied, running his strong, nimble fingers up an arpeggio. As a cellist, he respected musicians, but saxophone wasn't his thing. Saxophone was for jazz players and high school marching bands. He was classical. Always had been. Not that he was a snob about it, or ever had been. He wasn't. And certainly not in his current condition.
Sax eyed his companion’s nearly bare feet. "What'd you sell your shoes for? Food? Or booze?" he asked conversationally, leaning against the wall next to the cellist as if he'd been invited. He hadn't been.
A measure of time passed. Four beats, in common time. "What makes you think I sold my shoes?" the cellist asked, wiggling his naked toes inside a pair of brand new, brilliant white, bargain of the bottom bin, “never-wear-white-shoes-after-Labor-Day,” flip-flops. And it was definitely after Labor Day. Well after.
Sax tilted his warm head and chuckled. "The fact that November is coming on might have something to do with it. They take your socks, too?" he queried.
Again, four silent beats in a measure. "I didn't sell them for food. Or for booze," the cellist answered, running a scale. The A string was just a touch flat, and they both heard it. The seated man turned an ebony peg.
"Drugs?" Sax asked. There were only so many options, after all.
The cellist closed one eye and looked up, with the other. Might be near-sighted, yet without glasses, Sax realized.
The younger man could feel the older one deciding whether or not he felt like answering. After about half a minute, the older one chose to.
"Bow rosin," the cellist said, pulling a large cube of it out of his pants pocket. "I can't play, without it."
He rosined up the gorgeous horsehair bow and pulled it with effortless grace across the now perfectly tuned strings. His left hand played a quick little melody on the ebony fingerboard. He kept his pared white nails short and even. Very.
Sax admired his technique. It was impressive, and it was meant to be.
"I parted with my wristwatch once, when my last reed split. Damn December wind," the black man confided. He knew what it was to give something up, for his art. Not to mention so he could eat.
"Sounds tough," the cellist observed, but kept playing. Sax shrugged his coat-clad shoulders.
"Not too bad. I worked the rest of the afternoon, and got it back out of hock. I was okay."
The cellist nodded at the information, and began a different tune. Something classy. Something the crowd that patronized the Met would probably know the name of, Sax realized.
Sax thought the cellist was through speaking with him, until he stopped playing the piece. He didn't say anything, however. Just seemed to sit there, waiting to see if Sax had another comment.
"You get better tips if you open the case," Sax observed, noting that the falling-apart case the man now sat on was understandably closed, to bear his weight. Closed, but not perfectly. A spot near the neck of the case gapped open a little, thanks to the upper latch being shot.
To say the case had seen better years was an understatement. To say it looked as if it had been dropped off a train wasn't. Mostly white with touches of brown, the brown showed the color of the leather that had once covered the case. The leather was split and peeling off, slowly giving way to the white underlay, which had been hit by paint and travel stickers. The hinge on one end looked bent, and the dodgy clasp that was supposed to hold the neck closed looked all but gone.
"Course with your case, that might not always work out," Sax said, figuring the case would probably just flop closed, if he tried to open it. The tension spring that held the lid open was likely long gone as well.
The cellist smiled for the first time. He had deep crow's feet around his eyes, and his teeth looked fairly decent, like they'd regularly seen a toothbrush and never seen a fist fight. There was no smell of liquor around him, nor the miasma of drugs. There wasn’t even the smell of the coffee, long cold in the cup.
“It's had better years," the cellist said, indicating his makeshift seat with a glance.
"Ain't we all," Sax replied.
He took in this man, this man he'd just met. This fellow musician, clearly down on his luck. A shock of thick brown hair was combed straight back off his forehead, and definitely in need of a cut. Long strands of grey threaded their way through the brown. Deep lines bracketed a mouth that still knew how to smile, but looked just as comfortable in a concentrating frown.
A large crowd flowed around them. Sax checked the watch he’d dug out of hock. Quitting time. The skyscrapers around them disgorged their human bounty out onto the street.
The stranger beside Sax closed his eyes, tilted his head to the side and began to play, really play. It was a tune Sax had never heard, yet seemed strangely familiar, as old classical pieces often did. The cellist played with deep heart, and gorgeous phrasing. His instrument was clearly a superior one, as was his talent level. He was good. More than.
It seemed insane that such a talented individual should be sitting out here in an alcove, playing for no money, wearing flip flops while late autumn's chill nipped at his toes.
"You got a talent," Sax observed, when he was through.
