“What’d you say?” she asked. The music was loud.
“What’s your name?” he shouted, feeling stupid.
She looked disappointed.
“Sorry. I’m really bad with names,” he shouted, hoping his breath wasn’t terrible. Or that she was too drunk to tell.
“It’s okay. You never asked,” and she shouted her name in time with a swell of the music.
“What?” He held his phone. She took it. She entered her number and name. He texted her his. She was still standing against him from before, when they’d kissed. Or whatever.
“I forgot how good they are,” he shouted, meaning the band. He was coming down off his high. He hoped that she wasn’t. “They were my favorite for a while but I haven’t listened to them in like forever.”
He spoke to keep the evening from grinding to an unpleasant halt, more than to exchange information. “What about you, how’d you hear of them?”
She sensed a question. She blinked and shook her hair from her ears. She brought one closer to his mouth and shouted “What?”
He shook his head. It doesn’t matter, he mouthed, and looked toward the stage. She did too. They reaffirmed their holds on each other. Because the music was still going, and what else can one do. They swayed. They each hated swaying couples, but acquiesced for the other.
When the concert ended, the crowd kept them together and each was surprised, though not disappointed, by the other’s appearance in the light. He planned to invite her over, but expected her to decline, and looked forward to relaxing alone with a beer at home. She guessed he would invite her over, but meant to excuse herself and eat pizza with her friends instead. But when they stepped onto the sidewalk the crowds were thick and she missed the curb’s edge and fell backwards into his arms. He expressed concern, she laughed at herself. The whole thing seemed magical enough, and she accepted his invitation when he extended it.
They took the train and sobered at a pace proportionate to their progress. He asked her where she was from. She explained, and asked him where he was from. He explained. This talk sustained them through the ride. They rationed it like explorers.
His apartment was tidy. His roommate was spending the night with his girlfriend. He usually slept on a foldout bed in front of the television. Right now it was a couch. She accepted a drink but didn’t actually drink much. She remarked on his owning a DVD set of her favorite T.V. show. This meant they would cuddle on the couch.
He kissed her, of course, as he had before. Though now things were calmer and made more sense. Eventually, they removed some clothes and neither was particularly disappointed. Things proceeded in this way, and none of it was too unpleasant. After some time they worked together to unfold the bed. When this was done, they maintained their teamwork’s momentum on top of it.
She stayed the night. The next day she was relieved to find he had already left for work. She found a note promising he’d call. The fact that he actually did call, days later, prompted her to answer. They arranged dinner.
Their children never asked to hear the story of their meeting. They rarely thought of it themselves. Everyone assumed there was some magic in the past to account for the present.
They divided the tasks of earning money and raising children equally. When it stormed they listened to it together. They rarely fought, in part because their own interests were as abstract to them as those of the other.
They watched their friends have turbulent affairs and romances. They noted the misery that often came of it. They noted that some of their friends decayed in drinks, cigarettes and late nights. If anyone they knew found success living this way, they credited it to chance. When their children and entered the social world and went to college, they waited patiently for the youth to learn their own lessons in their own ways. They were polite to the iffy-looking boyfriends and girlfriends brought to dinner, and offered succinct condolences when they heard about breakups or dumpings.
They vacationed occasionally. They played chess and took dancing lessons together.
When he was dying he thanked his wife for the life they had lived together. He thanked God for his frictionless path.
Shopping in the days after that, she heard a bar or two of the song that had been playing at the concert when they met. The store’s tinny speakers pinched and muted its sound. And she realized she didn’t feel a thing.