She must have dropped it coming out: one of a pair of black satin gloves. She remembers holding them as she rose and clapped gingerly, glimpsing Dan’s frown, his glassy green eyes fixed in front of him, and thought crossly, he looks the perfect spectator—though what she’d meant she couldn’t quite say. Outside the night had turned damp, and she slid the two gloves (it had been two, hadn’t it?) into her coat’s pocket.
Now they’re retracing their steps, gray car beams feathered over her, shadows circling wide spokes. As her vision sweeps the lot, it’s met between cars by dark pockets—tight, inky wells—and down one she sees a scurrying, a quick wild darting of tiny feet and tail.
Up the front steps, young voices chirp and glide. Her heels clack loudly—the sound of an intruder—and Dan’s eyes stay hooded as she whispers, half smiling, “Surely no one took it? What would someone want with only one glove?”
The concert hall feels hollowed: chairs empty, the piano sleek-black and closed. From the wing a wisp of smoke curls and falls, and a young man—the usher with the doughy face—descends the steps and approaches.
While Dan explains he holds his hands out, apologetic, as the usher squints at the floor. Then without a word (like he knows our seats by heart, like he’d watched us), he strides off before stopping at their row. With sharp bangs he flips down one seat, then another, displaying the bare red fabric as if to prove things go poof! and vanish.
That night she tucks the one glove—a thin shell, slightly scuffed on the palm—underneath her good scarf in a drawer. When she slips under the blanket, Dan’s back is turned toward her, naked and broad, and the silence seems to lift off his skin.
Watching him, she hears the piano—notes grimly climbing—and remembers feeling gifted, young and set apart just by being so aware. But now she strains to hear it, its melody thinned by
the bright glare of headlights,
Dan’s strained voice,
a cockroach’s buzzing whir,
this impenetrable, darkly blank
I’m here, she thinks fiercely, fist against her heart. Damn it, Joy, I’m right here.
But then she hears her voice, cracked, lashing out foolishly at the close, warning silence: “I just don’t understand it. What would anyone want with only one glove?”
A fiction writer and translator, Stephen Delaney has work published or forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Mid-American Review, Gargoyle, The Bloomsbury Review, Gigantic, Rain Taxi Review of Books, and elsewhere.