This was the moment I had been waiting for all these weeks. I had found the vinyl at last. The search… was over. I was however upset and overwhelmed. What was the point of it all? What was this piece of music supposed to do? If Annette was right, the search was the adventure… and I had now reached the climax to enjoy my new treasure… Well, I guess my brain was wired differently. Why else was I standing here, with the track and not willing to play it and end this journey? What was stopping me?
The library is where my journey started. I could spend a lifetime in the public library, my favourite place, its large sections, filled with priceless books, hallways with beautiful paintings, rooms where students could access newspapers from an era that was now all but forgotten. It was… my favourite, my favourite section of New York City. I spent my time in the ‘historical literary fiction’ section. I could spend days pouring through the pages of a book documenting history, but literary fiction… these books written by authors that would perform alchemy, added a bit of romance and intrigue to bland history making it exciting and seductive in the process. It was here in the library, one early day in autumn that I met the woman that introduced me to vinyl… it was here that I first saw Annette.
Annette was an adventurous traveler, that’s how I’d describe her. I tell a lie, I’d describe her as the perfect woman, but adventurous traveler will do. She was visiting New York for a short time and the library was one of the many destinations she simply had to visit no matter what city she travelled to. She said it had to do with the surprise of discovering a book that you have never seen before, and knowing that it was here somewhere, safe in a library. The memory then of reading the book, became a memory of the city. She always picked fiction set in the same city, this time, New York. And she always picked a love story.
We talked for several hours, always over coffee. We talked of her travels, her hobbies, my favorite books, her favorite cities… she told me about her passion for music, and she played me some of her vinyl’s. ‘The sound is just… different. You will never know until you hear it, but once you do, you will never look back’ Back at her place, when she played the same music I had heard a million times before, I noticed what was different, she was right! She had opened a new world.
Her travels had taken her to Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Japan… ‘I did Europe, oh I can’t believe I just said, I did Europe like it was a thing to do… ha! I travelled through Europe in what I now call my gap year, which is when I stopped dating. And I read classics when I travelled. But I don’t have happy stories about Europe, because I didn’t read love stories’
When the time came for Annette to leave, I realized we had talked all these days about things that matter, but not about things that really matter. I didn’t know anything meaningful about her past, her childhood, her family… but I knew everything I needed to know. As she put it, ‘I was trapped in her memory of New York, so we had gone to the Mets, we have been to the Zoo, so what? What really matters is not that we were there, but that we were there together! Oh Andrew we were there together! Remember the music!’
Why had I never shown her the affection I felt for her? Why had we talked for all this time and never got close? I tell myself it was because it would have been temporary, and sometimes life is perfect when there are things left unsaid, because it implies room for growth. I wished her luck in her travels and said my goodbye.
But once she was gone, something went wrong with my favourite spot in New York. The library felt empty. The books I so loved didn’t seem to hold my attention anymore. There was always something missing… or was it someone? Annette’s words haunted me, she had told me about a song she had once tracked down, a rare jazz piece that she said always calmed her. She said it wasn’t her favourite, but it was something that helped her forget everything and just live. She said it was her break up song. I didn’t know what she meant… I was now going to find out.