About twenty minutes into the concert, Marjorie discovered the ring in her handbag. She was seated in the front row of the upper balcony, with a clear view of the band. From her vantage point, the musicians looked like animatronic miniatures, figures akin to a holiday department store window. The sound, though, was larger than anything she had experienced in recent memory – a deep and thrumming bass, a banshee vocalist, a relentless drum that seemed powerful enough to reprogram her own heartbeat.
On a quest for her lip balm, she had instead found the ring in her handbag’s interior pocket, buried among old pharmacy receipts and chewing gum wrappers. She had forgotten about placing it there, awhile ago, in this rarely-used bag. This morning, she had grabbed the purse from the back of her closet, thinking only that its honeyed-leather hue complemented her coat. Now, though, that she had been reminded of the ring's presence, she could think of little else. It seemed to grow and pulse within her purse, and she felt compelled to reach in, extract it, and fling it over the balcony’s edge.
It would be easy. She would retrieve it from its temporary resting place, then slip it on her now-empty ring finger. She’d leave it on for a song, maybe two. Then, just as it would start to feel familiar again, she’d rip it off and cast it into the air, into the audience below. Maybe it would land in someone’s beer cup, just the slightest splash indicating its arrival. Maybe it would fall onto a seat cushion, its standing occupant oblivious as he or she danced to the band. Or, maybe, it would simply land on the floor, relegated to the dust pile on the following day when the cleaning crew arrived. An unsuspecting janitor would see a gleam of light in the rubbish, and stoop down to get a closer look. He would pocket it, keep it for his own proposal someday, perhaps rewrite its history with an entirely new love story. Or, ever practical, he could hock it for some extra cash. Marjorie imagined seeing it in a pawn shop's window display, and her brief flicker of recognition--that looks like my old wedding ring—before inevitably continuing on her way.
Or, the janitor would not see anything at all, and the ring would be swept up with the discarded bottles and cups, popcorn containers, and candy wrappers, the last remains of this concert.
She and Phil had gone to see this band, in a different iteration, a few years ago. She had been a more casual fan, then, less familiar with the catalog, only knowing the monster hit singles that received inescapable radio play – the soundtracks of grocery stores, sport drink commercials, summer afternoon open-window car stereos. When things had started to sour, she immersed herself in more of their repertoire, hoping music—and a further understanding of it—would bridge what other means (talk, sex) could not. It hadn’t helped. She was drawn to the songs from Phil’s least-favorite era, her interpretation of the band’s classics were Phil’s corresponding drudgery, the years best forgotten. His favorites, conversely, were unremarkable to her ears.
A brief moment of applause, and the band launched into an obscure B-side. Marjorie shifted the bag to her other shoulder.
Tonight’s lineup was even different from that last show Marjorie had attended, the band-name-as-brand outlasting the original membership. From this distance, she couldn’t discern who was whom on stage, much less who was a founder and who was a newbie or late-addition replacement. She strained to listen as they moved on to one of her favorites. The backing vocalist was evocative enough, compared to the original musician on the album. In truth, her ear couldn’t differentiate between the stylings of the new second guitarist and the former founding member. She—and everyone around her—had paid for the experience that night, as-is, not a preserved relic of a ten-year-old group, as-was. Whether it was authentic enough seemed like a waste of her energy. The song certainly sounded great. She wasn’t a musician—who was she to criticize if it was a facsimile of the original?
It occurred to her that she hadn’t had to worry about bumping into Phil here. A year ago, when the wounds were fresh, she wouldn’t have dared attend this concert, much less even acknowledge it was happening. It was cliché, wasn’t it – the more time passed, the less she considered him. Admittedly, his relocation to Memphis had helped, too. And so she had seen the concert announcement in the paper a few weeks back and promptly purchased a ticket, solo, with no second thoughts.
She had noted it was a national tour, though, on seeing the souvenir t-shirts at the merch table when she first arrived. There were two stops in Tennessee, in a little over a week from tonight's show. As the band launched into “their” song, the one tune whose majesty she and Phil had both agreed on, Marjorie wondered if Phil would have an echo of her experience, tonight, in Memphis later. If he would attend alone, with friends, with a date. If he would go at all.
The bass line seemed to be penetrating her skin, at multiple points across her body—buzzing against her heels, her teeth, the roots of her hair. The corresponding jolts, the physicality of the rhythm, seemed to slough off whatever remained of that year-ago self. She stood in place among the pulsing crowd, letting herself be altered. The band had taken her 99 percent of the way there; the remaining piece was just a short reach away.
The crescendo of the song approached, and as the guitars wailed and the singer leapt into his upper register, the ceiling burst open with a shower of tinsel confetti. The metallic papers gleamed and shone as they fluttered toward the ground floor, each a glittering flare as it caught the stage lights.
Quick and clean, without time to overthink, Marjorie reached into her handbag and unzipped the inner pocket. Her fingertips found the ring immediately, and with a flick of the wrist, it was out of her grasp. She thought she saw it hang in the air for a moment, among the twinkling shards, before descending with its lesser counterparts.
About the author:
Sarah Pascarella is a Boston-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in The Quotable, Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine, Travelers’ Tales, The Boston Globe, and USA Today, among other publications. She has a Master’s in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Her novel, The Virgin Mary Hotline, is available via Kindle and Nook. She is currently at work on her second novel.