by Leeore Schnairsohn
________Under each formula lies a corpse.
Stevie and Valentine were playing the terrifying F-minor cello sonata of George Enescu, the Romanian genius, at a house party in Brooklyn. The room where they played was paneled with wood and looked like a ship’s cabin. Each time Stevie played a low C on her cello, the walls buzzed and the audience inhaled. Simultaneously Valentine’s shoulders tensed over the piano and he tipped his head back with a look of existential suffering. He was ten years Stevie’s senior, had a shaved head and was a gentleman of old Europe. They’d dated for a while, and felt their love twitching whenever they played. It did something for the music.
________The problem is that every room in the world resonates at its own home pitch. Striking that pitch on an instrument will set the whole place vibrating. This room—the cabin—resonated at low C, which if you know the Enescu F-minor cello sonata is a disaster waiting to happen. Whenever Stevie bent her head and sliced into that C the room trembled like a resurrection, making the cello jump between her knees and rumble sympathetically till the note was over. It was Enescu’s ghost knocking against her thighs, feeding through her body into the room—but now Valentine was giving her that look every time she hit it. Come on, she thought. We’ve been through this.
________Finally in the middle of the allegretto Valentine’s throat went white, his right hand flew to his chest and his left sagged against the keys. The Brooklynites called 911, and then Stevie was riding with Valentine in the ambulance and sitting in the waiting room with her cello while the doctors and nurses ran around trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She wanted to take the cello out of its case, to have something to touch. At last they asked her who they should call. It was over. Valentine Popa of Flatbush, New York, had died from a dissection of his aortic root, which had been widening in secret over his thirty-nine years. They said it was a congenital disorder of the connective tissue. But really Stevie had vibrated him to death, before an audience. With each lovelorn look Mr. Popa had been leaking blood, till his heart was empty.
________Soon afterwards the building Stevie lived in was sold, and the new landlord bullied her out. To everyone’s surprise she moved from Green Point all the way down to South Slope. Her new street ended at the cemetery, and each morning through the bars she saw Rose and Eva Franke who lay buried under a single stone. They had died on June 15, 1904, the day the General Slocum sank in the East River with all the Lutherans on board. Stevie’s building looked like a gravestone too, gray stucco with white accents, like it was waiting for a heavy metal band to lipstick their name across it. In the same vein her new apartment had drop ceilings, so Stevie, who was five-ten, hardly had clearance when she stood.
________She took the place because it was safe. Its home pitch lay somewhere between middle G and F-sharp, which she would never hit by accident. Still, she had no desire to play. She lived off her savings, took walks and read hand-me-down philosophy books from her friend Marcie, ate at her folding table under the drop ceilings and stared every now and then at the little hammer-and-sickle pin that Valentine had worn twenty years ago as a sailor in the Black Sea Fleet, and which she’d pinned to the leaf of a spider plant in her kitchen.
________In Valentine’s navy days Stevie was still Steph: a gangly nine-year-old at Split Rock Elementary who had just started cello and had never been beyond Lake Erie, never mind the port of Sevastopol where the men of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet loaded up their ships and hummed the Volga Boatmen Song and kissed each other’s lips farewell. On Wednesday afternoons, between 5:15 when her lesson ended and 5:30 when her mom picked her up at school, Steph had her first trysts with resonance. Locking herself in the visitors’ bathroom, she leaned in with her bow and found the groove that made the tiles hum, tuning her early-blooming body, twining it around a trellis of sound. Meanwhile behind the Iron Curtain, nineteen-year-old Petty Officer Popa was standing night watch on the Black Sea, smoking makhorka and piecing through the philosophical works of Emil Cioran, the great Romanian pessimist, as blood beat against the nascent striations in his aorta. When they discussed this confluence later on he’d been quick to say: It was then we first made love.
