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Violoncello


by Danny Goodman


The woman held sheet music with one sturdy hand, the way one steadies a paperback, forefinger and pinky spread out in a wide V. Her gaze didn't break from the notes, not even as people shuffled into place through the open subway doors at Brooklyn Bridge. She shifted back to a newly vacated seat, her blonde hair lit up against the dark window behind. Through that opaque frame, one could see only pretend things.
As she read on, the woman's head moved in slight, edgeless motions. Her eyelashes seemed, too, to catch the melody in equal time. A vagrant slid past, using metal poles for balance, and the sound of his soleless sneakers scraping against winter-wet floor did nothing to shake her attention. Soon, the train would leave this island, under the cover of river, and a new music would emerge. Her fingers tapped at the base of her palm.
A rest came in the space between boroughs, and the woman reached to the inside pocket of her pea coat. Her fingers revealed a long, slender cigarette perched between knuckles. She relaxed her lips, running her tongue over just once, and depressed them around the bleach-white paper. Without being lit, it moved in figure eights. It guided the song. The woman closed her eyes then, breaking contact with the faded accidentals on the page, and took a breath so deep the whole train felt it. As she exhaled, she released chords and clefs and perfect fifths into the car, her cigarette continuing its conductive dance. She caught sight of those around her, those riders who had moved closer and closer to her concerto, and watched their heads and feet and hands follow her rhythm, infinite waves swirling and radiating and capturing the person beside. Soon, no one would be still. Instead, the striking of string against callused fingertip would replace the normalcy of commute, the bawl of metal on metal, of hurdling through the tunneled darkness between minutes.

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