Leading up to the unplugged show, Mitch raced to finish a few remaining tasks.
He curated a playlist of cover songs and made the call to omit any original work, since no one would be there to see him specifically. There was a running theme about longing, which wasn’t intentional but without a doubt manifested from his subconscious. Whatever, people ate it up when a skinny white guy didn’t switch the pronouns of songs that were originally performed by women.
Going down the list of songs, he either checked off or crossed out titles after he finished playing them, because sometimes the vibe didn’t match what he was going for. At the midway point of this practice session, he wrapped up Fade Into You; though he was no Hope Sandoval, but he felt as if he did a competent job practicing it.
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one that thought so.
When he set his guitar down for a short break, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched, but assumed that it was his anxiety. He turned around to confirm that it was his mind playing tricks on him, but at the top of the attic stairs stood Avi, who smiled sheepishly when their eyes met. The hazy lighting and dust particles that floated about added a dream-like filter and made time stand still; for a moment, Mitch couldn’t discern if this was reality. Then terror kicked in, and his head dropped. He stared down at his feet while a nervous laugh bubbled out of him. Never before had he ever felt so exposed, and couldn’t begin to explain how excruciating it was or why, not to Avi of all people. “How uh- How long were you there?” he softly asked, not daring to move another muscle.
“Not long,” Avi responded, his voice wavering as if he was piecing together that he wasn’t welcome here. Next time, Mitch would hang a sign on the door. “I heard you playing up here and I just-” he cleared his throat. “You’re so talented. It’s like your stuff on Greywater…” And Mitch knew that it was because his brain was only focusing on the things that it wanted, but he could have sworn there was admiration in Avi’s tone.
He fought the urge to run towards the window at back of the attic and jump out of it.
“Thanks,” Mitch smiled, despite being on the verge of all of his limbs detaching themselves from his body and all of his teeth ready to fall out of his mouth. He watched Avi look around the makeshift studio, and debated either shoving him down the stairs or giving him a tour of the place.
“I’ll leave you to it?” Avi at last spoke up when Mitch didn’t say anything else, but the inflection at the end of the sentence made Mitch start to perspire. It was the type of phrase that lingered, as if the person that said it sought more out from a situation, an invitation, but wasn’t communicating it. What was Mitch supposed to do, invite Avi in? Put on a show? Why not invade the only place that he got any privacy at all? The playlist was inspired by him, may as well some dark voice suggested, but he shook it off. Instead he nodded and stayed quiet, then counted for a full minute after Avi finally left before he went down the stairs to lock the door.
He told himself over and over again that it was too early to feel this strongly, and that all of this would wither away in due time. But the attic’s doorknob was still warm from where Avi put his hand on it, as if he’d held onto it for a while, and Mitch had to practically rip his own arm away to stop touching it.