________Valentine’s real name was Valen-teen, with the accent on the end so it rhymed with Halloween. It wasn’t a strange name where he came from. His accent reminded Stevie of Dracula, and he’d been given to morbid talk even without knowing his medical condition. He had suggested, for instance, that they decide on a secret sign in case one of them ever died and returned to the other in a different form. Now that he was dead, Stevie was glad they hadn’t picked one. Sorry Val, she thought, swiping through MatchMe profiles at her folding table, mouth full of carbonara. She blinked wetly at the hammer-and-sickle pin, bobbing on its leaf in the breeze from the heat vent. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.
________STEFANIA! she heard him answer. You are Persephone—don’t forget. We shall be married in the underworld. He’d actually said that once, and then they’d made love. Now the world seemed strange and full of meaning. She was not Stevie; she was Persephone and would be snatched away at any moment to meet the king of the underworld.
[Allegro molto moderato]
One day in November, Stevie heard something up in the ceiling. When she stood and ran her fingers along it, a piece of plaster fell in her eye. After a second she heard the noise again, and whispered, “Ooh!” and then, “What is that?” Whatever it was had legs, because it was running up and down. Then it stopped, and Stevie turned back to MatchMe. But in the night it came again, and there were others, and whatever it was ran around with its friends till dawn.
________In the morning she texted the super. He wrote back, “K I call racun guy.”
“Raccoons?” she said to no one. “Oh geez.” She went for her daily walk. It was a cold, bright afternoon, and the cemetery deserted: squares of mausoleums, graves rearing up like dominoes on the hills and spreading out in the valleys. She climbed till she could see the cranes on the Freedom Tower, all the way over in Manhattan. When she got back there was a crimson van outside her building that said in small professional letters RACCOON SPECIALISTS. A man was on her stoop staring at a flip phone. He was small, about fifty, Latino, with glasses and gray work clothes.
________“George says you got a couple of them?”
________The specialist went to his truck and brought out some tarps and a harpoon gun and asked if she needed the bathroom. She shook her head. He went in there and set up his tarps, took the plate off the ceiling vent, kicked open a stepladder and climbed up with the gun in one hand and a flashlight in his mouth. After a minute he went “Ugh” and fired. There was a yowl up in the ceiling, and then a flurry. “OK, shoot,” said the specialist. “I got her in the belly or something.”
________Stevie choked and swallowed. “What’s going to happen?”
________“Don’t worry about it,” said the raccoon specialist. “It’s not your fault. You know, they come in from the cemetery when it gets cold.” He climbed down and washed his hands. “If you don’t do something they’ll spread all kinds of disease up there. It’s the law.” He toweled off and went back up. “I bet you it’s over in an hour, maybe less.” He lifted his gun into the crawlspace and bit the flashlight again, then spat it out and said, “Look, you can take a walk. Get a slice of pizza. I’ll shoot George a text when I’m done and he can text you.”
________Stevie put a coat on and walked down to the fancy market and used their bathroom, and then bought a thing of ice cream with Mexican chocolate for seven bucks. She took the ice cream to the park with a plastic spoon and looked at MatchMe on her phone as the sky got blue and the cold settled on the trees. She was supposed to have a date later on. A guy named Laramie was coming over for dinner. Afterwards maybe they could finish the ice cream, though Laramie had texted he would bring some from work. When it got dark and bitter she went up Seventh Ave and bought a bottle of wine. The wine store guy asked if she had a discount card. It was warm in there, and the guy had a beard, and she almost cried because South Slope was so nice and raccoons were being murdered in her apartment. Leaving the wine store she got a text from George: “Evythin OK doors open.” She scurried home with her ice cream and her wine and went in through the open door, and everything was just as it had been, if a little neater. The tarps were gone and her cello case still had her cello in it, and there were no more noises.
