Town Mouse 2

Part One

If life was distilled to an essence and poured into human form, it would look like that, Ben thinks.

He can’t remember when he last saw anything remotely like this girl. She’s fire, fragrance, laughter. You can see that if you reached out and touched her, she would fill you with vitality. He wants to worship her, lay something at her feet.

He tunes up, and begins the Villa-Lobos concerto, just for her.

As he plays, quiet spreads in ripples from the stool where he sits, lost in his guitar. The cascading notes are flawless: fragile, transitory, heartbreaking. The people on the street witness virtuosity, as they dawdle over coffee, or pause in their journey home, and most are awed to breathlessness by the perfection of it. One girl, who sits holding the hands of her lover, begins to weep soundlessly. The lover smiles and leans forward to kiss her.

Amy is unaware that she is being given a gift beyond price, and wouldn’t care if she knew – something you can’t buy is something not worth having in her philosophy of the city and the streets. She glances toward the guitarist, a thin boy with intense eyes. She swills her coke and listens carelessly, wishing he’d play something she could sing to – her evening so far has made her feel like singing. She smiles at the boy anyway – she supposes the tune is pretty enough.

The silence stretches beyond the death of the last falling note, but eventually a smattering of applause begins and swells quickly. Ben hears it, but doesn't care. He rakes the audience with his eyes, looking for the sparkling girl, wanting to see how she has received his tribute. He sees the smile, but then she is sliding round the edge, and slipping away from him. He stands, and watches the disappearing flick of her red coat. He’s lost her. His all was not enough.

He’s distraught. He’ll always regret her loss, never realise that in capturing her, he would only have netted his own destruction.

From her doorway, where she let her brown-bagged bottle drop for long enough to float on the beauty of the swirling music, Ana sees Amy pass. She sees the look on the face of the guitar-boy, and even sodden in cheap booze she can read the story. Artist wooing Philistine casting his pearls before swine.

A gloating smile lights Ana's bleary, turps-soaked eyes as the girl disappears. Ana knows this type, and knows the brittleness of the surface they skate on. Wasn’t she a champion of the jump and twirl herself, not so long ago? Miss Pretty there might not realise it, but the cracks are fanning behind her already, chasing her down. Ana can see them.

Tonight she might fly across the ground, heedless of the music strewn at her feet, but one day soon, she’ll tumble and crash into the gutter to lie cold and broken beside Ana. Her doorway days loom. Ah, I wäna nei, Ana thinks – they all keep spinning while the ice breaks up under them, me aha kë i wä rätou nei?

Amy, as oblivious of Ana's portent as she was of Ben's prayer, flows like smoke along the streets drifting from one group to another; she wears people like protective coloration, uses them to carry her toward the place she spends her nights in, thinks of them merely in terms of what they give her. She stops stealing what they don't miss only when she reaches the door.

In front of the squat, she hesitates, briefly. She doesn’t have to go in, her bag holds her key out of here. She could glide on past the flaking blue paint and the candlelit windows, without stepping into the heavy hanging stink of stale weed and vomit. She could, but…

Tomorrow, she thinks, pushing open the door, Tomorrow, I’m out of here. Get myself a nice little room, some good clothes, dump these no-hopers and find someone with a bit of cash to hang with, eh?

Part Three

Maori translation: That’s the way it is…. What else can they do?

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