TheĀ Cellist.

30 04 2008

I remember lying in a body-warmed bed, the sheets clinging to the sweat of my body. She was naked on a stool across from me, her cello between her pale knees. Her shoulders and arms were bare and uncovered by the cello, giving her an alluring modesty. The fingers of her left hand walked across the strings: sliding and oscillating, glissando and vibrato, expressing more through each note than I could in words. Her right arm manoeuvred the bow with fluid, elegant grace, as if she alone were conducting a string section.

I lay with closed eyes, letting the notes fill my ears and slide into my mind. When I peeked from my closed eyes, I saw that she was not smiling as I was; her eyes were affixed to the neckĀ  of her cello, and her face was furrowed with the slight frown of concentration that masked her thoughts when she played.

I was captivated by the way her hands moved when she held a note in vibrato, the way the bow slid over the strings, the purity and strength of the sound she drew from the instrument. It seemed that she held her cello with greater tenderness and love than she had held me just minutes before, as if sex was only a warm-up to the real pleasure.

This memory was from the night before the Project distributed data packets throughout the System to the candidates who had made it through to the final round of offers. That was six, no, almost seven years ago. I had relived the memory of Elgar’s Cello Concerto each time I fell asleep for almost two and a half thousand nights. That part of me disconnected by such timescales felt that it was no longer a memory, but a memory of a memory, the original having been long worn away.

I remember the feeling of the sheets sticking to my body, the way her music improved during turnaround, when her hands flitted like butterflies, unencumbered. She had made the six-month outbound trip from Copernicus to meet me on my way back to the Hub. I remember how much she hated the journey to the outer planets, and being cramped aboard a hauler between transfers. She was accustomed to the bright sunshine and the unending basalt plains of the maria. She shrivelled and turned pale from the conditions, like a flower without light.

Ultimately, that was why the Project rejected her application. The psyche evaluation was blunt, but necessarily so; I remember how personally she took the comments. She would not be able to cope with the five-year journey to Alpha Centauri if she could barely endure the twelve-month round-trip between the Moon and the Jupiter colonies. Her tears were made light and delicate by the zero-gravity of turnaround, but behind them I saw a suppressed, hidden, denied relief.

She came to see me eight weeks before the Quoqasi left Jupiter. She brought her cello. She did not ask me to stay, to change my mind, to give up the greatest adventure of history. Not once did she give voice to the thought that remained silent between us: that once the fusion torch lit and the colony ship slipped its moorings, we would never see each other again. Our lives would continue, diminished, separated by a gulf of a size incomparable to that endured by any star-crossed lovers in the history of the species.

She played Albinoni’s Adagio that night, her jaw set and face furrowed.

In the three months since the Mayflower had arrived, life had improved. It was becoming easier for us to remove Home from our intimate thoughts. But each time I saw Cassiopeia, and each night before sleep fogged my mind, I thought of her. And of her cello.