You made typewriters sound like music to my untrained ears.
The rusty key-tops as they banged unceremoniously against the lever of the decades-old machines, the triumphant sliding of the carriage release as the girl in the yellow shoes humble-smugly let the rest of us know that she was done with her lines. The dark pink paper folder which the instructor insisted we all have clutched against my chest as I walked out of the second floor room to see you- in your white shirt, and blue jeans and smile at my hair telling me it looked…different, but nice.
My hair; short black braids cut sharply, strictly, almost religiously at the jawline. The practical, near-domestic look which stood out of place in a sea of Brazilian hair weaves cascading down the graceful backs of the beautiful girls in their patent leather pumps.
You made a joke about typewriters, and I laughed. You’d been from your French class, and I resisted the urge to spout out all the French words I knew because I had been pronouncing hors d’oeuvre and chef-d’oeuvre wrongly my entire life, mixing them up as I went along, and butchering sentences even Google Translate couldn’t figure out.
And so I only smiled, and you held my hand and guided me through the current of people as we poured out of the building; you with your white shirt and me with my strict hair. We talked about music, about art, about life. Your observations fresh, un-ironic, and original, my nodding and taking in every single word. You looked at me with such a concentration that I thought you feared that the memory of my face would disappear once you looked away.
And so we bred our habit; you’d wait for me, always, and I for you. And we would walk, me to my typewriting, you to your French, and when it was over we would walk back, and sit under the ‘Congolese’ tree- reveling in the revelations we’d make to each other that we’d never let anyone else know.
Everything was musical; the wind was a song, the footsteps a march, the tap-tap-tap of the key-tops a melody from the libretto of the type-wheel producing a symphony with each line I wrote.
And then, one odd afternoon as the trees played a suite, you were there, under the Congolese tree, five feet away in reality, but on the music you had gone five pages in;- page five system three right at the point where the key switches to D-Minor. With you, a beautiful girl with long flowing Brazilian hair, and patent leather shoes, a girl I could never- even if I tried all the hair, skin, weight and height treatments in the world- be.
I looked at you, and you at me…no, you looked through me. The girl looked up and smiled, in her eyes I saw the music which I’d been hearing echo through her too. She smiled kindly, I knew her, she was a friend. And I smiled back.
Maybe I should have screamed in coloratura pitch, and stomped my feet. Maybe I should have marched across that green grass and ripped the tree from its roots. Maybe I should have burst out in aria at your betrayal, calling to me an audience of onlookers, and grabbing the patent leather shoes girl so we could walk away together in triumphant solidarity.
But they would have never come, she would have never listened because what could I, me with the domestic hair, possibly have to do with you- o most popular one on campus? And so I only smiled.
The typewriters still sounded like music. A requiem for a time once spent in your glorious light, a dirge for the identical girls in long Brazilian hair and patent leather shoes whose hearts you broke, and a capriccio for the girl in the domestic hair.