Where She Went (excerpt)
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It’s been three years since Adam’s loved saved Mia—and three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever. In those three years, Shooting Star has become a wildly successful band and Adam an iconic rock star with a famous girlfriend. It’s all the makings of the good life, right?
Or not. Read on….
It’s early evening now and the aggressive heat has mellowed, and it’s like everyone senses that it’s safe to go out because they’re mobbing the place: spreading out picnics on the lawn, pushing jogging strollers up the paths, floating in canoes along the lily-padded lake.
Much as I like seeing all the people doing their thing, it all makes me feel exposed. I don’t get how other people in the public eye do it. Sometimes I see pictures of Brad Pitt with his gaggle of kids in Central Park, just playing on swings, and clearly he was followed by paparazzi but he still looks like he’s having a normal day with his family. Or maybe not. Pictures can be pretty deceptive.
Thinking about all this and passing happy people enjoying a summer evening, I start to feel like a moving target, even though I have my cap pulled low and my shades are on and I’m without Bryn. When Bryn and I are together, it’s almost impossible to fly under the radar. I’m seized with this paranoia, not even so much that I’ll get photographed or hounded by a mob of autograph seekers—though I really don’t want to deal with that right now—but that I’ll be mocked as the only person in the entire park who’s alone, even though this obviously isn’t the case. But still, I feel like any second people will start pointing, making fun of me.
So, this is how it’s become? This is what I’ve become? A walking contradiction? I’m surrounded by people and feel alone. I claim to crave a bit of normalcy but now that I have some, it’s like I don’t know what to do with it, don’t know how to be a normal person anymore.
I wander toward the Ramble, where the only people I’m likely to bump into are the kind who don’t want to be found. I buy a couple of hot dogs and down them in a few bites, and it’s only then that I realize I haven’t eaten all day, which makes me think about lunch—and the Vanessa LeGrande debacle.
What happened back there? I mean, you’ve been known to get testy with reporters, but that was just an amateur-hour move, I tell myself.
I’m just tired, I justify. Overtaxed. I think of the tour and it’s like the mossy ground next to me opens up and starts whirring.
Sixty-seven nights. I try to rationalize it. Sixty-seven nights is nothing. I try to divide up the number, to fractionalize it, to do something to make it smaller, but nothing divides evenly into sixty-seven. So I break it up. Fourteen countries, thirty-nine cities, a few hundred hours on a tour bus. But the math just makes the whirring go faster and I start to feel dizzy. I grab hold of the tree trunk and run my hand against the bark, which reminds me of Oregon and makes the earth at least close up for the time being.
I can’t help but think about how, when I was younger, I’d read about the legions of artists who imploded—Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Hendrix. They disgusted me. They got what they wanted and then what did they do? Drugged themselves to oblivion. Or shot their heads off. What a bunch of assholes.
Well, take a look at yourself now. You’re no junkie but you’re not much better.
I would change if I could, but so far, ordering myself to shut up and enjoy the ride hasn’t had much of an impact. If the people around me knew how I feel, they’d laugh at me. No, that’s not true. Bryn wouldn’t laugh. She’d be baffled by my inability to bask in what I’ve worked so hard to accomplish.
But have I worked so hard? There’s this assumption among my family, Bryn, the rest of the band—well, at least there used to be among those guys—that I somehow deserve all this, that the acclaim and wealth is payback. I’ve never really bought that. Karma’s not like a bank. Make a deposit, take a withdrawal. But more and more, I am starting to suspect that all this is payback for something—only not the good kind.
I reach for a cigarette, but my pack’s empty. I stand up and dust off my jeans and make my way out of the park. The sun is starting to dip to the west, a bright blaring ball tilting toward the Hudson and leaving a collage of peach and purple streaks across the sky. It really is pretty and for a second I force myself to admire it.
I turn south on Seventh, stop at a deli, grab some smokes, and then head downtown. I’ll go back to the hotel, get some room service, maybe fall asleep early for once. Outside Carnegie Hall, taxis are pulling up, dropping off people for tonight’s performances. An old woman in pearls and heels teeters out of a taxi, her stooped-over companion in a tux holding onto her elbow. Watching them stumble off together, I feel something in my chest lurch. Look at the sunset, I tell myself. Look at something with beauty. But when I look back up at the sky, the streaks have darkened to the color of a bruise.