"Yeah. Talent ain't money. Or a lot of other things," he shrugged.
It wasn't that.
"No. But it's a way to get you some," Sax stated.
"It is,” his companion agreed. “If that's what you want to use it for." He gave a peg a half turn. The A string was inclined to slip. Probably needed a fresh set of pegs for the strings.
"You don't?" Sax asked.
The cellist shook his head, and set the bow to the strings again. This time Sax did recognize the tune. It was a Bach concerto. Sax couldn’t play it, but he could recognize it.
"I'd rather push a broom for money. I can't sell this," the cellist said.
He switched to Brahms Lullaby. Then jazzed up the ending, and a passing woman laughed. She reached into her pocket for change, but then saw there was no case to throw it in, and that the can was full of the coffee cup. She walked on. The cellist seemed unconcerned. Sax just watched the scene.
"So. What's her name?" Sax asked again. The cellist looked after the retreating woman's back.
"How should I know?" he asked.
"No. Not her. Her." he said, indicating the beautiful instrument the cellist was caressing, even now. "Or the other her. The reason you're like this."
The cellist almost laughed.
"What makes you think it was a woman?" He raised a curious eyebrow.
Sax smiled a gold-toothed smile. "Because it always is."
The cellist grinned at that, seeming to agree without agreeing. He played something almost cheerful, for a minute, and then changed, again.
The next tune he played was a mournful one. Full of lost love. Full of ... longing. Several more people walked by, clearly intending to tip, then found they were unable to. One set fifty cents at his feet, anyway. The musician seemed not to notice.
"I won't give you cash. But I'll get you something to eat," Sax offered.
The cellist shook his head 'no,' as he played.
"Pair of socks, then?"
Fine. If the dude wanted to sit out here in nothing more than long sleeves, no coat and flip flops, it wasn't nothing to Sax. He'd met crazy people before. Lots crazier than this. This was New York City. Breeding ground for “crazy.”
Still, he was curious. Curious as to what had brought this obviously talented man so low. The sad song ended.
"So. No name, huh?" Sax asked.
The man brought up the bow and looked at Sax with clear, brown eyes.
"There's strength in a name. Power in one.” The look shifted from clear to faraway. “I don’t know her name. What it is. Or what it was, if she’s dead by now.” He let several long seconds pass. “I never found her.” He paused again, then set the bow to the strings carefully. Very carefully.
“I don't know her name,” he repeated, drawing out a long note. “So I play her name. And I hope she'll come, when she hears it."
He delicately wound his way through a few notes of another sad song. He was doing just as he said. He was calling someone.
For all its mournful urging, the city swallowed the sound. No one came, at least no one he was looking for.
"You play sad," Sax said.
"I am sad. Been missing her a long time. I figure that means she's been missing me, too."
He continued to play. Sax figured “what the hell,” and flipped open the latches on his own case, putting together his instrument while the cellist continued his sweetly melancholy tune.
The cellist didn't stop him, or try to tell him 'no.' Sax set his case open for donations, and began to improvise, slowly, matching the cellist's key, and following his lead.
It was an odd sort of duet. People who walked by would throw in loose change, or sometimes a buck or two into the open saxophone case.
They finished the song, and then Sax took the lead. Nothing too fast or too spritely, nothing that would ruin the voice of the low, mournful string instrument. The cellist followed this time, artfully.
He stopped Sax once, to re-rosin a spot on his bow, then gently held it by the rosewood inlaid frog, and they continued. After a while, the bottom of sax's case was awash in loose change, with the occasional pile of coins holding down the bills from fluttering away.
Before long, a familiar shadow fell across Sax's busy form. Catherine Chandler. Come straight from work, judging by her sharp suit and heels. The heels were high. Must have been a court day. Sax knew little things about her, thanks to their years of brief interaction. And of course, he knew one big thing about her. The secret that bound them.
She nodded to him as he played his impromptu duet, and she took a folded bill out of her pocket. He knew there was a note tucked inside it. He'd have to make sure he got it before he split his take with the cellist, if she threw it inside the case, as she usually did.
The cellist felt her shadow as well, since the late afternoon sun now slanted firmly in his direction and Cathy had been standing there for a good minute. He opened his dark eyes.
The woman was beautiful. The autumn sun loved her hair gold, and her eyes were like green leaves. He put down his bow.
"That ain't her," Sax said, seeing the motion. He had to stop playing to talk. The curse of a reed instrument.
