“I don’t think ‘why’ is the right question – I don’t believe we have a purpose,” he said.
“Neither do I, except a purpose we make for ourselves. But that’s not what I’m saying. You’re assuming that life is just this. Why?”
Nicholas shrugged his shoulders.
“Experience. Nothing makes me think there’s more. And I don’t want to wishfully think there’s some sort of …”
“Heaven? I don’t even know. I think people make this stuff up because they don’t want to believe that when it’s over it’s over, and the party goes on without you.”
He set his drink down.
“What they don’t tell you is that worse than the party going on without you after you die, is the party going on without you while you’re still here.”
She watched him.
“You’re wrong, you know,” she said.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re literally a man standing on the shore of the ocean, watching the waves crash, and then judging how deep the ocean is,” she took a drink and then continued, “And I think you do believe in ghosts. You believe there’s something more, a mystery.”
“We’ve known each other for an hour,” Nicholas smiled, “Now who’s judging how deep the ocean is?”
Serendipity’s eyes locked with his own. There was an urgency in them that made him feel as if it would be sacrilege to even blink.
“I knew it within minutes. I heard you playing your violin,” she held his eyes. “I speak a lot of languages, but especially music. Music is a language spoken here and beyond, and even across.”
She nodded, then looked past him. Nicholas felt like he could breathe again. He wasn’t sure what she meant, but didn’t want to dwell on it. Sometimes people just needed to be heard, not necessarily understood. Taking a drink, she set the glass back down on the counter and looked at him, a gentleness in her eyes.
“What do you feel when you play on the shore like that?”
Nicholas sighed. He knew the answer right away, but struggled to admit it openly.
“I feel like she’s with me, that we’re part of something still. Together.”
“Was she a musician too?” Serendipity asked.
“She was so many things. She could play music, and could dance. God, she could dance. It’s like the music took on a physical form and became her. I used to joke that she was a medium, channeling the spirit of music from beyond.”
“It’s all wishful thinking, though. There’s a piece of me that is desperate, and desperate people can talk themselves into anything.”
“You don’t like to make things easy on yourself.”
“It doesn’t feel honest if it’s easy. If I want something to be true, then I’m immediately skeptical of it.”
She stared at him, then smiled.
“Life has a way of surprising us. It surprised you for six and half years, right?”
“Yeah, it did. But now we’re here,” he shook his head. He could feel the scotch. He trusted himself more as loosened up, and so he finished his thought out loud. “Good and beautiful things aren’t long for this world. So you need to watch out for yourself. I can see it – you’re one of those good, beautiful ones.”
Serendipity’s eyes flashed.
“Thank you,” she said, then finished her drink.
Nicholas finished his too.
“You said you’ve lost people?” Nicholas asked.
She nodded her head.
“You’re welcome to share, god knows I’ve talked enough.” Nicholas said.
“Let’s get another drink first,” Serendipity said, waving at Alex.
He walked over.
“Ready for another?”
“Nicholas is deciding the next round,” Serendipity smiled.
Nicholas laughed. “Well, I don’t know if I can outdo the Balvenie. Everything else is going to seem cheap.” His eyes scanned the bottles.
“You said you like scotch?” Nicholas asked.
“You are not allowed to choose something you think I’d choose anyway. This is your choice that you’re sharing with me,” she said.
He nodded, then pointed to one of the bottles.
“The rye – we’ll take two of those,” he said.
“That’s a solid second-place,” Alex laughed.
He went to grab the bottle.
“How about you? Do you play any instrument or anything?” Nicholas asked.
“Several, but I love to sing,” Serendipity said.
“I’ll bet you have a beautiful voice, I would love to hear it sometime.”
“How about now?”
“What? Oh I don’t think …”
Alex set the drinks down.
“I would like to sing,” Serendipity said.
Alex looked at them.
“Well, we have a karaoke night on …”
Before Alex could finish Serendipity raised her voice and began to sing a slow, melancholy song. At first, Nicholas wanted to stop her from causing a scene, but then simply listened. He saw Alex hesitate, and then accept the song too. Glancing around the bar, he saw everyone fall silent and listen, turning their heads to look at Serendipity.
Her voice was clear and vibrant. Nicholas could only recognize a few of the words, but he understood every note – each one carrying feeling and intention. Later he would try to remember it, but could only vaguely recall it, as if he was trying to remember a vivid dream that immediately rushed away from his consciousness when he woke up and could only hold onto small bits of it.
The song changed, its initial sadness coupled with hope, then brightening with joy. Everyone seemed captured by its lure, and either leaned forward in their seats or leaned back, introspective and lost in their own conjured visions. All of the emotions seemed to be fused together as companions, equals, and even friends. Weakness and strength. Tragedy and triumph. Sadness and joy.
Her song came to an end, gentle and hushed, and he thought of how the waves would rush back out to sea after crashing on the shore.
She smiled, looking around at everyone. Alex was the first to speak.
“That was one of the most beautiful, goddamn things I ever heard,” and Nicholas saw that his eyes were shining. He turned away, putting the bottle back in its place.
Everyone eventually went back to their own conversations.
“That was … I don’t know what words to use to even be worthy of describing that. More than beautiful.”
Her face glowed, then she raised her glass.
“To the good and the beautiful.”