The song ends. Cliff shut down his tablet, setting it aside for later. An overhead announcement called for the next flight. He pressed his gelled hair back into place, watching a crowd of people walk to the terminal. Cliff observed women and men of all shapes and sizes impatiently fumbling with their tickets and dragging their luggage. The hum of their conversations and polite dialect the sound of business worker bees buzzing over their flight plans and destinations. All of them dressed in black and shades of grey, waiting for the next demand from managers and bosses to set their life into motion.
The airport was sterile, organized, and baby blue. The smell of coffee and cleaning solution overwhelming him. People walked through lines of security, checking in their luggage. Some had families to wish them a safe flight while others had bosses demanding for work over phones and emails. He waited patiently in his seat charging his tablet. Another hour before his next flight. He began tapping his foot impatiently bored of the environment he was stuck in. From a distance, he could see a man drop his phone at the gate of another terminal. The crack of his phone hitting the ground captured a small audience, one woman, in particular, went to see if everything was alright. He looked away from the spectacle and restarted his tablet up. Cliff scrolled through his music library looking for the song he last listened to. He remembered when Alex had first shared this song with him. The song plays. He closes his eyes, ignoring the world for a moment, letting the song capture his attention. The song of his lover and of his heartbreak. This was their song. His song. He trembles, remembering the times this song played.
A late spring evening at college karaoke he sat quietly watching some kids mess up on another rock song. The music was blaring and the singers were awful. “Cliff go up there and show us a real musician” his band friend teases him. His friends encouraged him to sing a song, and before he built up the courage another person went up to sing. His mellow voice, pitchy and terrible to listen to. Why is this kid messing up a classic song? His eyes catch the singer, and the singer winks at him, smiling in his direction. The singer gets cheers and encouragement, “Go Alex!” people shout shoving glasses of beer in the air to show support. He dances awfully, but can’t stop smiling as he sings. Cliff watches him, curious about why this awful singer chose this song. When Alex hits the final verse and ends the song, the cheers shake the small pub and Alex looks at Cliff again as he steps down walking towards him. The song ends.
Early summer and finals week panic has students filling up the library. Alex saunters in to pull him away from his biology book. “Cliff when are you telling your family about becoming a musician?” Alex asks. His face is curious, his cheeks a little flushed from the heat. “When I go home after graduation,” Cliff says nervous and thrilled at their plans. “So we can finally go to Peru after we graduate and find a place to set up for your music and I can find a job at a hospital!” Alex says. Cliff smiles, taking out his music journal, “I can finish writing my music in some warm weather”. Alex’s phone goes off playing that familiar melody. He steps away from taking the call, his voice filled with excitement fading away. The song ends.
The mid-summer heat had settled in. The beer was passed around at Alex’s college graduation party while his friends gathered all around to listen to his big announcement. While Cliff sat back waiting for him to finally acknowledge their trip plans to live in Peru. The beer bottle had pressed up against his lips, and Alex caught his eyes briefly. The crowd hushes, as Alex begins his slightly slurred speech of gratitude. At the moment of his announcement he shouts, "I recently got accepted for a job at John Hopkins Hospital!" Cheers, hoots, and clinking bottles congratulate Alex. Cliff feels the stutter of his heartbeat silent for one moment to long. He steps away from the party, shutting himself in the bathroom. The song ends.
Cliff looks back down at the tablet, the song switching over and he looks back around in the airport. He is alone now. Peru is over. Alex never went to Peru with him, the promises of his first love crushed by ambition and opportunity. “Why did you leave?” Cliff whispers, he looks up feeling the eyes of a stranger on him. The flight attendant across the sitting area catches his eyes. "What does the tattoo mean?" she asks, hoping to start a pleasant conversation. He mumbles, "Decrescendo a sign in music where the volume decreases". Attempting to cut off the continuation of the conversation. She ignores it, and continues "I just got my daughters names done on my back". She smiles as if she is going to show him here in the airport. "That's great" he mumbles as he readjusts himself in the seat. Another announcement and the lady leaves to help the pilot of the next leaving flight. He glances over at his tablet again, the desire to listen to the song again. He needs to stop listening to the song, it’s a reminder. A reminder that can be set on repeat. He opens the tablet and opens up music once more. He sees a number of times he played the song. He clicks the song. As the melody begins again, he pauses it. Delete the song? His finger hovers over the screen. This is the song that began his relationship, he met Alex with this song. Delete the song? His parents had just accepted his preferences when he was with Alex. Cliff’s finger gets closer to the screen grazing the surface. Delete the song? He won’t see Alex ever again, why hold on to him and this song? He pushes his finger down until it presses the button to delete it. The song is gone. The final goodbye.
An announcement plays overhead, calling his flight. It was time for him to return home. He grabs his backpack and violin case, pulling out the ticket from the front pocket. He steps up to the check in desk, handing over his luggage ticket. He walks through the tunnel to board the plane. The woman behind him asks about his violin case fitting in the overhead storage. He mumbles, “The case is too big.” He hands his case off to the man in charge of loading luggage. “Be careful with it, it’s all I have now?” Cliff informs the man. As he steps ups into the plane, he takes his seat by the window watching his violin case waiting to be loaded. A light flurry of snowflakes fell slowly, melting as it hit his case. Time to go home.