It began in soft, smooth pulses that ebbed and flowed from the midsection of her back. Faint little blips so fluid in their transitions that she had to concentrate especially hard so as not to miss one. From the first vibration the knot in her chest began to untangle, her limbs unraveling of their own accord like a string on a hem that's just been pulled, its shredded thread detaching all the fixed pieces.
She didn’t need to look at David to know that his fingers were moving. She could feel it.
The pulses increased in pressure and transparency, vibrations splaying out before her to play an elaborate game of hopscotch across her spine. She whirled with them- skipping, jumping and weaving an intricate pattern of her own to match the labyrinth of pulsations along her rib cage that flitted in fits from rib to rib, gradually ascending... before rapidly plummeting. Her body crashed to the ground with them in a swift and graceful heap, so sudden and unexpected it elicited an audible gasp from the audience. But only David heard them.
She was lost now, completely and utterly captivated by the vibrations within her as the music began to unveil a new story.
Mai’s slender form rose tenderly from the ground once more with an unfathomably silky sophistication while his agile fingers began to pick up speed again. As the well practiced digits raced expertly along the keys, pirouetting from black to white to evoke a hauntingly elegant discord of notes, her nimble toes leaped to match the music in perfect, seamless harmony.
To watch them you’d have thought they’d practiced, but David and Mai performed best when neither one knew what to expect from the other. It left them unhindered, free to experiment.
Sometimes it didn’t quite work.
But usually it was magical, their movements meshing incomprehensibly together to create narrative driven masterpieces unlike anything else. It didn’t matter that neither one knew what the other was thinking. They simply felt it.
They didn’t need to speak or even listen- they only needed to feel.
The vibrations from the music dictated Mai’s movements, her emotions seeping effortlessly into the way she danced. Her dancing, in turn, propelled David’s playing forwards, directing which way he would go and steering each sequence of notes.
If he was the ship, then she was the navigation that kept him on course amidst the dark and unpredictable waters below.
While Mai danced she kept her eyes shut, clenched as tight as can be in order to bar out the rest of the world. Each individual vibration of each and every note David played mattered deeply to her. She couldn’t afford to miss a single one. David on the other hand played with his serious, green eyes wide open, fixed solely on her.
He didn’t need to look at his hands or read any kind of sheet music in fear he might make a mistake.
That was the beauty of free styling.
The note variations came and went of their own accord, often times never to be played again in exactly the same way. The music didn’t dictate their performance, but rather, their performance dictated their music.
And his fingers were confident- sure, regardless of the unknown.
The song David chose to play that night had been lingering, incomplete in his heart for awhile. It didn’t come from anywhere particularly special or significant. Usually the melodies came to him in his dreams, refrains and anthems clinging to his fingerprints as he slept on, unaware.
But they were never fully formed without her.
She was what shook the dreams from the dregs of his subconscious and breathed life into his dormant flights of fancy to make them real. She was what gave a voice to everything he wanted to say.
Mai had the opposite approach.
In daylight her fingers fluttered freely, mimicking the world of images and movements around her as she drank from the overflowing well of reality for inspiration. From delicate butterflies to tumultuously waves she allowed herself to soar and crash in imitated feats, her body maneuvering in such a way as to suggest she herself were the butterfly or the waves, vibrating outwardly the trembling quivers of the music that she felt within.
Mai’s body swept along the ground in a flourishing gesture, her ruby lips a blur and her caramel skin appearing as if it were a swirl in the foam atop a freshly made latte. David’s watchful eyes followed suit, his fingers dragging along the keys in unison.
At times their music grew whimsical and light, almost humorous even- although never quite so. At others it built into grandiose, raw and emotional crescendos that mystified the crowd in the concert hall.
They watched with bated breath in a transfixed stupor of awe and wonderment as the duo expertly wove their musical tale. A story so poignant and visceral that it caused a single tear to escape its lashed entrapment to stream down the creased, unsuspecting face of an eighty-year old woman in attendance. A woman who had seen too much of life’s woes and heartaches to not understand the bittersweet truth and beauty that rippled beneath the perceptible surface of David and Mai’s performance.
As their song came to its natural end, Mai draped her arms around herself, slowly lowering to the floor one last time as she wrapped her body tight in a final, oddly vulnerable resting pose. David’s fingers relaxed on the cold piano keys, his last trembling note lingering in the air to eerily reverberate in the empty space above their heads, before dying.
A hush fell over the room.
A stillness so complete and profound that the audience was unwilling to break it, not yet ready to let go of the moment. Not yet ready to relinquish the magic of what they had just experienced and doubted they ever would again.
With a reluctance she had never known, the eighty year old woman slowly rose to her feet.
Hot, wet tears still glittered across her withered countenance, but her effervescent grin was a kind of magic of its own. Compelled by the inexplicable warmth that bubbled beneath her skin- churning in her blood as it coursed its way through her, trickling into her very bones to comfort the joints that had long felt brittle and waiting to break- the old woman brought her gnarled hands together and began to clap.
The spell was broken.
Around her others stood. First one, then two, then all of them- every single chair emptied as a thunderous noise arose. It began as a small crackling, like the snapping of many small twigs meant to kindle a fire, and quickly roared to life, transforming before them into a rumbling, overwhelming boom of applause unlike anything the concert hall had ever heard before.
Mai could feel the vibrations in what felt like her soul.
At long last, she opened her eyes and rose, her dark chocolate gaze locking fast with David’s brilliant green one still hovering several inches above the piano. They exchanged a brief but exuberant smile, walking towards each other to meet in the center of the stage.
They both could feel it.
That had been the best performance they’d ever done. As the applause washed over them, they stood perfectly still allowing the vibrations of the music that still played in their hearts to settle and metamorphosis with the audience’s cheers. They both understood the magnitude of the story that together they had crafted and shared that night.
A story of love, and death, and friendships and new beginnings. A story of monarchs skimming along on the ocean breeze and fantastical lullabies formed in the deepest recesses of the imagination.
A story of a deaf ballerina and a mute pianist.
As their fingers interlocked, they raised their hands to the crowd and together they bowed as one.