The series of wildly enthusiastic e-mails had always intimidated Alice. Gratified her too – the ones in which he announced his composition awards, always containing the phrase “I owe it all to you”. The dialogue of art to art, the “spark” of her texts, as he called it, inspiring his music, did fascinate her. But his intensity, his exaltation . . . She knew that she would wince, even cringe, if he rhapsodized in front of her.
And what of her, the unrhapsodizer? Would he expect it? Would she disappoint him? Would she be less of an artist to him if she didn’t wax poetic in conversation?
Then the offer of poems sung, the exhilaration of having her work set by the up-and-coming young composer, overruled. The shift from indirect to direct inspiration brought the companion shift from messages to meeting.
And on meeting, she would discover; how did – or DID – Joseph McGovern talk business?
And had that stopped the cyberflow? Since her yes, he had initiated no exchange. He had replied tersely to hers. Did he find the notion of a contract repugnant? Did composing absorb him so that he lost the thread of daily doings?
Was she to do the re-threading?
Once before him, she thought she would dare.
“You haven’t sent any rapturous e-mails lately.”
The eyes darted away. Too late to hide misery.
Alice’s breath hushed into her nostrils. Was that heartache?
The agent bustled in. The talk became prosaic. Joseph settled naturally into the dealings.
Just after the signatures, the handshake, he flitted out to the washroom. Alice remained to ask a few questions about this domain, pristine to her, and took her turn in the facilities.
She found him in the lobby, motionless, glaring at his phone. She again dared ask a brief question.
He shrugged slightly, simply murmured, “E-mails.”
He turned off the phone, stared at it, lifted it, slid it into his jacket pocket. His gaze flitted past her face and on to the far end of the elevator corridor.
She pressed him, but gently. “No, but something wrong between us?”
With half-phrases, held breaths, footfall by footfall he approached the details.
“I heard your radio interview. You and the announcer had quite a laugh. About that ‘sort-of secret admirer’.”
Then, a sudden glance to her.
“Is that supposed to be me?”
Alice tried an abrupt laugh.
“It was meant light-heartedly.”
The cavernous sound poured. “How ironic that you should talk about heart.”
His lower lip actually trembled.
“It was perfect for tearing the heart out of my élan. For snapping the delicate synapse, the bond that had formed with your work.”
The depth of a sigh.
“I yearn for that bond. And I do nothing else. I’m searching for a way to continue, in spite of that rupture. I’m hoping that the contract will relight things.”
A glance at her again.
“Will I compose again?”
Alice had no words.
published 15 June 2011