Travis leaves 3D to play his show at the Washington Street Tavern, where he expects to be mostly ignored, ask the bartender for a six pack to take home, and watch a movie while quietly falling asleep in the blue chair. The means matter much more than the ends, as for days now, he has waited and waited for the advent of a stool on a quiet stage, and a PA system to amplify his personal challenge to the mundane. Who is listening matters not tonight.

If red could talk, it would speak of its emperor tyranny over nights on small planets with no oxygen or life; whose gloom it lit not brightly but slowly. Motions under a red sun weaken even Superman. If red could move, its motion would burn and blur. And maybe this is why the people who come to see Travis, the ones who think in silence, sit under red lights: to contemplate space without life. He does not know. Drenched in red are the souls of the quiet; the noise of their errant thoughts entrapped by cool postures that disdain words in favor of a music that suffers more pleasantly. At least when Travis plays, it can only ever be in the dark, red lights; orbiting jealous planets—red lights from the ceiling and red lights from the cigarettes that burn patiently. Patience is not the virtue of making time speed—it is patience that enjoys the wait. It’s those who are to be executed that smoke.

The darkness of the stage recedes when his set is done, in at least so much as it is there at all. He is ready to go. So, imagine his surprise when a pair of creamy, alluring legs come to stand before his downturned eyes, packing up his guitar. Instinct would normally dictate that he look up to see, but this night his instincts are pretty gone, and he finishes packing before looking up to meet the gaze of the owner of the legs. He looks up them, up past a black, short skirt, a periwinkle blue t-shirt, past a beautifully sculpted neck to—he smiles and says simply, “Melissa.”

She winks. “Well, I finally got to see you and know who you are at the same time.”


She cocks her head, can see his spirits are down—as she had expected from listening to the show, loping and all. “I thought I would congratulate you. You sounded great.”

Travis feels a tinge of guilt for being glum. He knows this is no “acquaintance,” but he stands before her, toying with his guitar pick. He tosses it in the air playfully and catches it. “Sorry. That’s not a great one to end a show on.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly club music, but it was beautiful.”

Travis looks at his boots.

“Listen, what are you doing now?”

“Well, I don’t drink at the bars I play at, and I don’t play at the bars I drink at. So, I’m stuck not staying here.”

“I just thought I’d see if we were heading the same direction…” she leans her head to one side.

Travis is between glum and this girl. She wins. He smiles—the first time in hours. “Where you headin’?”

“283 actually.”

“Well, I could use some company.”

“Me too.”

The pair begin making their way to the stairs, and Travis stops by the bar to speak to Alex, the owner. “I’ll be by in the morning.”

“Yup,” Alex replies.

“You mind if I take a bottle of Sapphire with me?”

Reaching under the bar, Alex pulls out a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, setting it carefully on the counter, in front of Travis, he keeps his hand on the neck and says, kidding, “You didn’t make that much.”

“So sue me,” and he takes the bottle with a grin.

Alex smiles—eyeing Melissa, “See ya’ in the morning!”

Travis distracts her, “Look! Gin!”

She fakes excitement, oh so happy to carry the bottle, too. “Lovely.”

Travis waves to Alex and follows Melissa up the stairs, keeping his head down as her skirt tosses temptingly in front of him. She’s talking, oblivious, “That must be nice.”

“Oh, it gets better.”

“Oh really?”

They get out to the street, warm and wet still from sporadic showers. “Yeah, you’ll see.”

Taking out his cigarettes, Travis offers Melissa one. She takes it. He lights hers, then his own, and they walk to the corner of Thomas and Washington in silence. When they turn the corner, Melissa says, “I hope you don’t think that if I…” she pauses to word the sentence.

Travis thinks he finishes her thought. “No, I don’t. I really would just like someone to talk to for a little while—no strings. Just company.” They take a few more steps before Travis says, chipper, “Then we can have sex.”

Melissa laughs out loud, and then coughs on the smoke. Travis stops and turns while she tries to catch her breath. He can’t help but engage the schudenfreude before giving her a kitten pat on the back. She slaps him on the shoulder as she finishes out her last coughing fit. “Thanks!”

“Whatever. I know how to smoke.”

“Was that the better part?”

“Yeah,” Travis replies slowly, “But it gets even better!”

“That wasn’t better.”

“Well, you’re entitled to your opinion.”

“Am I?”

“No. I just said that to be polite. You’re actually only entitled to my opinions.”

“So you don’t want mine?”

“Not really.”

“Cause you’re kind of lonely and it’s kind of sad.”

Travis stops, shocked, then incredulous. He turns to look at her on this dark side street.

Not phased, she asks “Why?”

“How could you—“

“That was you on stage, right?”

He waits.

“I was listening.” And after another moment, “And I’ve seen you before.” She looks up to the building tops, “Even though last time you sorta’ looked different.”

At first he’s defensive—wants to deny his state of mind to this stranger. But he looks at his boots and he knows it’s not pity. She just knows. And then, in the same instant, he wants to latch on to her; beg her to just hold him. Thank God or whatever! Somebody noticed that even in the midst of applause, cheers, lights and music, it was possible to be on an island, left behind. That hole in his boots is old, with strands pouring out, and after another moment of peering at it, he gets disgusted by that old crush stuff that’s got something to do with being on stage. She was listening because she knew the song, where those lonely chords were wandering off to. And when he looks, up from his boots, he can see sadness in her eyes, and he can see that she’s hoping to tell him about it. She didn’t just come to see the show. She came to see this show. This surrender show and him.

“That last song you played…” Melissa starts. Travis comes out of his thoughts and they match stares, “When did you write that?”

He nods and thinks about that vacant park—it was all there, wasn’t it? “Man. You really were listening.”

“I was just wondering. I guess I knew that. It was very—“


“No.” She looks around at the windows that surround his face and then, “Empty.”

Travis’s face is blank, a mask. He didn’t think anyone would have heard that. They never did—not currents that deep. And he wasn’t sure anymore why he had disguised the words, seeing this beautiful girl really understand it anyway.

She turns, maybe hurt, maybe thinking. But a street light glints off her black hair—her raven black hair—and then he knows who she is.