Writers & Lovers (Page 26)

When we get to our section at the Strand, we are in a sea of Iris employees. Gory and Marcus are at the beginning of the row with Fabiana between them, then Dana and Tony and Yasmin. Dana is talking about her date the night before and how the guy put a clove in her mouth before kissing her. ‘What am I, a ham?’ she says as we slide past. Angus and Yasmin are arguing about how to pronounce ‘mischievous.’ Silas and I take seats next to Harry and James, who look like they’ve been making out, red lips and chafed cheeks. Mary Hand is in the row ahead of us, with Craig, Helene, and Victor Silva—the old guard. Thomas and his wife are there, too, with their baby girl who’s sound asleep.

We sit during the opening act but when David Byrne walks onstage in a bright pink mohair suit and says quietly into his mic, ‘I can’t seem to face up to the facts,’ Mary leaps up and we all follow her down to the small dance pit in front of the stage.

The crowd shrieks for the whole song. Next he sings ‘Making Flippy Floppy’ and ‘The Gates of Paradise’ from his new album, then ‘Take Me to the River,’ which makes people go crazy all over again. He makes quick costume changes, each time coming back onstage with fresh energy. He doesn’t speak to the audience until he picks up a guitar, slips the strap over his head, and steps up to the stationary mic in the center. He’s just performed ‘Miss America’ and is still wearing a kilt and black combat boots with knee socks. He starts picking out a slow melody I don’t recognize. ‘Hello, Pro-vi-dence.’ The crowd roars at the sound of his speaking voice. ‘I’m not known for love songs.’ He has to wait for more cheering to subside. ‘But I wrote this one a long time ago. A heartbreak song. Everyone has written at least one heartbreak song, haven’t they? This is for you, Mary.’

Everyone screams, but we from Iris scream the very loudest. She is in front of me, a little to my right, sandwiched between Victor and Craig, who both have their arms around her. I can see half her face. I look for regret or yearning, but she is just smirking her regular smirk at him, purple and red stage lights flashing across her skin.

We sway to his guitar. The words are cryptic, flights of stairs and hamburgers in brown boxes. The song turns faster halfway through, and we pull apart and dance in front of the stage like he wrote it for all of us, about our heartbreaks and recoveries and our friendships that might just last.

Afterward in Silas’s car our ears are blaring, and when I ask him in the driveway to come in, he doesn’t hear and I have to ask again. And when he comes in he flops on my futon like he belonged there all along.

The geese are all asleep. A few tip their heads out from under their wings as we approach. I open the cookie tin and a few more sway slowly over to us. It’s cold, and Silas has wrapped the green blanket around me so I feel like I have wings, too. I shake the tin and walk backward in a circle around them. The ground is warmer than the air and warmer still where the geese have been sleeping. The ashes fall out evenly onto the grass.

They peck at the silver flakes, their beaks moving like machines, faster than the eyes can register. More join them. They don’t fight. There’s enough to go around.

I hold the blanket open for Silas, and he slips beside me and pulls it closed.

‘Is this weird?’

‘Yeah,’ he says. He puts his lips in my hair. ‘I love weird.’

They peck and gnaw for a long time. There’s not much left when they’re done. They putter around for a while on their wide rubber feet. Their necks look made of fur, not feathers. A few return to sleep, curtseying to the ground and burying their heads between the folded wings on their backs.

I’ll miss them when they take flight. I won’t be there. Their fast excited chatter, their wings finally spread wide, their feet tucking in behind them. Wheels up. I’ll miss it. I’ll be in class or at my desk or in bed when they cut across the sky.

‘I want them to go right now.’

‘I know,’ Silas says. ‘They’ll go when they’re ready.’

A book in the library said that some Canada geese may travel as far as Jalisco, Mexico. My mother will like that, the long exhilarating trip, the foreign landing.

But others, the book said, will stay where they are for the winter. Those geese are already home.