What Other People Don’t See

man taking gray shirt off
saving the shirt

“I am digging new plot weeds. Please may you call when it is one pm?” Dance requests.

“Sure,” Emma says, glancing up from her laptop, and blinking dry eyes.

He’s wearing the oldest of his cheap thrift store sweatpants, which sag down his hips, and nothing else. He’s put on nice pads of muscle since he moved in, but he’s still thin. He looks almost as ropy as one of those plaster art school models, the ecorchès, where the modeling of skin is left off to show the muscles. He’s so cautious about eating more than his share, and he’s always in motion at the Metro, herding things along. He’s constantly digging in her yard like a dog, running off more of the limited calories that she’s been able to afford.

They’re short of food and long on music. She spent that month’s extra money on wood for him. A halfway decent bow–well, they cost the earth. Amalia kicked in help on that, and it still hurt. The Metro wouldn’t budget a bow for their first chair, Lord have mercy on their wizened little accountant souls.

So Dance has been cooking a lot of beans and rice, potatoes and cabbage these past three weeks, although the dishes were all wonderfully spiced. She’s lost weight, too. She’s down to garish polyester rags for the gala holiday events she’s supposed to dress up for. Her shoes have been bought at Payless, and the “check engine” light is on all the time in her Volvo.

This poverty, Emma thinks, has got to change.

It’s not like he asks for much around the house, either. It gets pathetic. He offered to deliver newspapers for extra money, which she firmly squelched in favor of protecting his sleep and the quality of his playing. He was distressed at the cost of seed packets, too, when they discussed what to grow on that first plot he dug by the front door. But he was ecstatic at how good the soil was when he waded into her plot of prickly, knotted weeds. “Should be farm not house,” he’d said, and went about proving it.

hanging strings of garlic
A Necessity in Korean Cooking

“Okay?” he says now. There’s a little muscle breathing in and out at the hollow inside his hip bone, in time with his abs.

“You’re losing your pants.” She points at the trailing strings.

“Oh, sorry, sorry!” He hoists up his pants, reties them. He’s grown used to asking her help to learn phrases he doesn’t know and how things work and what behavior is appropriate. He’s very quick, she only has to tell him once or twice; but there’s so much he doesn’t know. “Okay pants for dig?”

“Oh, those pants are fine for digging, yes. If you’re going to start at that dojo you found, we need to get lots more protein into you, yeah?”

“Beans,” he agrees happily, and pads out, shutting the side door quietly.

Later she takes a break from the work overtime on the laptop, and stares outside.

Well, that’s her first mistake.

There he is, right in front of her. Abs and lats and ohgawd those deltoids. Her new responsibility is working in the shade right there next to the house, busy with his shovel. He’s framed in the old-fashioned arch of the front window like some painting of a peasant. He rakes back his hair and wipes sweat out of his eyes and sets his bare foot on the shovel. His trunk muscles jerk into amazing shapes, and relax again with each stroke.

A pause to step away for his water bottle and wipe his face only lets more  sweat go trickling down his back.  Dance is beautiful in the sun, the sheen of sweat and dust on him, the big muscles of his haunches making themselves known behind that ratty baggy gray jersey. Meaty thighs, bigger than they were when he got here–probably from standing and moving all day long. And of course the pants aren’t hiding the hard-on, either. It’s not like you can overlook something like that. His nipples are already tight enough that just a touch would probably bring him off. But he won’t do that. He’ll just keep working, tiring himself out, until he’s back to his usual dignity.

Why bother, he told her once, what would be the point?

“The little man is monkey tricks,” he said one night, while they were vegging in front of the televison, “Big man is not monkey,” and Emma had watched out of the corner of her eye as he willed his “little man” into laying down again. It was impressive to see, but rather saddening, and she’d said so.

He’d reached over and took her hand, patted it consolingly. “Okay. As you say, no worries. Yes? Please?” A half dozen things had crossed her tongue unspoken.

back of man, photo by Stefan Heinrichs
photo by Stefan Heinrichs

It hasn’t got any easier to look at him like this. These days, she’d probably grab him and– well, no, she wouldn’t. Down, girl, she orders herself. How unprofessional to letch after one’s charge, like a bad joke about older women.

Her mail client nags her away from the athlete in the window. Emma laughs aloud at what she reads.

From Amalia <[email protected]>

To: [email protected]; [email protected];[email protected]

Subject: Review from Star Herald

Just got the paper and Basehart’s review mentioned Dance. Have you seen it?
He calls himself Dance Of Knives, and it’s apt. His solos are scary. He’s afraid of nothing, and when that bowing of his turns tender, it’s more like he’s stroking his audience with a straight razor than wallowing in the Metro’s usual sentimentality. Instead of fast careless New York jazzy slop, Bernstein becomes a basket of broken glass sparkling and screeching off Dance’s instrument. Mozart becomes a spooky confection of crystalline angles.”
Nothing about moi, dammit, you stole my little refugee and he’s stolen the limelight! *cursing!*

From [email protected]
: Amalia<[email protected]>

Re: Review from Star Herald

Just be glad if Basehart did NOT mention Robert!
Remember last time, and count your blessings!

Outside her window, the scary man’s face is relaxed, easy, serene. He rarely slows down this way, he’s fast– fast reflexes, fast reactions. He’s startled people, turning on them before they’d finished approaching him. Maybe she can work with him on that, make him seem less… tigerish. He made old Walstadt nervous, and the new guy, Maestro Richard Young, is oddly hostile. That’s not good. The conductor needs to have faith in his concertmaster.

The concertmaster needs someone to have faith in as well… someone besides his best gal friend at home. Emma has such limited resources to help him at work. He needs someone beyond that. Someone who likes the hint of danger in Dance.

She opens the roster files on her laptop, considering the names of their higher quality patrons, and grimaces at the futility.

Dance isn’t showy enough for most of the gay patrons. And the ones who can look past the sweatpants, who can see past his ascetic monkish attitude, are taken… She’d had hopes that Bud Innes would make a proposal, but he’s going the easy route, with cute pouty Robert, a pretty boy who knows when to throw a tantrum, and doesn’t practice enough. Bud often sees Dance on bad nights, when Robert calls him in a panic because practices are going down the tubes. It’s been rough since Richard Young took over. Bud probably thinks Dance is some skinny anchorite with crazy eyes.

Emma starts tapping out another email;

from: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Subject: Want to meet for lunch?

Today, please!

And she grins, knowing what kind of abuse she’ll get in return.


Originally posted Apr 16, 2009
Another piece that came from an lj post at bjd_30minfic, for the prompt “stairwell”
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