________Laramie worked at Ice Cream Clowns on Third Ave, near the U-Haul. Stevie knew the Clowns quite well. It was one of those places you didn’t want to belong to because they would have you as a member. It made her nervous that Laramie earned his living stuffing waffle cones for the young colonizers of old Brooklyn, even if (as his MatchMe profile proclaimed) a good Clown made bank. Everyone in there was just like her, nearing thirty, sophomoric and self-conscious and way too old for this. Her friend Marcie said the Clowns was Brooklyn’s attempt to erase the mirror-stage and return to howling infancy, in order to escape the guilt brought on by gentrification. Sometimes Stevie wondered—as she wondered now, tonging a roast in her tiny, off-balance oven—if this applied to her too.
________Stevie had a huge smile, and she smiled it every time someone said something nice, or something awful. She never got downhearted, even when the gigs dried up or when something bad happened, like one time she was getting ice cream and the delivery guy tripped into the display and cracked his forehead, and the forthright young Brooklynites gathered round and tore their phones out of their back pockets and yelled, “Brother, do not move!” and held him down for safety. When Laramie first messaged her (hey perstephone its iscreamclown84 what kind of phone r u?) she’d written back: dude u know me. i always get pistachio mustache child size cone. ur the guy who asks me 2 smile. She hadn’t informed Laramie about her plan to quit ice cream when she turned thirty. She was saving that for their date. Probably he thought she was just like him—or maybe it was he who was actually like her, and he thought she was what she thought he was like. That was the kind of mystery that feeds sexual attraction.
________Marcie, who was writing a dissertation about trauma in novels written by women in post-communist states, told her there wasn’t anything wrong with just sleeping around for a while. The modern world was careless and cruel, from Marcie’s point of view. No one was looking out for you, so you may as well be free. If a flasher opens his coat and there’s no one to see it, is he still flashing? That sort of thing. The oven was warm, and to Stevie’s surprise she felt like practicing. She took out the cello, sat behind it and warmed up, then started the Enescu sonata right where she and Val had left off, in the allegretto. In her mind she heard his piano blowing up like fireworks, and the two of them tore through smoky air, soared over grave-crenellated hills. What a sound, Enescu. Poor Val. The gig had been going well, and now it would never be over…
________The doorbell rang. Stevie’s bow dropped to the floor!
She and Laramie talked and drank wine till the roast was ready, then ate it with Yorkshire pudding and potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts. The food put Stevie in a mood, and Laramie was friendly and hot in his Raggedy-Andy sort of way. They talked about work, and she half-aired her opinion about scooping ice cream for the young colonizers of old Brooklyn (“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I know, right?”), and then they moved onto other things. When Laramie asked her what the green stuff was and she said Brussels sprouts, he said, “Oh, no kidding.” Then he said, “You know, there was this story in Mad Magazine when I was a kid, where this one kid tells the other kid how this girl is kind of developing, and the one kid says, ‘Yeah, I saw she’s getting some real Brussels sprouts.’ I never knew they were these things.” He laughed and speared one on his fork and bit down and chewed it up. “It’s funny, cause now it’s like I’m eating a big giant pile of, you know!”
________Stevie swallowed, and laughing coughed up a piece of fat she’d just gotten down, and the violence of choking made her feel hot. She found herself eyeing the bed, which was right next to the table, and thought how easy it would be to roll off her chair right onto the bedspread, and tip Laramie’s chair over too, and afterwards they could roll right back up again and finish eating. She slid her leg against his under the table. He made no countermove. She smiled her big smile and squinted at him over the top of her wineglass. He smiled too, and pushed his Yorkshire pudding around in the gravy. Damn it, she thought. Here I should be sleeping around because of the twentieth century, and I don’t even know how.
________In despair she threw her eyes ceilingward and saw a trickle of blood running down the light fixture. Her throat closed. The blood reached the end of the fixture, welled up, and slapped lightly onto Laramie’s Yorkshire pudding. Still smiling, he forked it up and ate it. Stevie’s throat opened again, and she inhaled so sharply that Laramie stopped smiling and asked if she was OK. She nodded and cut her meat. Everything was all right. He hadn’t noticed. The room had started to spin, but that was because of the wine. After a minute she sneaked another glance at the fixture: no more drops, just a faint pink sickle.
