My Ex Sang Lead
I could see my exâ€™s ex sitting in the audience, perfect in her pink cashmere cable-knit sweater and jeans, the last time weâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 â€œscene.â€ When my ex invited me to my first a cappella concert that fall, he sang the lead solo in U2â€™s â€œMysterious Ways.â€ I beamed when it was me (yes, me!) who was the object of his refrain, standing at the back of the auditorium in the collegeâ€™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. Weâ€™d hug him and tell him he was â€œsooooo goodâ€ and heâ€™d say heâ€™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 â€œSnoopyâ€ 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 Macâ€™s â€œLandslideâ€ for his a cappella group, he became frenzied and irritable. Iâ€™d try my hardest to cheer him up, reassure him that heâ€™d finish the project before the big spring concert, but he was inconsolable. One moment heâ€™d be quietly sitting on my bed filling in notes on lined music paper, and the next, heâ€™d gather all his stuff and abruptly leave the room. I didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t occur to me to be angry. If I lashed out, Iâ€™d be no better than a shrieking groupieâ€”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 exâ€™s ex sitting in the audience, perfect in her pink cashmere cable-knit sweater and jeans, the last time weâ€™d be at one of these concerts together.
My ex sangâ€”
â€œWell, Iâ€™ve been afraid of changing
â€˜Cause Iâ€™ve built my life around you,
But time makes you bolder,
Children get older,
Iâ€™m getting older tooâ€
And I knew he wasnâ€™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.