"Of course it isn't," the cellist replied, not taking his eyes off her face. "She's belongs to someone else. Completely." Catherine had no idea what they were talking about, and she shot Sax a look.
The cellist stopped to admire the lovely view before him, as Catherine took in the exchange between the two men.
She’d never known Sax to play with another person, before. She carefully tucked the bill into Sax's palm, rather than risk dropping it in the open case. Putting the money into his hand was the safest way to handle the situation, all things considered, she decided.
Catherine turned to walk away.
"And that somebody isn't you, in spite of the note she just handed you." The cellist’s dark eyes were sharp. Very. And his correct observation put Cathy off balance enough to turn her back around.
"How do you know I handed him a note?” she asked. “Maybe I just wanted to pay him for the music.” Her voice was courtroom cool, certain she'd folded the message carefully, so that the paper didn't show.
The cellist smiled again, broader this time. "The case is open for pay. And it wasn't what you did. It was how you did it."
Curious, Catherine tilted her head to one side, and watched him as he carefully set down his bow, propped his instrument up against the wall, and leaned over to pull a one dollar bill out of the open sax case. He sat up and held her eyes as he folded it similarly to how she had done, tightly, and wrapped around several times. The sun was still making a halo of her sandy hair.
"You look like an angel, standing there," the cellist said as he creased the fold of the dollar bill with his short nails. "And I bet he's told you that, too. Bet he thinks it every time he sees you with your back to the light.” His words surprised Catherine, and she was aware that her guarded expression had changed completely to astonishment. She tried to school her face into a look of polite dismissal, but was aware she didn’t quite pull it off.
His voice dropped low. “It's all right Juliet. I won't give you and Romeo away.”
Sax frowned at his good friend. Catherine’s face looked startled. A look Sax had never seen on her, and there it was. Out in full view for everybody to see, even him, with his dark shades. The cellist had pegged her right. Pegged her dead right.
"This, is 'I'm paying you money,'” the cellist said, holding the bill by its very end, and extending it until she took it.
His voice softened further as he took the folded dollar back from her nerveless fingers.
"But this," his hand grasped the bill more firmly. Much more firmly. It was swallowed up in his palm until just the tip of the money showed, just enough to reveal that it was indeed money.
"This is 'There's a message in here for someone I love. Someone I'll always love. You have to make sure that he gets it. You have to make sure he knows I'm thinking of him.'" He extended the bill forward and waited for Catherine to hold out her hand. Instead of dropping the bill into it, he put his other hand beneath hers, cradling it a moment before he placed the folded paper into her palm, carefully. He let his hand linger to make sure the bill had settled, and wouldn't blow away in the wind.
"This is 'I love you.' This is 'You are so important to me.'" He closed her fingers over the money and then withdrew his hands, gently, holding them up to indicate he meant no offense.
She was very aware that she’d used the second gesture.
He picked up the bow, resettled his instrument between his legs, and played a string of thirds. C major.
"It's okay, Juliet,” the cellist said, easily. “Maybe he'll come to your balcony when he gets your note. Say something to make you fall in love, a little more."
Catherine's eyes didn’t blink until she realized he was referencing the play by Shakespeare, and not the contents of her note, or of her life.
She'd known this stranger for ten minutes and he already knew far, far too much about her.
"My name isn't 'Juliet,'" she rasped. It was all she could think to say.
"Of course it is. You're a Capulet and he's a Montague. It's why you have to pass him a note." He checked the C string while he told her she was wrong.
He didn’t even look at her as he plucked the string, testing. "Next thing you know, you'll tell me you don't have a balcony, or that he's never climbed up it just to see you.”
His dark gaze held her green one, again. “Don’t worry, Juliet. You're among friends."
Helpless with confusion, Catherine looked at Sax, but she couldn't see his eyes, thanks to the dark shades he wore. He could only shrug, for an answer.
Catherine looked down, needing to hide her eyes from this too-perceptive stranger. "You don't have any shoes on.” She stated the obvious, once her eyes were focused firmly in the downward direction. “Not ones fit for this weather, at least."
It was the first thing that came out of her mouth as she tried to take inventory of him, starting with his feet. The endpin of the cello sat between them.
"He sold it for rosin. We already had that part of the conversation," Sax told her. The cellist began to play again, content that the C string was now firmly in tune. He played softly. Lightly, so they could talk.
"Did you ever sell your shoes for love, Juliet?" he asked as he began to finger his way through Bach, again.
"My name is Catherine."
The bow stopped. He took in her name, and she could sense it as he did that. As he breathed it in and owned it. Perhaps it had been a mistake to give it to him.