________An hour or two later, the table still uncleared and a candle burning on the floor beneath it, miraculously unsnuffed amid the socks and pants and woolen mounds of early winter wear, she leaned up from a medium-sized orgasm, hung her face over his and watched the shadow of his nose dance in the flicker.
________“What’s your real name?” he asked her.
________“I know that.”
________“Oh,” she said. “Stephanie.”
________“That’s cool,” he mused. “So Stevie Nicks’s name is really Stephanie Nicks?” He laughed. “That’s stupid.” He sighed. “What’s with your MatchMe name? I can’t even pronounce it.”
________“It’s a mix of Stephanie and Persephone, who is a Greek goddess. Perstephone.”
________“Whoa. That’s awesome.”
________“Yup.” She kissed his nose. “Persephone visits the underworld every winter, and when she comes back it’s spring.”
________“Like my grandma,” said Laramie. “Except she went to Florida.”
________Stevie laughed and kissed him. They still hadn’t done it, but it was OK. It seemed he was waiting for something, but who knew what.
________“Whoa, sweetie,” she said. “Did you just fall asleep?”
________“Yeah! Whoops.” He seemed excited. “You wouldn’t believe the dream I just had.”
________“What was it?” she asked.
________“I’ll show you.”
________But still they didn’t do it. He kept saying, “Not yet.” What was he waiting for?
________When she woke up again the candle was out and Laramie was snoring. It was cold. She thought to scuttle out and fix the thermostat, but then the furnace roared up and blasted hot air through the spider plant. It made a sound like WHOA.
________“Whoa,” answered Laramie, half-asleep.
________“It’s the heat,” she whispered.
________“They’re called angels of rotation,” he said and turned toward her. His mouth and eyes cracked open, and he started to snore again.
________Whenever Stevie couldn’t sleep, she heard music. Usually it was a piece she was rehearsing, but now that she’d stopped playing there was a big open space in her head. Pieces appeared from her past, her childhood: melodies she hadn’t heard in years, songs she was surprised she knew. She got stuck on “Foolish Beat,” a breakup ballad by Debbie Gibson from the days of Split Rock Elementary. She hadn’t heard the song in twenty years, yet now relived every note, helplessly. She remembered bringing it home from Tape World, running her nail under the cardboard box and pinching out the CD, setting her mom’s boom box on the front porch, skipping to “Foolish Beat” and crying at the first note of the saxophone, though no one had ever broken up with her, or she with anyone.
________There was something about it. The boom box had an upright CD player; you could watch the disc spin behind a little window, and the sun would bounce off and make it look like stained glass. It was a window onto something far away. Nine-year-old Steph stared at that spot of stained glass and let the song attack her over and over while her mom made dinner. It was so sad, so impassioned—and yet orderly, mathematical, a careful refraction of the howling spirit of love.
________Now Stevie’s adult mind analyzed “Foolish Beat” and found it a work of genius. Its chorus ended with a magisterial cadence: a suspended dominant followed by a major-seventh chord on the submediant, which hung on the fifth of the tonic before plunging back through the subdominant and subtonic to leave everything suspended again on the submediant but now with a diminished fifth. Never was there such complexity on top 40 radio. Not to mention the bridge: the monkish fistula at the end of the phrase “Just a foolish beat of my hea-a-a-a-a-art!” that fell back toward the chorus, crashed against it, commanded it to be reborn—of course it was the third of the dominant that led the way back to the tonic: a move worthy of Johann Sebastian Bach. No wonder it had worked so effectively on her, with her musical mind.
