So. Would you like to hear a story tonight?
Very well. As you know, if you go back far enough in the history of mankind, and if you peel away the layers that make up all of the stories ever written, spoken, or even thought of, that they can all be broken down into two categories: Comedy and Tragedy. Which would you like to hear?
Okay. Well, this story starts (as most of them do) with a person. A guy, as a matter of fact. A guy named Henry if you wanted to get really specific about it.
On this particular day (geez, a Tuesday! You keep trying to focus on the pointless details, then you’ll miss the bigger picture. Quit interrupting the flow of the narrative and just lay back and sink into Henry’s world. It’s worth it if you pay attention.)
Now where was I? Oh yes. This particular Tuesday morning was very rainy. It was the kind of rainfall that you only see in Ridley Scott movies about Harrison Ford either killing or humping murderous androids. The kind of rain that comes down and soaks you to the bones, like it has a personal grudge against you. So, as you can imagine, Henry was pretty relieved when the subway train finally pulled into the station and he was able to escape his watery hell.
As Henry navigated through the crowd of tourists, octogenarians (Who rode the subway because it was the only way for them to have contact with other humans. Humans who were trapped and forced to hear the stories the old people constantly spouted.) and people who obviously enjoyed eating at “all you can eat” buffets, he pulled out his Mp3 player, (that’s what the kids call them, right? Portable phonographs?)
Henry had few interests or hobbies in his life. He just didn’t have the imagination for that kind of stuff. But when he listened to music, well, that was an entirely different thing. That’s when Henry would melt into the world in his mind. He would use the music as his canvas, where he could paint anything he wanted, and a surprising amount of the stuff he imagined did not involve naked women lusting for him. Instead he would use the music. Bend it, shift it, mold it into amazing landscapes. Places that could only exist behind his eyelids, but which fit the music perfectly, as if they were costume designed by a kind of musical surrealistic artist. And if you could ever peer into Henry’s mind, everything you saw would make perfect sense and you’d not only wonder who could weave such gloriously perfect tapestries of sound, visuals and emotions, you’d wonder why you never heard that particular song the same way that Henry did.
Because of the rain, Henry felt a bit wistful, and decided on songs that were appropriate for pondering random nothings on a Tuesday morning. Pressing play without looking at which song he had chosen, Henry settled back in his seat for the long ride into work.
As the music played, a woman began to sing. Henry wasn’t sure what she was singing, or if it was even in English, but it didn’t matter. It was her tones that broke through the barrier of comprehension and reached Henry. Her voice seemed a little melancholy, but not completely sad. More like she was resigned to something. Almost as if she was trapped in a situation over which she had no control, but was doomed to repeat, like some kind of infernal merry-go-round. Henry imagined her as being in a never-ending cycle of yearning and pain with some lover. The beauty, joy and happiness of being together soured and made bitter and vile by their inevitable separation. And then the cycle started all over again.
The singer dared Henry to make this journey with her. To see what she saw and to feel what she felt. Whenever the music grew like an ocean wave, Henry could feel the connection the singer had with her lover. As the music reached its crescendo, and the wave crashed, Henry felt lost, swirling around in the cascade of loneliness and abandonment.
While Henry was listening to the song (“Nebulous” by the artist Mr. Brooks? Henry didn’t remember downloading it and that certainly wasn’t a man singing.) he scanned the other passengers in the subway car. The car was silent, save for the screeching of the train on the tracks and the sound of the air rushing between the car and the wall of the tunnel. You could tell the regulars, the ones accustomed to riding the train. They either had headphones on, like Henry, or had their faces buried in books or magazines. But they all had one thing in common: they kept their eyes down, or to themselves.
Except for her.
Her head was up, her eyes facing forward. The rain had destroyed any kind of hairstyle she had crafted for herself that day. Her make up ran down her face and made it look like she was crying black ink. It was in contrast to the redness of her lips. She looked over in his direction, but not at him directly. To Henry, it seemed as though she had what Soldiers called “the thousand-yard stare”. He wondered what she was looking at or thinking about. From beneath her mess of hair, Henry noticed that she was also wearing earphones. He wondered what she was listening to. Country? Rock? Rap? Pop? Ancient Gregorian chants? Adam Corolla’s latest podcast? The recorded screams of death from her most recent victim in her cannibalistic murder spree? (Anything’s possible these days, you know. Always remember to Protect Ya Neck.) He couldn't begin to guess.
Henry thought that she had an ethereal beauty to her, even after being soaked by the rain. He knew that it was probably the combination of the weather and the music, but he felt that he could accurately divine her back-story.
Let’s see, he thought to himself, she’s riding into the city, but I don’t see a backpack or briefcase, (which isn’t to mean that it’s not under the seat. Also the fat guy in the seat in front of her obscured her outfit.) so it may or may not be that she’s going to work. She may be going to a friend’s place, or she has a job that doesn’t require her to carry anything around, or that she’s coming home from work. Too many variables. That was a dead end. So Henry decided that with her slumped shoulders and vague staring, that she was just coming back from a shift at some job that probably involved having to deal with the public at large. He decided that she was probably on the receiving end of phone calls from idiots who had complaints about products not working properly, or forgetting to unplug their electronic devices and then plug them back in, or who wanted to order that automatic taint-scratcher they saw in an infomercial at 3 am. That would explain her glazed-over eyes. She probably spent the last eight hours listening to the dumbest of the dumb saying the stupidest of stupid comments. Henry knew if he had a job like that, he’d be wishing that bars opened first thing in the morning, because that’d be the first place he’d go after work.
As far as Henry was concerned (or, face it, wanted to believe) she probably had a crappy boyfriend who most likely didn’t treat her the way she ought to be treated. He probably didn’t even have a job and mooched off of her. Henry wouldn’t be surprised if Dumbo (as Henry had already dubbed him) brought other women over to the apartment while Veronica (Why not? Henry was always a sucker for women whose names started with the letter V.) was out making money for both of them. She deserved better than that!
The song that had been playing when he first noticed Veronica, eased gracefully into the next one, which was just as haunting and evocative as the previous song. He wondered how long she’d be on the train. How long he’d be able to look at her before she reached her stop and was out of his life forever. Because, as far as he could tell, she erased the clouds from the sky and already made his day brighter. Hell, she was probably going to be the highlight of his day.
As soon as he thought that to himself, Veronica’s eyes shifted, focused and landed on him. As if she could hear what he was thinking. Are you a mutant? He silently asked her. Does Professor X know that you’re away from the mansion?
No visual response.
Ok, he thought, just checking.
At that moment, the subway train entered the next station and grounded to a halt. It wasn’t Henry’s station, he still had three more stops to go, but her eyes turned toward the door and it looked like Veronica was getting up.
“Veronica” stood up, revealing an expensive pantsuit. Then, she bent over and picked up a bag that had been sitting on the floor.
Well, there goes my theories, he thought. He had to admit, he was disappointed. In the world he had created for them in his head, things were bright and wonderful and exciting and fulfilling. Much better than her current life with Dumbo. But it turns out that it was just a combination of music and wishful thinking.
Oh well, it was fun, he thought as she walked by him through the door and out of his life. That’s when he glanced at her bag when she passed by him and noticed that the tag on her bag read Vanessa G.
Henry quickly jumped up and hopped off the train. While doing so, he switched his MP3 player to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.
Well, a V name is a V name, he said to himself with a smile.
Which kind of story was that, you ask? That’s for you to decide.