I remember this night in a whirl of red and smoke. Alex in his red velvet shirt with his hard, ruddy hands at the frets of a wooden guitar; Roberta curled up in his side, dancing hair caught up in hot halos of amber and smoke and the glow of the light of her face.
The beats from Alex’s strumming lit up the night, and the colors of all our faces were warm from candles and cheap red wine. So many young faces in profile, heads caught behind other heads and a sent of patchouli over the breaths soaked in pizza and cigarettes. Crimson cheeks over wet, pink lips; tiny chins, graceful necks; a sparkle at the tip of a quivering nose and such poise and such wonder and dreams.
Good friends sat all around me, and a chorus of untrained voices rose in lilting kinds of swirls, warm laughter rising out with every note. A little spell of silence let Alex and Roberta’s harmony break into the open night. When she didn’t know the words Roberta’s notes still pierced through the sounds, weaving gentle lace through the singing guitar and a vibratoed bass. Like a tapestry.
She heard Alex’s music before he invented it, and she spoke with him every time.
I watched the dialogue between them, leaning heavily into a nearby wall, from a distance. I watched her body rise with her breath. I felt him match, every time, every phrase, every sparkle of an energy they never would have had alone. I felt myself drawn back into their glow as the song came back around with all new voices subtly breaking in, weaving a broader cloth of red, of smoke, and of music.
It felt like fire, that night.
We all leaned back. We settled into a comfort of friends and felt a wave of blue hang over the room when the music stopped, the end of a trance, and we all began to look at each other like we had forgotten there were still people in the room below the collective consciousness of song. Roberta let five full notes rise out of her breast and we began again, all rose and hue, sitting on the floor in a dorm room and singing like we had nothing left to lose, and nothing else to live for outside of that room. It was enough.
I always cry when I see things that beautiful. I cried that night, soft and low, beneath a song I would never know, hugging myself tight on that deep crimson carpet, and swearing I would never let go.