Hey, y’all. Happy April. I come to you with short fiction. Yes, quite happy to report that I’ve been writing a lot lately (if you follow me on Le Gram, you’ll see quite a bit of poetry. Here, we deal expressly in fiction). This story was actually inspired by a writing prompt one of my fellow writer pals gave me. I honestly work better when I have an assignment. Can’t explain it. Perhaps it’s the comfort of a built-in idea, which is basically half the battle. I wrote this one a few days after I received the prompt. And here’s the prompt:
Spotify and Match.com partner together in a social experiment to see if similar tastes in music can equal to a more successful relationship. Out of millions of users, they discover that only two people, Marcus and Astrid, share the exact same playlist. The two are asked to meet at Spotify headquarters. What happens?
Fun, right? And intriguing. Here’s Part 1 of Adagio.
The man sitting across from her had to be the other winner of the contest.
Astrid had noticed in last week’s email that she had been referred to as “one of the winners”, which implied that she wasn’t alone in winning a prize. He likely could be the other winner. Of course, what that prize was and, even more intriguing, what contest she had won said prize for were completely unknown to her. But when you receive a request from one of the largest music streaming services in the world to come to their West Hollywood office for fairly vague reasons, do you say no? Especially if you’re a devoted, dedicated music lover?
“Spotify or not, just don’t get kidnapped,” her older sister had remarked when Astrid had informed her of the message and her plans to head to the office that Friday morning.
If anything, if an attempted kidnapping did take place, perhaps this other person would help prevent it from happening. (And the receptionist, too, who sat behind the lobby desk, tapping away at her keyboard.) Astrid intermittently flipped through her Vanity Fair magazine while he flipped through whatever he was reading. She was curious about what he thought they had won but decided to keep the question to himself. He could very well be in Spotify’s offices for another reason. She turned her attention back to the magazine while tapping her foot along to the music playing overhead: “Lowdown” by Box Scaggs. A good one.
“One of the best, right?”
Astrid looked up.
The man was pointing upwards, likely indicating the overheard music. “Scaggs. We’re both tapping our feet,” he explained.
“Definitely one of the best,” she replied.
“They don’t music like this anymore,” he said. “I sound about 80 years old, don’t I?” He laughed softly.
“You sound like me. I make statements like that a lot. It drives my friends and family crazy.”
“Just means we like the classics. But I do like some of the new stuff, too, across genres.”
“Oh, absolutely, and same. My new favorite artist is Snoh Aalegra.”
“Seriously? I just saw her in concert about two weeks ago. I recently discovered her, as well. Fantastic show.”
“The show at the Red Door, right? I was so disappointed I couldn’t make it.”
“It was such a great show.” He stood and approached her, offering his hand. “Sorry, I should have introduced myself. I’m Marcus. Marcus Ishida.”
“Great to meet you, Marcus. I’m Astrid Miller.”
Marcus nodded and sat back down, this time in the chair next to her. “That’s a beautiful name. Very unique.”
Astrid thanked him and was about to inquire further about the concert when she felt the vibration of her cell phone in her handbag. “Excuse me,” she said before exiting from the lobby to take the FaceTime call. Her older sister’s face popped up on the screen.
“Did you win a bag of money yet?” Kenya Miller-Stevens asked.
“I doubt it’s going to be all that,” Astrid replied. “Probably a Premium account I no longer have to pay for or something. Plus, I don’t think I’m the only winner,” she said, glancing at Marcus on the other side of the glass door. “It’ll most likely be music related.”
“Well, call me when you find out. Mama said if it’s money she’d love a spa weekend as a gift.”
Astrid laughed softly. “Of course she would. I’ll call you later.”
Marcus looked up when Astrid re-entered the lobby. “It just dawned on me that you probably also received an email that you won a contest,” he remarked.
“I did. Any guesses on what we won?” she asked. “Or what contest we may have participated in without knowing?” she added, lowering her voice out of earshot of the receptionist.
He raised his eyebrows. “We’re on the same page, believe me,” he said softly. “I was asking myself the same thing.”
Before she could speak further, said receptionist stood up from behind the desk and approached the two of them. “Hey, guys, we’re ready for you now. Please follow me.”
Astrid and Marcus now waited inside a small conference room. They filled the time with more conversation, mutually learning that they shared more than a few commonalities about music. Astrid found it refreshing. In her view, a rabbit hole of sorts existed within music; it was rare to meet and speak with someone who very willingly enjoyed the descent that the rabbit hole offered. Even better, she often found herself limited by types of discussable music depending on the people that surrounded her. This wasn’t the case here. Astrid Miller knew and sought out almost every musical genre–and so did Marcus, and this was also invigorating.
“Hear me out: Rod Stewart’s cover of “Downtown Train,” she then said, laughing as Marcus quietly groaned at the mention of the song. “I know, I know, the purists prefer Tom Waits’ original but there’s just something about the way Stewart sings that song.”
“It’s the ending, isn’t it? His brief falsetto at the end as the music is going out, like he’s almost wailing for the woman on the train?”
Astrid inhaled sharply, taken aback. Marcus had captured, precisely and in a few words, why she had always found the song so compelling, an essence about the song that she couldn’t always describe to herself. “That’s it. That’s the very thing. That tiny ending. It kills me. It’s so haunting and beautiful and crushing.” How did you know? she wanted to ask him.
“I feel the same way about that ending. But in a courtroom, I’ve never even heard of the Rod Stewart cover.”
“Acceptable.” She studied Marcus as he launched into a new conversation about Motown eras that he preferred over others (the activist stage that many of its artists entered during the early 70s rather than the previous “doo wop” 60s era). Astrid found it all so intriguing, to have connected with a stranger so quickly. It wasn’t lost on her that Marcus was also—well, she wasn’t blind. Not only was he affable, a great conversationalist, and armed with a great sense of humor, but the prominent jawline and strong good looks added even more to the picture. That said, Astrid told herself to return to the conversation at hand. “I’m in agreement. The musical social commentary was top notch. And I have to say: 70s Marvin Gaye was everything. His entire “Here, My Dear” album was the height of former spouse pettiness and that wouldn’t have worked in the 60s, if you ask me.”
“Again: we’re on the same page, including that former spouse pettiness you speak of. And I love that you just referenced a Gaye album that hardly anyone talks about.”
“The little-mentioned works are always some of the best. So: we didn’t get a chance to discuss, but what do you think we won?”
As if right on time, the door to the conference room opened. Astrid noted that it was the second time she had mentioned their possible prizes only for Spotify personnel to appear moments later.