"Of course it is,” he stated. “Such a pretty name. He knows your name. He caresses you, every time he says it. Every time he thinks it."
The cellist caressed the strings with the bow, and his fingers slid lovingly down the long neck, stopping with a vibrato his naked left ring finger could barely reach, it was so low.
It was an incredibly intimate conversation, yet Catherine felt more curious than put upon. How did this man know so much?
"I bet you had a nickname, when you were a girl.” He surprised her by saying it. “Were you a Katie or a Cathy?"
Ah. So he didn't know everything.
"I was a Cathy. Sometimes," she replied.
"A ‘princess dress Cathy’ or a ‘skinned knees Cathy?’" he asked, then turned his head toward Sax, confiding, "It's so hard to find someone when there are diminutives of names. Then meanings, inside those.”
Sax said nothing in reply, as he adjusted his mouthpiece, a little.
"I was a ‘climbing trees Cathy,’" Catherine answered, aware that this was by far the strangest conversation she'd had in a while.
The grey in his brown hair was getting silvered, by the late afternoon sun. "Ah. Looking for him even then. In the park?" he asked.
There were trees in the park, Catherine frowned, scrambling to control her sudden fear. Of course, there were trees in the park. That’s why he said it. He doesn’t know. He couldn’t know. But this man was hitting far too close to home, far too often.
"No," she lied. He knew it. And called her on it.
"Liar. It's okay. We all lie, now and then. Especially to protect what we love.” The cellist closed his eyes and turned from her a little. He played Saint Saens, for a minute. Something from Carnival of the Animals. Sax did not join in.
Catherine stood, listening, aware that his talent level was considerable. Not virtuoso perhaps, but close. And the instrument he played was of exceptional quality, even if the case wasn't. She also knew she should go. Just drop another folded bill into the open case, and leave.
But somehow, she couldn't get her feet to move. “The March of the Lions” gave way to “The Swan.” Catherine swallowed the lump in her throat. He was playing beautifully. And she couldn’t help but notice the irony of his taste in music.
He kept his head tilted and his brow furrowed, a little bit, while he concentrated. He looked older with his eyes closed, she realized. The deep crow’s feet radiating from their corners became more apparent, as did the grey in his hair, without the dark of his eyes to combat it. He was pale, thanks to playing in the shadows of the tall buildings. The beard stubble that outlined his jaw was as silvered as his hair, she realized.
Catherine reached into her wallet and put the money in. A few other passersby did the same. A stout man in a business suit and a long trench coat stopped the longest, and tossed in a five. He knew he'd heard something wonderful. And perhaps it had reminded him of something. Of someone. His expression was sad, and when he walked away it was Catherine who spoke up first.
"He's lost someone," Catherine said, watching the wide, retreating back.
"You're learning," The cellist approved of her verdict. "Music touches souls. And it echoes. He'll be thinking about it for a while, and hearing the song."
He changed to something else, something Catherine didn't recognize. This time, Sax joined in, again.
There was only a little sunlight left, and it was fading fast. The long shadows of the buildings cast the three of them in cooling dimlight.
When the two men were done with the song, Sax began disassembling his instrument, and clearing out the case so he could store the source of his livelihood. He divided the money in half.
"Keep it," the cellist said.
He closed one eye again and fixed the other on Catherine. "Tree-climbing Cathy has to get on home. Wait for him. And he never calls her Cathy."
This time she visibly swayed. "How do you know that?" she demanded. There was shock in her tone, and she couldn't begin to resist asking.
His face was more than half-cast in shadow. And his voice dropped low, again. Almost as intimately low as the lowest note on his instrument. "It's what I would do. What I will do, when I find her name. If I ever do.” He paused. Four beats in a measure, before he spoke again.
“It's how he makes love to you longer. How he draws it out, Cathy. Catherine." He spoke the difference, and Catherine heard it. Heard the extra syllable in her name, and heard it in a low timbre that was suddenly so like Vincent's, she staggered, on the sidewalk. Sax reached out to hold her elbow.
"Easy," Sax said.
But this wasn’t easy. It was hard. Hard to hear a stranger dissect your life, after only just meeting you. And he was right. Right about all of it. Vincent, who had never touched her intimately, caressed her name every time they were together. The sound of Vincent saying her name had always warmed her, always started a fluttering sensation inside her chest, and inside their bond. Her name was a love word, when he said it.
"Please don't call me Catherine," she requested, aware that her eyes were too huge, right now.
