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"Matinee" by Pedro Ponce



She liked doing it to music. It relaxed her, she said, helped her focus.

“On what?” I asked.

“The situation,” she said. The niche between her fingers looked like it was missing a cigarette.

***

“I’m not a performer.”

“I can tell.” She reached for her phone. The side of her face changed color as she scrolled.

“You don’t feel like you’re onstage? Exposed?”

“Isn’t that the point?” She laughed as her eyebrows turned orange.

***

“What about an instrumental? No words—just atmosphere.” She turned her phone so I could see.

I squinted at the display and shook my head. “I have awful associations with that album. With everything she’s done, actually.”

“But she’s just playing piano. You don’t even hear her voice.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s still her.”

She crossed her legs and sat up. The side of her shirt rippled over a wedge of skin.

***

“Did you know singers save their voices sometimes? Like if you go to a matinee, the leads will be onstage, walking around and doing all the poses and gestures. But someone else sings their part from offstage?”

She nodded. “I didn’t know that.” Her eyes traced the crawl of text near her feet.

“Of course they try to hide it. When we went for school, the singer was in the pit. You couldn’t see him or his microphone, or the stand he was using to turn pages. But once you know, you know.”

She typed something and set the phone down.

“I never liked theater after that.”

“That’s understandable I guess,” she said.

***

The traffic outside bore with it a song that for months had been inescapable. It was playing in the café where we had agreed to meet. I watched her from the table where I sat, early for once. She glanced from booth to booth as her mouth moved around the words of the chorus.

***

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just—”

Her phone chirped and trembled, then came to rest. Its silver edge formed a perfect parallel with the nightstand’s edge.

She ignored the noise and uncrossed her legs. The room around us receded into vague shapes. I could see her eyes roving the wall opposite from behind a scrim of hair.

“Your eyes are green,” I said.

We both liked doing it in the dark.

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