My Ex Sang Lead

I could see my ex’s ex sitting in the audience, perfect in her pink cashmere cable-knit sweater and jeans, the last time we’d be at one of these concerts together.

My ex was the younger-by-minutes, less handsome, less athletic of two identical twins who had chosen, after years of grade and high school together, to attend the same liberal arts college. That’s where I met him, mop-topped and fresh-faced, a sophomore member of the less popular of two all male a cappella groups at school.

I already had a boyfriend when I arrived on campus, but I was a freshman girl seduced by the a cappella “scene.” When my ex invited me to my first a cappella concert that fall, he sang the lead solo in U2’s “Mysterious Ways.” I beamed when it was me (yes, me!) who was the object of his refrain, standing at the back of the auditorium in the college’s music building, while shrieking freshmen girls filled the seats in the rows up front. I was his at that first high note.

His family lived on a farm near Cooperstown where they raised alpacas and lived a quiet life. I met them once or twice, after concerts, standing awkwardly in a semi-circle (along with his ex), exchanging pleasantries and glares and other thoughts until my ex emerged from the backstage area to be congratulated. We’d hug him and tell him he was “sooooo good” and he’d say he’d meet me at the after party, current girlfriend territory.

Around Christmas of that year, after my ex had gifted me several skeins of alpaca wool from the family farm, I brought him home to New York City to meet my friends at a holiday party thrown annually by some parents. They called him “Snoopy” and thought he had a funny nose and floppy hair. They said he was a little short and extremely skittish. They were suspicious that his ex was attempting to maintain a friendship, but showed no interest in me. I retaliated by telling them that he had a beautiful voice, but he refused to sing carols with the rest of us later that evening.

Several months later, when my ex took on the daunting task of creating a multi-part arrangement of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” for his a cappella group, he became frenzied and irritable. I’d try my hardest to cheer him up, reassure him that he’d finish the project before the big spring concert, but he was inconsolable. One moment he’d be quietly sitting on my bed filling in notes on lined music paper, and the next, he’d gather all his stuff and abruptly leave the room. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured it was just a bout of a cappella stress.

When I realized that my ex had been seeing his ex and I at the same time, I knew our brief romance was over.

As a freshman, it didn’t occur to me to be angry. If I lashed out, I’d be no better than a shrieking groupie—in the front row. So I decided I would go to another concert, showing good will. That spring, I took my normal spot near the back of the recital hall, with a view of the graduated seats, and I could see my ex’s ex sitting in the audience, perfect in her pink cashmere cable-knit sweater and jeans, the last time we’d be at one of these concerts together.

My ex sang—

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you,
But time makes you bolder,
Children get older,
I’m getting older too”

And I knew he wasn’t singing to me anymore.

Jenn Yee is writing a collection of short stories about her grandmother, Catholicism and fried chicken. She is a 2006 grant recipient from the Urban Artist Initiative/New York City.

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