Ari is sleeping. Felix is awake.
The flat’s windows are half-open, rain a patter like faraway applause, the sheets a soft susurration as Felix slides out of bed, to pull on a t-shirt, put on water for tea; early, not even noon, but last night still echoes: Fraktur is nothing special, just a club like any other club, but now everything is special, ever since, has it been a month? since he played for Ari, and started to hear.
I heard this—hum.
Last night he heard it best after his set, there by the bar with April and some kids who said they were from Munich, they wanted to meet him, they wanted to do shots with him. Instead he drank water and smiled and tried to concentrate, but sometimes the listening takes all of him, does he seem absent at those times? weird, or disconnected? On the way home he asked Ari Did it look like I wasn’t paying attention to people? but Ari only smiled, Ari said You’re multitracking.
The rain changes, like tiny keystrokes on piano keys, too soft to sound the notes; like Tuney J’s beats 4 no 1, or John Cage’s 4’33, for a joke once he asked Mrs. G what she thought about the Cage piece, but she had surprised him, she said I think he’s making his music. Phone in hand, elbows on the sill, he leans out to record that sound, and the tinkling of cheap glass wind chimes, a neighbor’s dog barking, someone wheeling something metal down the uneven alley bricks, chunk-chunk, chunk-chunk-chunk. Today he plans to walk from that alley to Corner Bar then all the way up the avenue, recording whatever he hears: not because the sounds will be “musical,” but because he needs to learn to listen to life the same way he listens to music—all kinds of music now, not only beats but marching bands and cocktail piano and church hymns and teencore, stuff he never bothered with before, Mozart who he never cared for either—because if the hum is really real, really there, then it should be, it has to be, in everything.
But if—kettle off, the water’s throaty pour into the mug—if the hum is in everything, does that mean it is in him too, and in Ari? in everyone who dances? in everyone? Does it have a single point of origin, a cause? a reason? When he and Ari left the Factory roof, dawn in their eyes, sweat on his cheeks from the heat of the mask, the hum surrounding them, he wanted to cry out What the fuck just happened, did you hear that, can you hear that? but waited, waited as Ari threw his things together and they got on the plane, got here, came to a stop on the steps of that bakery where he finally asked, tense, expectant, Does that sound crazy? And Ari had not looked shocked or even surprised, Ari takes all of this in stride, as if what happened, is happening, is somehow totally normal, maybe for Ari it is normal. I didn’t know that was going to happen. Yes you did.
Above their bed the mask hangs at rest: he has not put it on again, but he remembers how it felt, not just its weight or the sense of enclosure, but that it felt so right to play that way, to hear his own breathing, his own voice calling out Again, again, as if he had always been in that moment, it has always been in him . . . Ari in the little café backroom, the mask on that wall, was the hum there too? was it there the first time he saw Ari, crossing the floor in the roar of the Factory, Ari head-turned and smiling at someone else, as if the dancefloor was his floor, and all the beats were all for him? and his own silent stare, knowing somehow that this man was for him, was the one he was waiting for, for this love that now amplifies everything, there’s so much we could do together, I want to make you dance.
Everything happens for a reason.
God, oh god let him be up for this, enough for this, whatever it is.
The stairway door creaks and slams, the neighbor’s dog barks again, an alarm cycles from somewhere; on the bedside table Ari’s phone buzzes, buzzes. Still asleep, Ari flings out one arm, shifts, sighs: bending to the bed, he records long seconds of Ari’s breathing, slow and even and warm; Ari does not wake. The hum continues.