________And the words. Who could ignore them? They, too, told a story she’d never heard before, the story of a girl who had dumped a boy and then felt sad afterwards. It made no sense! If she was so sad about it, why didn’t they get back together? And why could she “never love again?” There was a mystery there, a hidden truth that nine-year-old Steph didn’t understand but that the music told her beat there, behind the boom box’s stained-glass window, waiting to be revealed to her open heart. It would be a sad revelation, but she wasn’t afraid to fall in love.
________Now, twenty years on, she was afraid. She pressed herself against the wall while the song cruised through her mind, lighting up the clouds of the years. It was unbearable and there was nowhere to go. If she got out of bed she’d crash into the table; if she made it past the table she’d be in the kitchen. No matter how far she got in the apartment, she’d be within earshot of Laramie’s snoring and the furnace’s WHOAs. And between those blasts it was so cold—outside it must be freezing. The song played, the heat blasted. The music shattered and started anew. She remembered Lockerbie, back in the Debbie Gibson days. They’d hidden the bomb in a boom box.
________Now she’d struck a vein. Something was coming. Was it the bomb? The plane? She was shaking. Would she find herself falling through the night sky, seatbelt fastened? Yes—it came back to her, how it worked. She’d read about it in the paper, in fourth grade. In the cargo hold the boom box boomed. Shockwaves petalled the metal. The nose tore off and fell. The headless cabin hung a moment, ceiling splitting, seats tearing loose and falling up into the sky, before it tipped and began its own pell-mell descent. Deprived of oxygen the passengers passed out, but in the oxygen-rich troposphere they awoke again still falling. In that dark minute, their dreams would have been intense—perhaps comprising years, whole lifetimes.
________Steph had swallowed this news and digested it. Christmas 1988 she’d been a zombie, worried that it wasn’t real, that really she was on the plane, unconscious and dreaming of Christmas Eve with roast and Yorkshire pudding and ice cream and hot chocolate, and any second now she would wake up belted to a plunging row of seats, blue-black clouds spinning around her, lights of little houses waiting below. It was this awakening that lay behind the stained glass, at the end of the cadence—had always waited, between the thrumming bathroom tiles, between her long legs, shaking her core, the furious formless god in her fertile mortal body.
________She swung a leg over Laramie and tried to seduce him, but it didn’t work; he was out cold. She stuck to him like a magnet as the bed spun. Her eyes widened around the darkness. She waited.
It was still dinner. She was not yet drunk. The blood from the raccoon dripped onto his pudding and he ate it. A minute later he put his fork down and said, “I’m done. I want to take a walk.”
________“OK,” she said. “But I should do the dishes first. Animals will come in from the cemetery.”
________“It’s OK, I don’t mind. You can dry if you want to help.”
________“Screw the dishes.” He was already making for the door. “Let’s go to this cemetery.”
________She grabbed her coat and followed him outside. “It’s closed,” she said, pulling on her boots, “they close at five.”
________“Let’s go anyway,” he said, and forged up the hill toward Seventh Ave.
________She skipped behind him. “Are you OK?”
________“Great. That dinner was great. I want to find a way in here.”
________They walked up to the corner, crossed Seventh Ave and leaned against the fence, looking in. Rose and Eva Franke were just in range of the streetlight, first in line behind the bars, as if hoping for readmission. He led her up 20th St. past the auto body shops and carpet cleaners to where the sidewalk went all to cracks and broken glass, making noises in his throat and dragging his hand along the bars. The gate at Prospect Park West posted the hours and warned trespassers against K-9 patrols. He kissed her and pressed her up against the fence out of the glow of the streetlights, and she brought him to her and squeezed him and was glad she was in a skirt. Her blood was getting hotter and she felt dizzy and pressed him harder, and they had stopped kissing to focus on pressing, and she was moaning and he breathing deep, and suddenly he threw her aside and grabbed the fence and with a weird shout pulled two of the bars apart. Before she could say anything he jammed himself between them and sprinted up the hill through the graves.