"I won't,” he all but whispered. “That's for him." His voice was beyond kind. "Tell him for me that he is a lucky man."
Catherine’s eyes held unaccountable tears. She looked down, reached into her purse, and pulled out a large bill. "Please take this.” She pushed it forward. “Buy yourself a hot meal. A pair of shoes. A decent coat.” She listed the things he most obviously lacked.
Sax stepped closer, not liking this, not sure Catherine wasn’t being played.
But the cellist shook his head in denial of her offer. "I don't need any of those things, Juliet. I don't think I even want them, anymore. We both know what I need. And I been out here too long, looking."
He was too old to be young and too young to be old. And something in them all knew he was running out of time.
"That instrument had a fine case, once." She was scrambling for conversation. For a way to make him stay, for time to try to figure out how to aid him. Who was he? And how could she help him, and should she even try, considering how much he already knew about her?
"It did,” he agreed. “I sold it."
"What will you do when you run out of things to sell?" She knew that’s what was happening to him.
He shrugged his muscular shoulders. Playing his instrument had kept him in shape. "Beats me. I'll never sell the cello. We both know that.” He looked down the street at the mass of humanity all around them. None of them was “her.” He seemed to know that just by looking. Plus, she hadn’t come to him. Hadn’t come when he’d called.
“I don’t know what I’ll do,” he answered Catherine honestly. “Live some more. Die, maybe. Eventually, we all do.” He carefully checked the cake of rosin still in his pocket, making sure it was tucked well down. “I’m not sure. Maybe that's how I'll meet her. Maybe she went on, ahead of me." His tone was full of a stark kind of candor Catherine found unsettling.
"It's not like that." Catherine let the tears in her eyes fall, and she saw Sax slipping the folding money into the slit opening of the battered instrument case as she held the cellist’s dark gaze.
"Love isn't like that. It doesn't kill you," she said.
The cellist sighed long and low, letting his breath out in a carefully controlled stream. With his next words his voice dropped to beyond gentle, beyond soft. A brushing of air, across still strings.
"It does when you don't find it," he said, knowing it was true.
His deep brown gaze held hers. "You saved him, Cathy. Saved him from years of aloneness. Saved him from despair. From an early grave, or wishing for it. Go home, Juliet,” he urged her. “Go home, and be with him. Keep his aloneness at bay. Let him be with you, say your name. Let him make love to you, a little more, every time he says it."
He stood and flipped open his case casting a disapproving look Sax's way, when he spotted the cash.
"Don't even think about it. I pay my debts," Sax said, unscrewing the ligature on the mouthpiece so he could free the reed.
Catherine eyed the contents of the incredibly battered cello case. Aside from the cash, there was an extra shirt tucked inside the neck. He was using the case for luggage. And the loose shirt was all he had for a coat. He put it on.
"You need a jacket. And a pair of boots," she insisted.
"Maybe I do this for kicks. Maybe I'm really the sole heir to my father’s fortune, and I live on Park Avenue," he deflected, as he fished out the shirt.
"That would be me, actually," Catherine replied.
He flipped up his collar against the chill of the oncoming night. "Ah. So what do you do for kicks, Cathy tree-climber?"
It was a serious question, lightly posed. She knew it by the look he was giving her.
"I save people." She realized the declaration sounded almost pompous, but she went with it. "I work for the DA's office, and I save people." She straightened as she said it, and he could see the warrior in her, see the strength.
He shot her a winning smile. "He must have spotted you a mile away and coming," he said, unscrewing the endpin from his instrument so he could store it.
"Not exactly," she replied.
Sax wouldn't move. Wouldn't leave her standing alone with him. And they all knew it was time to part.
The cellist set his instrument lovingly inside its battered shelter. His next words were said in almost reverent tones, and he held her gaze while he said them. “Did he help you to it? Help you find your way to it? Change you from ‘tree-climbing Cathy’ to ‘I save people Cathy’? Is that what he did for you?”
She couldn’t look away, and couldn’t prevaricate.
“Yes.” Catherine didn’t lie, not this time. She just couldn’t. “Yes, that’s what he did for me.” The truth came out as a hoarse whisper.
He nodded, and looked back down to his beyond-battered instrument case. “That’s good. That’s good, then,” he said, rigging the weak latch so that it would close. Sort of. “See how strong love is, when it finds you?” he asked.
He looked up from his chore. “I can’t find her, Cathy. Or she can’t find me. I don’t know why. I just know it’s been true, so far.” He gave her a sad smile.