Prissy, temperamental asshole. That’s what the reporter was calling me. She was a piece of work, but on that particular point, she was speaking the truth.
My gaze returns to earth and when it does, it’s her eyes I see. Not the way I used to see them—around every corner, behind my own closed lids at the start of each day. Not in the way I used to imagine them in the eyes of every other girl I laid on top of. No, this time it really is her eyes. A photo of her, dressed in black, a cello leaning against one shoulder like a tired child. Her hair is up in one of those buns that seem to be a requisite for classical musicians. She used to wear it up like that for recitals and chamber music concerts, but with little pieces hanging down, to soften the severity of the look. There are no tendrils in this photo. I peer closer at the sign. YOUNG CONCERT SERIES PRESENTS MIA HALL.
A few months ago, Liz broke the unspoken embargo on all things Mia and mailed me a clip from the magazine All About Us. I thought you should see this, was scrawled on a sticky note. It was an article titled “Twenty Under 20,” featuring upcoming “wunderkinds.” There was a page on Mia, including a picture I could barely bring myself to glance at, and an article about her, that after a few rounds of deep breathing, I only managed to skim. The piece called her the “heir apparent to Yo-Yo Ma.” In spite of myself, I’d smiled at that. Mia used to say that people who had no idea about the cello always described cellists as the next Yo-Yo Ma because he was their single point of reference. “What about Jacqueline Du Pré?” she’d always asked, referring to her own idol, a talented and tempestuous cellist who’d been stricken with multiple sclerosis at the age of twenty-eight and died about fifteen years later.
The All About Us article called Mia’s playing “other-worldly” and then very graphically described the car accident that had killed her parents and little brother more than three years ago. That had surprised me. Mia hadn’t been one to talk about that, to fish for sympathy points. But when I’d managed to make myself skim the piece again, I’d realized that it was a write-around, quotes taken from old newspaper accounts, but nothing directly from Mia herself.
I’d held onto the clipping for a few days, occasionally taking it out to glance over it. Having the thing in my wallet felt a little bit like carrying around a vial of plutonium. And for sure if Bryn caught me with an article about Mia there’d be explosions of the nuclear variety. So after a few more days, I threw it away and forced myself to forget it.
Now, I try to summon the details, to recall if it said anything about Mia leaving Juilliard or playing recitals at Carnegie Hall.
I look up again. Her eyes are still there, still staring at me. And I just know with as much certainty as I know anything in this world that she’s playing tonight. I know even before I consult the date on the poster and see that the performance is for August thirteenth.
And before I know what I’m doing, before I can argue myself out of it, rationalize what a terrible idea this is, I’m walking toward the box office. I don’t want to see her, I tell myself. I won’t see her. I only want to hear her. The box office sign says that tonight is sold out. I could announce who I am or put in a call to my hotel’s concierge or Aldous and probably get a ticket, but instead I leave it to fate. I present myself as an anonymous, if underdressed, young man and ask if there are any seats left.
“In fact, we’re just releasing the rush tickets. I have a rear mezzanine, side. It’s not the ideal view, but it’s all that’s left,” the girl behind the glass window tells me.
“I’m not here for the view,” I reply.
“I always think that, too,” the girl says, laughing. “But people get particular about these kinds of things. That’ll be twenty-five dollars.”
I throw down my credit card and enter the cool, dim theater. I slide into my seat and close my eyes, remembering the last time I went to a cello concert somewhere this fancy. Five years ago, on our first date. Just as I did that night, I feel this mad rush of anticipation, even though I know that unlike that night, tonight I won’t kiss her. Or touch her. Or even see her up close.
Tonight, I’ll listen. And that’ll be enough.
So, what happens next? I’ll give you a hint. Adam does see Mia. They spend an intense night together in New York City, and Adam maybe, just maybe gets the answers to some of those questions that have been haunting him for years, and maybe just maybe finds his way out of the unhappy quagmire his life has become.