________“Hey!” she cried, slid in behind him and ran. She cleared the hill and came down again, caught her foot against a headstone and recovered to find herself in a semicircle of mausoleums. The moon was shining against them, and also on the grass and the graves on the surrounding hills. It was everywhere. The city of the dead opened for her. She walked through it like a conquistador. Leaving the mausoleums, she ascended a new hill where the graves were disordered and sparse and half sunk into the ground. An airplane rose up behind the trees. Then an arm hooked around her throat and dragged her down. Her hands reached back and found a face and a mess of frizzy hair—a Raggedy Andy mess. She tried to make a sound but couldn’t.
________“Hey,” he said. She fell with him and they rolled down a hill. He lifted her skirt and was inside her in a fury and she was bringing him to her and crying out, and they slid down and down and finally stopped with their faces mashed against each other, salty and damp. She felt like she’d been exploded against her coat, like he had blasted her from the center and she lay in pieces with embers still glowing at the corners.
________“This is weird,” she said finally.
________“I know, right?”
________“It’s going to get cold,” she said dreamily, and then, “Hey!” He was jerking his pants on, loping away. She fastened her clothes and ran after, heedlessly, up hills, down hills, off the paths and headlong through arcs of graves, as if she were in orbit around something and had to run to keep from falling.
________She was halted by a stench like the world had taken off its shoes. Before her lay a long valley of graves. There came a sound of scratching, and she saw raccoons crouched in a circle, working among the graves with their little hands. They were digging a pit, digging quickly and deep. She hid behind an obelisk and peeked out. He was there too, fingers long and bloody, leaping and trotting at the edge of the pit as dirt and stones and rotten things fell in. He cocked his head and raised a finger—the digging stopped—and then leaped in and disappeared. There was a tragic sound like a ship sinking, and things began to fly out of the pit, bones and skulls and hair. The raccoons caught them and gathered them up into a single form. The form began to spin, growing the hips of an ancient goddess.
________He sprang back onto solid ground and whirled to face the obelisk she was trying to hide behind. The raccoons looked with him. “Come out!” he said.
________She came out into the moonlight. The animals sighed. He stepped away, and the raccoons stepped away too, and the form they’d made out of bones and skulls and hair stopped spinning, and it was a cello.
________“Come.” He beckoned.
________She came into the circle and reached for the cello. It was terrible and attractive. Its neck was long and smooth, its body leaned against her like an image of herself. Something knocked her knee: a raccoon was holding out a leg-bone strung with hair. She took it and leaned over to bow the cello’s tendon-strings, and a huge tonal rumbling came up from the valley and shook the trees. The sky was black, the stars had fallen and shattered to become mist. She played a dark and crashing song. The raccoons danced in a circle. He spun among them in strange patterns like a top. The spirits of the dead rose white from their graves and hung in the air.
________All at once the song halted and a moonlight carpet unrolled across the valley, right to her feet. A drumroll sounded, and Valentine emerged from the darkness in his naval uniform and processed toward her. A waltz began to play. The cello collapsed into bones and skulls and hair, and she tossed away the bow and took Valentine’s hand and held him in the dance. She was a girl and he was an officer of the Black Sea Fleet, and they were waltzing with all the old world in attendance.
________I will never love again, she told Valentine.
________What kind of Persephone are you? he replied. You who will never love again.
________There is a new place, she sang in standard time, fighting the waltz, where dreams just can’t come true.
________Yes, rumbled the dead. Winter is upon us. Blessed is Persephone, who arrives on time.
________She looked past Valentine to see flames among the hills, and smoke like hands kneading the sky. Bodies were scattered on the ground. They were smashed up, held together by their clothes. The waltz cleared out and Valentine was gone, the raccoons gone, their master nowhere in sight. Little wheedling sirens came from all corners. She wandered through the ruined bodies of 1988, when the Clipper Maid of the Seas had broken in pieces and dumped all the people out into Christmas in a place called Scotland, and the smoke and cymbals and saxophone and flames wheeled and tore through the air. She murmured along, processing body to body. She toe-tapped each soft mass and said Valentine?