Catherine knew he was about to leave. Just as he was. And likely with everything he owned in the world, with him.
“You can’t give up,” she said.
Again, the sad smile. “I’m not giving up, princess. If tomorrow comes and I wake up, I’ll look some more, play some more. Look until I can’t. That’s how it is. It’s all right. Maybe tomorrow she’ll be there. Who knows?” he said. He scooped up the can and dumped the long cold contents of the cup out onto the street.
"But I can help you. I can... save you. If you let me," Catherine offered.
He shook his head, and was almost casual in his dismissal of her. "I don't want saved, Juliet. At least not by you. That's not your fate. But I thank you for wanting to. 'Night, all." He nodded toward both of them, as he said it.
The cellist hefted the shabby case, the rusting handle good enough to make the trip without giving way, at least this time. His flip flops made a summer sound as he went down the autumn street. Then the crowd closed around him, and Catherine could only make out flashes of the huge, battered case, as he walked. And then, not even that.
"Maybe he'll be here tomorrow," Cathy said. "Maybe social services can..."
"No. He won't be back here." Sax knew it. He just did.
"But he needs help," Cathy said.
"He ain't a drunk and he ain't a junkie. And he don't want the twenty bucks he's got now," Sax replied, hoisting his own instrument case. "We both know what he wants."
They did. He wanted a woman he couldn’t find. A woman he was searching for. Still.
"Perhaps he could live Below..." Catherine was already spinning her wheels, already thinking she should chase after him. Even though he’d now disappeared from view, he couldn't have gotten far. Not lugging a cello case through a crowd.
"He won't live there. She isn't there, Catherine,” the black man said. “Not the one he's looking for, anyways." Sax knew instinctively that it was true. The women of Below were mostly either girls too young, like Samantha, or women too old, like Mary. The few in between were either already in love, like Olivia, or not likely to fall that way. Sax knew. He just did.
die. Winter's coming on." The leftover tears were making Catherine’s
"Maybe.” Sax double-checked the latches on his case. His deep coat pockets jangled with change, as he made ready to go. “Maybe not. Maybe he'll look up, at the last minute, and there she'll be. Looking like an angel," Sax said, stepping toward the flow of traffic with her. They were about to part company, on the crowded sidewalk.
"Let it go, Cathy. You can't save everybody. And he don't want to be saved. Leastways not by you."
It was exactly what the cellist had told her.
"But I feel so helpless. Feel like there's something I should do!" Catherine all but stomped her well-heeled foot.
"There is something you should do," Sax said, aware that he still had her message to deliver. It would get to Vincent, late. And still bring him on the run, if she said to. Or if Sax did.
"What?" she asked.
"Go home. Wait for him. Tell him he's a lucky man, like the dude said. Even if..." he dropped his voice low. "Even if 'man' doesn't quite fit the description."
Catherine realized how little she knew about this singular, independent man, this man who had carried her messages, both urgent and not, to Vincent, in the years she'd known him. They were both growing older, in each other's company, both bound by their connection to the tunnels, to Vincent. She had no idea how this man had come to know about the tunnel community. But she knew she counted him as a unique kind of friend.
She looked down the busy street, again, realizing the cellist was gone. Probably for good.
There was nothing left to do but what Sax had told her.
"I didn't even get his name.”
"Neither did I," Sax said.
"And you'll only ever let people call you Sax," she commented.
It was what people had called him for years. The only thing they’d called him. It was “Hey, Sax!” and “How ya doin’, Sax?” Aside from the inbreds who occasionally still called him ‘nigger.’
"There's power in a name.” He repeated what the cellist had said. They both knew it was so.
Vincent. Conqueror. Catherine. Innocent.
“I got a message to deliver. You be waiting," he instructed.
They both started off in different directions, backing away from each other as they walked. Him, the way the cellist had gone, and her, toward her apartment.
Inside of a minute, the crowd had divided both of them, and then swallowed them whole. Catherine felt herself being moved along by the momentum of a hundred different bodies, all around her.
The cellist’s haunting instructions came back to her.
"You saved him, Cathy. Saved him from years of aloneness. Saved him from despair. From an early grave, or wishing for it. Go home, Juliet. Go home, and be with him. Keep his aloneness at bay. Let him be with you, say your name. Let him make love to you, a little more, every time he says it."
Catherine knew she would.
No matter where you are in your own street-corner symphony, I wish you love.~ Cindy
Illustrations supplied by the author