By Vita Forest
Phoebe liked the way he talked about music, how his fingers tapped on his leg as if he was playing the drums. She liked that Gabriel played the piano accordion, the piano and the guitar. She did not like how he praised the recorder. All Phoebe could think of was the high pitched shrieks and squeals and ear-splitting blasts of the recorder her brother had played.
“I don’t like instruments you can clean in a dishwasher,” she retorted.
“What?!” he appeared flabbergastered.
“Maybe we didn’t have the high-quality ones you are obviously talking about.”
She liked that he was studying music, but did not like that he seemed to look down on people who worked in ordinary jobs. Weekday jobs.
“You don’t like it when people earn money then?” she clarified, somewhat disgusted.
“No, it’s not that,” he tried to explain. “My friend was an amazing cello player, but now he works in a bank. He didn’t give it a chance. He didn’t try for long enough.”
“In your opinion.”
“In my opinion.”
“My friend Chloe chose to work in Engineering precisely so she can still enjoy music. She keeps it as something she loves, not as something she has to do to pay the bills.”
“Hmm,” he answered. “Interesting.”
She liked that she could tease him and he didn’t seem to mind.
Phoebe liked that she could hear his music through the deep passageways of the tube stations, floating up the escalators as she floated down. Or surprising her as exited a train, “Minding the Gap”. She liked the private smile he gave her, behind the piano accordion, behind the open case strewn with coins, behind the other commuters watching him play. Sometimes Phoebe would stop and listen on the way to her job-that-didn’t-pay-in-change. Sometime she took the chance to watch him from a distance, to look at him objectively, at how he was when she was not there.
She liked his collection of old-style hats – Homburgs and Fedoras. Except when she didn’t. Except when they annoyed her, when they seemed a little trite. A little forced.
Phoebe could not understand how he could live in London and yet go so rarely to Paris, to Europe in general.
“It’s just a train trip!” she shook her head in exasperation.
“Yes but you tourists have to do everything. It’s like a race. You can’t just live your life.”
“Life your life? You mean getting drunk with your friends every weekend?”
That was another thing she didn’t like. The weekend mornings wasted nursing hangovers. Phoebe didn’t have time for that. There were places to go, things to see.
But he did like Venice. He did have a poster of crumbling palaces, water lapping against them, on his wall. He had enjoyed getting lost in the maze of streets, had loved sitting on vaporetto and watching the sunset, had watched intrigued as the workers went about their business, carrying supplies through the narrow streets in wheelbarrows. Gabriel had appreciated the Grand Canal and San Marco’s Square and even the golden mosaics on the ceiling of San Marco’s basilica.
So he was alright, Phoebe thought. He was good on the important things. He was good on Venice.