Things were weird the next morning. Laramie wasn’t the same. She couldn’t tell whether he remembered anything, and didn’t know if she remembered it right herself. The little blood-sickle on the light fixture had turned brown. When she saw it she got a headrush and knocked over the folding table.
________As winter settled in, she felt less and less at home in her apartment. She could not scrub the sickle off the light fixture. The heat vent began to pump a ceaseless stream of dry air. She thought her cello would crack. Having run down her savings she started playing gigs again, but her performances were strange, her bowing dissociated, like she couldn’t get the right binding of tone and time that made the sounds sound right, like music. She was obsessed with resonance. Each new hall or house party, she couldn’t escape it. In her dreams there were animals inside the cello, they had snuck in through the F-holes and were hanging out there and doing it and having babies, and when she played the vibrations burst their eardrums and their brains. Then she started playing in the subway, where the platforms were long and the tiles responsive and she could really freak people out, until one day someone fell onto the tracks and they stopped the trains for two hours.
________On off days, Stephanie still went for walks in the cemetery. The Freedom Tower was complete now: just another nail-clipping in the gloom. But she liked to watch the planes bank out over Prospect Park West, and if she climbed a high enough hill she could see them coming from LaGuardia too, even from Newark. It stunned her, this movement of so many planes along independent vectors, each with its line of furnaces, its drag and lift, its science and brimstone, each with its load of pilgrims and picnickers. Who could stop them? Not the living, not the dead, nor any song on the radio. Only the runway—and still it wouldn’t stop them, they’d be borne into the terminal, down the escalator, out the door and onto the ground, the taxis, the subway. That’s why she started playing in the A-train station at Kennedy Airport. The platform was outside so it got cold or even snowed, and then she had to set up her tarps. But there was no resonance, not even a whiff. At the beginning the cops would chase her off because of terrorism, but then she put a flag sticker on either side of her cello case and most days they let her be. She sat and played for the people coming in and out of the Port of New York, Gateway to America, and made bank.
________Why did she make bank? First because she took Euros. Second because she played Bach, and everyone knows that Bach is the music of careful flight plans and on-time arrivals. Bach is the music of adjusting for headwinds, and Bach is the music of weather forecasts and knowing the behavior of the jet stream. Bach is the calculus of air particles spreading out above the curve of a wing, enabling what is known as lift. Bach is the hum of hydraulic cables pulling ailerons in opposite directions to bank into a turn. Bach is the precise force with which superheated gas must be expelled from an engine to enable a plane to accelerate out of a stall. Bach—above all—is the salute that a navigation center gives each flight that passes through its zone: plane by plane, zone by zone, along ten thousand flight paths thrown like filaments around the world—
________“Clipper one-zero-three, good evening. This is Scottish Control.”
________“Good evening, Scottish. Clipper one-zero-three. We are at level three-one-zero.”
________—and then, minutes later—
________“Clipper one-zero-three, you are leaving Scottish Control and entering Shanwick Oceanic. Good night.”
________“Good night, Scottish.”
—and this was the beginning of the change in her character. She had found the right enthrallment: Bach’s cascade of Lutheran fifths, his infinitesimal sublime, all scaffolds and calculus, the nightmare that ends as one falls pleasantly into one’s bed. Of course she had. This is how it works. One day soon she would pack up her cello and tarps and take the A train back into Brooklyn and the F down to Gowanus, and she would walk into Ice Cream Clowns and reach in her cello case to withdraw five dollar bills and throw them down on the counter for pistachio mustache in a cone, small—that’s right not child-size I said small, because today I turned thirty. You did? he would say. He would smile his wide smile, and she hers. Their faces would be like sunlight to each other, wide and unflinching. Of course they would. She would stop being haunted. She would abandon the dream of waking up in flight, in the night sky, in terror. Because even though statistically it’s safer to be on a plane than in your own kitchen, the kitchen is where we end up.