Muz found herself wondering if she really was that funny, or if Triscin was just so joy depraved that he found solace in her lame sense of humor. She sat across from him at the hospital cafeteria table and continued to crack jokes at him, marveling at how much prettier this boy looked when he wasn’t sobbing.
“What sits at the bottom of the sea and twitches?” She asked him.
He blinked, something he tended to do a lot, and the effect was that a light breeze flew past Muz because his eyelashes were so dang long. She’d never seen a football player with more delicate eyelashes, and she wasn’t at all sure what this meant for her. “I’m not sure.” He popped a pickle BBQ potato chip into his mouth and leaned forward on his hands, waiting for her answer.
“A nervous wreck.”
“Aw man, that one was pretty terrible.” He grinned, though, and Muz felt her mission was complete. Poor kid, Triscin had witnessed the literal nervous wreck of his girlfriend, Eleanor, just a few hours earlier, hence both the sobbing and the hospital cafeteria. Well, news had it they weren’t dating anymore. Muz knew she shouldn’t have an opinion on it, not really, but she was glad Triscin and Eleanor weren’t a couple anymore. Eleanor was harsh with him, harsh with those around her, harsh with herself, and Muz knew that wasn’t healthy for anyone. Triscin didn’t seem to be thinking of Eleanor, though. Muz decided she was done with jokes for a while. Her inner comedian was wearing down.
Nearby, Muz’s best friend Afra was practically basking in the loving attention of Gervassi, a boy she had met on a rouge hiking trip a few months back. Muz wasn’t sure, at first, what she thought of Gervassi. He was tall and skinny and had clear gray eyes. His hair struck up interesting conversations; it was orange and flickered out like fireworks. Muz thought it made an interesting contrast against his dark skin, but she liked it. She knew Afra liked it, too, and that was all that mattered. Muz knew Afra liked Gervassi’s teeth best, because they were gapped and cute and blah blah blah, but these were just the kinds of things Muz was always getting an earful of when Afra got to talking. Vassi this, Vassi that, Vassi here and there and everywhere. Muz had been cautious of dating since her last romantic experience, a date with an debuting model named Z, had ended in catastrophe; broken high heels stuck in wet cement and footprints tracking all the way back to the car. She shivered. Triscin tilted his head at her, the image of innocence against the walls of a place that took and took and took it.
“Want to go see the babies?”
Muz clicked her nails along the edge of her plastic tray. “I said, let’s go see the babies? Upstairs? Downstairs? Wherever they are?” She wanted to sing to them. Muz loved to sing. Her name, after all, was Muzical, and ever since she was born, her life had been filled with music, just like she liked it. It was her solemn, unofficial duty to introduce newborn people into the world with a song. Maybe Triscin could sing too, and then they would be able to serenade the babies doubly.
“Oh, okay.” He nodded. “That would be sweet.”
Muz poked Ander, who was on his phone, either with Eleanor’s parents or someone else, and told him she and Triscin were headed to find some babies. He lifted his eyebrows. “Moving a bit fast, are we? Already baby watching.” He shook his head like a wise, old parent. “My children, growing up so fast.”
Muz smacked him with her wallet and stood up, her chair clattering against the tiles. “Let’s go, the future generations await us.” She lead Triscin to the elevators, her long braids sweeping behind her. She read the hospital map, found that the delivery room was on the third floor, and pressed the up button. “Is this okay?” She knew she would have to be gentle with the fragile post breakup Triscin. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. I just like to sing and this is a good way to use that, you know?” She fixed the bottom of her cropped shirt, tugged it down over her stomach because the hospital air was cold and she liked to be warm.
“For sure.” Triscin said, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror’s metal. He looked rough. His blond hair was swirled every which way, struck blue eyes veiny red with tear shadows, and hoodie rumpled from sitting squashed in the hospital chairs, from wringing the corners of the thinning fabric between his hands until they were fraying, from pulling his fingers inside the sleeves to hide them from the scary world outside. “I look like a zombie.”
Muz glanced behind her and shrugged in a way she hoped was reassuring. “Nah, you just look a little sleepy, maybe emotionally distraught? You’ve been crying. I’m five thousand percent sure zombies don’t cry.” He didn’t say anything, so she thought she may have overstepped her boundaries.
“No, you’re right.” The elevator opened and he let Muz walk in first, always the gentleman, then followed her. “You know, my dad was always like, ‘You don’t need to waste your energy on tears, that’s why there’s football.’ Or he’d replace that with whatever sport was in season.” He pressed the third floor button and the elevator started to jumble up the building. “I don’t think half of those tears were even about Eleanor. Well, they were, because, like, I loved her?” Muz thought it was sad he was still hung up on the girl who would have eventually destroyed him, but it had not even been two hours since they broke up, so she wouldn't be too upset about it. It was strange, she mused, how protective she felt of Triscin, this softly blond athlete with sad blue eyes. She shook her head and grinned again, she was just being silly with herself when she thought things like that.
“Jumping straight into the deep stuff, are we? Usually I wait until after I’ve known someone for longer than a week before we start the therapy sessions.”
“Oh, sorry.” Triscin looked abashed. “You just seemed easy to talk to. Sorry. Didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Me either, I was kidding. You can tell me whatever you want. After all, you are my duet partner.”
“What?” Triscin didn’t remember agreeing to that. Muz hadn’t told him yet. She wondered why the elevator doors hadn’t opened yet. Either the elevator was super slow or something was wrong.
“I thought you might like to sing with me. For the babies?” She searched his face for signs of approval. “No? That’s okay. Just be there for moral support.”
