by Danielle Stewart

Well now you say that you’ve made up your mind
It’s been such a long, long time since it’s been good with us
And that somewhere back along the line you lost your love and I lost your trust
Now rooms that once were so bright are filled with the coming night, darlin’

— “Fade Away,” Bruce Springsteen

“Nice piece.”

I know her well enough to hear the bitterness in her voice and just keep playing until I run out of song. I’ve been stuck on the last part for a few weeks now and am becoming increasingly frustrated with it. Her frustration probably isn’t helping me along either. She’s making some effort to play nice tonight though, so finally I look up and give her my reassuring smile and say, “Thanks.” She stares at me long and hard, then gives her dark hair a flip as she turns away and quickly leaves the room. The bedroom door slams shut.

Here we go again. I’m losing a battle that I’m not even fighting. That’s part of the problem I guess. I start from the top again, this time humming along and feeling some of the tension release. I hear the words in my head the whole time but don’t sing them. Yeah, my lyrics are good. So good I close my eyes and conjure her right there in the room with me, with those golden wisps framing her sweet face, her blue eyes shining in the light, smiling at me while she taps her feet along to the rhythm. I know she’s too young for me. She doesn’t realize it yet. So I keep playing on the innocence that sets her expectations low and leaves her easily impressed, just to spend time with her. Nothing’s going on but damn if she doesn’t leave me feeling renewed every time, suddenly open to possibilities I hadn’t even realized I’d forgotten about. A potent combination of youth and happiness sure can make a man think and feel things he hasn’t in a long, long time. At the end of the song, I stop still, eyes closed, drawing the moment out.

Another slam brings me back down. This time the bathroom door. She’s fired up now and loves drama, so there’s no need for me to point out that you just don’t get a good slam from the cheap hollow doors of our apartment. It’s better for her to get it out of her system. The drama doesn’t get to me. I knew I’d be signing on for more than my fair share of it when we first got together. Even from across the bar that night, the first thing I noticed about her was her fiery ebony eyes. Next was her tendency to jut her chin out to make a point. Top that off with a long, spiraled ponytail that swung like a metronome in time to her mood and there is no denying that her very presence screamed drama. But the sparks flew between us from the get-go, and that was that as far as I was concerned.

I start strumming the last part again, playing around and trying to find a way to make it work. “Nice piece” was her veiled accusation. She’s heard me sing the song before. She knows it’s not about her and she’s made up her mind. But for all her sass, she just can’t bring herself to ask me flat out about it. I’ve thought about setting her straight but in the end I don’t think that’s what she really wants. The truth is complicated. Hell, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I reckon it’s easier for her to think that I strayed, kind of a tidier blame to explain our messy state of affairs.

The bathroom door opens, accompanied by more noise. I stop playing and stand to stretch out the kinks in my neck and shoulders. Instinctively I turn towards the ruckus.

She enters the room as fast as she left it. With her chin down and long, loose hair falling forward, I can’t make out her expression as she moves past me and heads for the door. Bag swung over her shoulder and suitcase in tow, she suddenly pauses and turns to face me. I brace myself, anticipating the storm about to unfold. Instead, she looks up and meets my gaze. After a few moments, she gives me a slow smile. I return it with one of my own and then watch her leave.

I realize I’ve been holding my breath and exhale deeply as I fall back onto the sofa. Minutes pass with me just sitting there. Finally, I reach for my guitar and start fiddling with the last part of my song again, feeling inspired to change up the ending.

Later, when it’s done, I lean back and put my feet up, satisfied. “Nice peace,” I say to myself. “Nice peace indeed.”

DANIELLE STEWART lives and works in London, Ontario, Canada. Her first sad Springsteen moment was watching her older sister leave for the marathon concert at the Toronto CNE in ’84 and being too young to go along. She has yet to experience a four hour headliner. Danielle still loves music and will often listen to it while she writes. This piece was inspired by her favourite guitar player.

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