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Just Like Next Time

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The club's dark, as always. Dim light pours smoky through the windows, caught in the cigarettes of your patrons. You're not in the back, as usual, tonight, but seated up on the small stage you had built discreetly off to one side. Also unlike most nights, your eyes are closed and your teeth not bared. You're not even wearing your hat.

'Cause tonight, you saw her, and you've got some grief to get off your chest. It's this or slice somebody up 'til they bleed out, and you're lamentably short of dumbass trespassing assholes on this evening.

It was just in passing, or would be with anybody else. Just a moment, a glance across the room, but in the second or ten or eternity in which you met each others' eyes, your heart seized up with bitter fury and envy and a dozen other emotions defying description and there was nothing else in the world. Nothing but jealousy and outrage and overwhelming desire for her, and you hate it just like you hate her, with a singular focus that sinks the rest of the world in black.

You met her eyes like a punch to the chest, cracking ribs and driving the breath from your gut. She blinked once, slowly, meeting your eye surely with no searching, and then just held you forever in the morass of bitter fury. Just like last time, and like the time before, and just like next time.

You can't lose yourself entirely in the feeling of smooth keys under your fingertips, in harmonic minor melodies seeping out into the world from somewhere beyond your conscious memory. They're songs you must have devoted yourself to learning, once. Now you just play. The right stuff comes.

The room is uneasy, patrons mingling and pausing conversation as you play. They can feel the emotion draining from you, sifting into the air with their cigarette smoke and the notes. They'll all go home unsettled, disturbed, and lie in bed awake. That's what you want. In that, at least, you won't be alone.

Somebody stupid once asked you what it was about her, and you probably took off their arm or head as an answer. Nobody talks to you about Snowman. That's not a thing that happens.

For the record, though, you pour out into the room, it's the way she sets herself against you. The way she denies you everything you make up your mind to want. It's the coat pulled snug against her curves and her hat's shade over her eyes. The notes meld into frantic minor arpeggios and your patrons stop everything, watching you bang at the keys and make them, at least, do what you want.

It's the way she moves, black silk on a bare arm and then a scorpion's strike. It's her voice, molasses soft and dark, smooth and lazy and completely untouched. All you can do is bare your teeth and snarl at her, but she's always got words. Distant words, easy words. She says your name.

She gave you your name.

And despite it, she's not yours. She's still his. For all her coy looks and burning eyes and slow laugh, she's still English's, and no matter what's happened between you, she'll only ever play at being yours. You torture the keys, slim fingers hitting, slipping without thought into melodic and driving the song even a little further away from a complete sound. You know, more than see, Droog appear at the door to the back. He stands silently and still and watches you calmly as you rage at the baby grand and at her.

Your hands gripping her hips, her hair, her wrists, and her laughing softly in your ear and taunting you, always taunting you. Her lips on yours, urgent and immediate and drowning the rest of the world in nothingness. There's nothing but you two. There's nothing but her. Droog is walking slowly over to the stage.

The rest of the world blanks out blissfully at last as you reach a variation that finally expresses it. Notes clear and urgent and drawing you. You haven't played this one before. Variation for Snowman. The only thing in your mind, the only thing in the world. Droog stands at the front of the stage and watches you, but you filter him out without effort, the world spinning in around you as you mangle the melody with accidentals.

Because you hate her, you fume impotently at her for the way she treats you, the way she toys with you, the way she acts like it's you that belongs to her, and not the other way around. It's not the other way around. And you still want her. You wanted her before, now. Forever.

You crash to a finale in a flurry of intentional aharmonics and broken chords, standing and shoving the piano stool back and over on one side, storming down the stairs through silent ranks of shocked customers. Droog waits for you to pass, and follows you. He'll come to the back and stand outside your door when you slam it in his face, and when you emerge in the morning, growling and stubborn, he'll make sure you've got breakfast and a car ready.

Just like last time. And like the time before. And just like next time.