3 min

His cello’s magic

Will glimpses a light through his cloud of sullen apathy

Credit: Xtra West files

At the green onset of his third year on campus, Will heard a cello through the stained glass window of the music building, and stopped to listen. Students clattered off to early morning classes, gossiping noisily and making eyes. The world, tired, wrenching, was beginning again. Again without him joining in, or seeming to care at all.

Will leaned like Hamlet against a wall and tried (with little success) to stifle a sigh. The cello played on, running long sonorous strokes out the windowpane and over his head.

Why wasn’t Will taking music? He had chosen the wrong major, of course. He always chose wrong. It seemed to him painfully obvious that he’d fucked up his own life in some way, yet how exactly remained the thickest of mysteries. He mooned down a grey utopian tunnel of arches that led away from the music.

Boys, boys, went beautifully by. Always innocent, bright and moving. Like a river.

Ignoring the 9 am theory course, he opted instead to mosey through the SUB’s concourse and collect leaflets from myriad clubs, associations and overgrown causes (“Save the Snapping Turtles!”). A rainbow-bannered table was superfluously announced as “PRIDE UBC!” by a mohawked dyke with activist-gleam in her eyes. “Ever consider coming out to one of our beer gardens? You can’t write ‘beer’ on the posters, so they say “BQQR”-Q as in Queer. See?”

Will grimaced. “Hm.”

“Want a pamphlet?”


“Coming to the next Pride beer garden?” the pamphleteer inched too close to Will, who shook his head narrowly.

“Why not?”

“I guess I find collectives suspicious.”

“It’s not a kibbutz.”

Will trudged on, waving back at her mohawk, when she shouted, “It’s tonight. Upstairs!” Whatever.

There were precious few days where Wreck Beach remained an option before summer gave over to sweater-season. So Will wandered west through campus, removing his T-shirt and checking his pocket for pot-cookie money.

On passing the music building again, he noticed a pale young man, lugging an enormous case our the door. It couldn’t be. The boy had tresses of blue-black hair and looked all gorgeous-happy. The boy’s hair made Will slow down; the boy’s hair turned to watch. Step, step. Stop. “Do I know you,” said the Keatsian locks-or, rather, a pair of pale lips beneath.

“Was that you playing?” said Will. “Was that you, through that window?”

“Did you like it? Fauré’s Elégie,” said Keatsian Locks. Will was worried then, didn’t know what would be smart to say-who was Fauré? What did Elégie mean? Keatsian Locks waited expectantly for the movie-perfect response those eyes, that hair demanded. A glass of rose water spilled over.

“It didn’t sound like an elegy,” said Will, feigning comprehension.

“Well, I’m not very good.”

“Ah.” Will listened to students who didn’t know what love meant gossip as they passed. He shuffled one foot and waited for the lips to move again.

“Plus, it needs a piano.”

“Sorry?” Will, distracted by his critique of the gossipers, tried hurriedly to tune in.

“It’s a duet. Doesn’t really work if you play it alone.”

Keatsian Locks gave Will a look as if to say Get-It?-It’s-Like-A-Metaphor. To which Will responded with an equally verbose look, as if to say Yes-Any-Moron-Would-Get-That.

A moment of silence, a bird sang drunkenly above them. Then Will gave Keatsian Locks another, more humble look, which said Still-I-Imagine-You-Have-A-Lovely-Body. Whereupon Keatsian Locks, having said everything that silence can utter already, made the first bold, brassy sound of the day: “Could we at least make contact?” and picked up Will’s dead hand, the way you would a sullen child’s.

“There’s this beer garden,” said Will.

* * * * *

In bed, after everything in the world had happened-beer garden, long walk, tea-once all of it had happened on his skin and dusted out…Happened upon it, the way you may happen upon a bookstore, or a penny…Then, drawing up the covers, he post-coitus-panted a moment more than is required. And, yes, Will smiled over at Keatsian Locks with dog-tongue-“That was great.”

He shifted, all thick-lipped, and talked into the pillow. Going, “Well. Well.”

* * * * *

A year or two later, Will saw a very similar scene play out between two actors in a film. He nearly cried to see the sentiment registered by such beautiful people, in such romantic, sepia light. He was also alarmed, however, to discover the repetition of magic. That others had known what he had known. Felt what he had felt.