Hints from the Choir Room

Drin makes up his mind finally when he sees something perfectly ordinary. Up in the little choir room, he sees Dance has propped up his legs on a second chair, slouching back with his arms folded, chin on his chest, with his eyes shut. It’s between rehearsals for two different groups, and Dance needs to be there for both practices, although the other strings do not. He’s looking far too thin. He hasn’t gone off to buy himself lunch, either. As Amalia the First Cellist would say: Something Must Be Done.

Drin wonders whether he should intrude with his jacket again, or with a good dose of bossiness, perhaps the kind that includes sweeping the musician off for lunch with plenty of hot soup.

He stares in, considers the way Dance has his hands tucked in, although this is the warmest room available. He wonders whether Dance is hurting in the building’s winter chills, or if he’s got any heat at home. He’d never admit to going hungry, either.

Korean noodle soup with dumplings
Manduguk, Korean Dumpling Soup

At least he’s not crammed underneath the bench at the back, by the lockers. Drin has seen him napping or writing out score changes in the strange little room fairly often, but he rarely intrudes on it. He knows how tough it is to go back to sleep once awakened in a spot that ought to be a secure hiding place, and clearly isn’t.

Dance is reacting like a vet, not like a theater person. So Drin treats him like a vet: He puts down his folded jacket on a chair just inside, closes the door, and leaves him alone to nap. Heads off the intrusive and curious, even, who might see him there. He’s developing a bit of an odd possessive streak, he realizes, about their peculiar Concertmaster.

Of course Dance returns the jacket to Drin that same afternoon. He puts it down on the chair next to Drin, thanking him quietly, and looking at him for a moment, solemn. Then he says, “I do not have a crick in my neck now. My neck thanks you also,” and he gives a wry smile.

“It’s a privilege,” Drin tells him, and means it. “So did Maestro Young pick the hall for the date next month?”

“He did,” Dance says, looking away.

“And you think it’s a mistake,” Drin says.

Dance shrugs. “Pick your battles,” he says in flat bitter quote, shocking Drin. Then his gaze jerks to something beyond Drin. He looks upward, face half-hidden by a loose wing of hair, all the lines of his jaw fierce. He braces out one foot, provoked by whatever he is watching on the second floor, somewhere up there by the main office. His whole body changes, mantling like a big cat in a rage. A tiny, muted, involuntary throat-noise comes out: He’s hissing like a boiled kettle.

“Easy there,” Drin murmurs, not moving.

The eyes come back to him, gold as platters. The pupils are mere dots. A breath, two breaths. The pupils dial open and warm brown floods into his irises as if shadows could be poured like coffee. “Yes,” Dance says at last. But he doesn’t blink.

Drin hears a murmur dropped from upstairs, the rustle of somebody’s dress, the civilized, muffled honk that Amalia gives when she’s using a tissue in public. He saw her up there twenty minutes ago, marching across the second floor from the elevator, she slammed the office door as if going into battle. The Metro’s First Cellist wouldn’t thank either of them for causing a scene, whatever happened up there to bring out the tissues.

“She okay?” Drin asks, barely breathing out the sounds.

Dance looks up behind his hair, watches his friend march back noisily to the elevator. “Yes.” He takes a deep breath, and his shoulders ease down. “Yes. Thanking you.”

Drin gives a crooked smile. “So long as you do me the same favor, if I get to snorting and pawing the ground too much.”

“Snorting?” Dance says.

“Like I’m going to bull-charge right through something irritating.”

Dance gives a quirky half-smile. “Indeed that is sounding very… big. Big like cartoon holes in walls.”

Drin blows out a deep breath, and chuckles. “Yeah, that could be embarrassing.”

“Are you wishing a piece of advice?” Dance says.

Drin nods, delighted.

“Warn Amalia before you are picking up the fights for her.” Wry, self-deprecating, the full wattage of a grin flashes past, blinding Drin. The Concertmaster sketches a salute, turns away, and hurries off toward the elevator doors, gone before Drin can move.

“Waaa? What just happened there?” Drin mutters, blinking.

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