“Last time I tried that was in a hospital room with my now ex girlfriend, and she ended up telling me she had been using me for the last three years, so I don’t know how much good my moral support can be.”
“We’ve never dated, though, and you can be sure I’m not using you. I just thought you might like to step away from Afra and Gervassi, lovers of the millenia. Sure, okay, they’re very sweet together and they’ll probably get married and have children named after us, but do they have to be touching all the time?”
Triscin chuckled. “Yeah, gives a whole new meaning to the acronym PDA.”
“I wonder why we haven’t stopped yet.” Muz asked. It had been at least five minutes, and the elevator was being extremely tedious in getting them to the concert hall, aka the baby rooms. “You think the elevators are broken?”
Triscin got a text from Ander saying the power had gone out in the whole hospital, that they were running on generators for the important machines but the elevators would probably be out for a minute. It was oddly exact, but he showed the phone to Muz, who had gotten a similar text from Afra. “I guess it’s good the machines still have power.” Muz knew he was thinking of Eleanor, plugged up into the walls of the hospital and miserable all the same, and so she stayed silent. Both of them did, and it was pretty awkward. Muz pressed all the elevator buttons like a bored little kid while she waited for a break in the cricket parade. She yawned. The seconds ticked by, and the elevator was still stuck. It was great that neither of them were scared of heights.
“What kind of music do you listen to?”
Muz asked Triscin again, “What kind of music do you listen to?”
“Oh, um, I listen to some country music, I guess. Eleanor always told me it was stupid and racist and sexist and all this stuff, which some of it was, but the real country music?” Triscin leaned against the elevator and tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “That was a story right in the song. Isn’t that the best? When you listen to a song and it all works together and then you have like, a whole mini novel playing in your head?” He looked at the crusty old elevator carpet. “Eleanor never liked that theory. She said it was stupid and that if I wanted a story I should just read a book.”
“Really? That’s not cool.” Muz was convinced that Eleanor was a demon more and more as Triscin talked about her. “Not cool at all. I think country music is fine. Not my go to stations, but yeah, there’s some songs that just make you think long and hard about what life is when you break it all down.”
Triscin nodded, appreciating how concentrated Muz’s face became when she started to talk about music. She didn’t look intense, like she was going to scratch his eyes out if he offended her, but he could tell she loved her songs as much as he loved his sports. “Or when you zoom it all out.”
“Yeah, exactly!” They stared at each other and then started to laugh. “Sorry if it was weird I kidnapped you to go sing to other people’s babies.”
“Are you kidding? That’s one of the coolest things I’ve been kidnapped to do! Not that I’ve been kidnapped before, unless you count Eleanor practically dragging me to Colorado.”
“Same with me and Afra! Except we aren’t dating. She totally did drag me up here though. I had seven nights of karaoke bar hopping planned out and she said, hold up, Gervassi calls and I must answer, alas I don’t have a car. Will you drive me, fair Muzical?” Muz loved Afra with all her heart, but the girl could be difficult at times, one of the main reasons she had agreed to come on the trip with her. Sometimes Muz thought Afra needed a break from her family, and if she could help out, all the better.
“Something tells me you’re the more dramatic one of the pair, though. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you have a theater mask tattoo on your wrist.”
Muz feigned surprise. “You’ve been watching my wrists?”
“You talk with your hands.” Triscin said. “Also you have pretty nails.”
“You think my nails are pretty?”
Triscin almost backed up into the wall by accident. “Yes.” He shook his head. “No.” He scratched the side of his face. “I mean, yes. Objectively, as a person, you have pretty nails and I, as a person, recognize this.”
“Well, then, I, as a person, recognize that you are pretty as well.”
“I said your nails-” He started.
“-But you meant me, too. I think. I don’t know.” She pulled her jeans up because they were slipping and wasn’t sure what else she should say. “Sorry.” She laughed. “We say sorry to each other too much. Let’s sing until the elevator starts to work again?”
“How do you know I can sing?”
“I don’t, but I don’t think there’s anything better to do either.”
“Oh, well, okay.” Triscin hadn’t sung in a while. Eleanor said he sounded like a turnpike in the middle of a July summer, whatever that meant. Weren’t most summers, at least in the United States, always in July? And what was a turnpike? Muz noticed the flicker of doubt in his eyes.
“I won’t judge you or anything. I think you’ll sound nice, though, if it’s any help, and it’s just me.” She didn’t step closer, but the elevator felt tight enough for the both of them. “And we’re friends, so it’ll be fun.”
“Yeah, it will be.” Triscin quietly untucked his fingers from inside his sleeves, ten metaphorical turtles peeking out from their fabric shelter. “Um, what song do we both know?”
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?”
“I think that would be creepy to sing in a power outage. There’s no light and we’re singing about how we want to be stars?”
“You want to be a star too?”
Triscin looked at the carpet again and mumbled, “Yeah, who doesn’t?”
“Well, now we have to sing that song!” Muz twirled closer to him, flared red skirt blooming like rose petals around her. “It’ll be the one we’ll always remember singing first.”
Triscin touched his fingertips to his lips in an absent minded way, thoughtful, and nodded. “Considering we’ll sing together again?”
“Do you want me to start the song?”
“Go for it.”
Triscin started to sing, his voice shaky at first, but when Muz joined in with her clear, lilting voice, his own smoothed out like velvet runways paving gold sidewalks.
They sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as though it was going to heal the world, and the words echoed through the metal walls of the jammed elevator holding them together.