He logged into his instant messenger program. There she was! Her name glowed in his contact list as online and available, although the little clock icon to the left of her name indicated she was idle. She’d not used her computer in 47 minutes, it told him. He decided to try, anyway.
“Hey there, Delilah.”
He was rewarded less than a minute later with her reply.
“What’s it like in New York City tonight?”
“Loud,” she replied. “Where are you?”
“A thousand miles away from you. I’m in Nashville. I have that audition tomorrow.”
“Where are you staying?”
“My cousin Bill is putting me up for the night. I’ll go back to Paducah tomorrow after the audition, unless they offer me a job on the spot.”
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
“What are you doing?”
“Studying. There’s a lot of reading for this philosophy class I’m taking.”
“I saw you were idle when I signed in and I wondered if you’d wandered away from your computer. Will you turn on your webcam? I want to see you.”
“My hair’s in a ponytail and I don’t have makeup on.”
“You know I don’t care about that. It’s you I want to see, not your makeup.”
“You have to turn on yours, too, then.”
“I don’t have on any makeup, either, and I’m sitting here in a plain white t-shirt.” He knew she would giggle at that. She obligingly laughed at all his jokes, no matter how pitiful they were.
They each clicked the icons for their webcams and waited for the obligatory permissions.
“Hi there,” smiled Delilah.
“You are so pretty.”
“No, I’m not. I look awful. You look wonderful, though.”
“Yes, you are pretty. I don’t care what you say. You’re beautiful and bright and gorgeous and pretty and brilliant and cute…”
Delilah laughed. “I’m not feeling too bright or brilliant. This philosophy class is kicking my butt.”
“You are and you know it. Times Square can’t shine as bright as you. Get used to it.”
“You know it’s true.”
“They say college gets easier as you go along, but I think with this class it’s gotten harder. Or maybe my IQ has dropped significantly.”
“Even the philosophy professors at Columbia are bound to be impressed by your superior intellect.”
She sighed. “I wish. It seemed easier when you were at Berklee.”
Neither said anything for a moment, drinking in the visions of each other through the poor light and shadowy webcams on their laptops.
“If I was there I’d just be distracting you from your philosophy assignment.”
“I like that kind of distraction. I miss you. You’re so far away.”
“No, I’m not. I’m right here.”
“I can’t touch you. My bed’s too big these days. I can’t reach out and find you any more.”
“Don’t worry about the distance. It’s only temporary. We have cell phones and laptops. I’m right here, always right here. If you get lonely, call. Or send me an instant message.”
“It’s not the same.”
“I wrote you a song.”
“Yes. Let me send it to you. It’ll take a few minutes for the file transfer.”
“Play it for me while I download it, then.”
“Okay.” He picked up his guitar after transmitting the file. “Are you ready?”
“Yes. Here. I’ll make the call.” A telephone rang on his computer.
He accepted the call. “Are you sure you’re ready?”
“You have to pay attention, now.”
“Play the song!” she laughed. “I’m never going to be more ready!”
He played and sang softly to her, amazed at how shy he felt doing it. As grainy and terrible as the webcam picture of her was, though, he saw the tears sliding down her cheeks.
“I miss your voice so much,” she said.
“Listen to the song when you miss me,” he answered. “Just close your eyes, and pretend we’re sitting together in the loft and I’m singing and playing and you’re reading philosophy and we’re together.”
“You’ll have to send me more songs, then. And don’t make them perfect. I want to hear you say ‘shit’ when you screw up the chords or the words.”
He laughed. “You don’t like perfection?”
“I like you.”
“You’re saying I’m not perfect?” Melodramatically he pantomined committing hari kiri. “How can you do this to me?”
“You love me.”
“Yeah, I do.” She gave him a languid wink.
“I think I’m going to have to get another job,” she said, changing the subject.
“Starbuck’s keeps cutting my hours. If I can’t work, I can’t get paid. If I can’t get paid, I can’t keep the lights on.”
“I should have stayed there. Then I could have helped with the expenses.”
“No, you needed to go back home after graduation. You weren’t getting paid enough to stay here. New York’s expensive, remember?”
“I could have gone to more auditions there. I could have busked in the subway. Hell, I could have gone to work at the Starbuck’s across the street from yours.”
“Oh, sweetheart. No. Our parents would have written us both off for sure.”
“I’m going to start making money with my music, Delilah. I will. I could have done it there. And when I do it, we’ll have plenty of money.”
“Most musicians don’t make tons of money. You know that.”
“I will, though. I’m going to make money with my guitar and with my voice. I’ll make enough to send you to graduate school if you want. I’ll make so much money we’ll have our own plane to fly us back and forth. We can be in New York during the week and on weekends we’ll go to wherever my gig is, or maybe to our Swiss chalet.”
“Yes, I’m dreaming. But someday I will make that much money. I promise.”
“I love the song, sweetheart.”
“You love it? Really?” He was pleased. “There’s more I have to say, you know. That song didn’t say it all.”
“Every love song I write I write for you. I write them to you.”
“You take my breath away.”
“Then I’ll have to stop writing you songs.”
“I can’t have you turning blue because of what I write.”
“I want to gasp for air, “ she laughed, “so you’ll give me mouth-to-mouth!”
“You can’t listen to them unless I’m right there with you, then.”
“Then you’d better come soon.”
“I can, you know. I can get there soon. I should come and audition there. I never should have left.”
“You’re going to do so well on this audition that you’ll make a life in Nashville.”
“Maybe. But even so, there are a million ways to get to you. I’ll fly or drive. Maybe next month.”
“If you have the money.”
“I’ll walk to you if I have to.”
“You will not.”
“I will. Would you know I love you if I walked all the way from Kentucky to New York?”
“I’d know you were crazy, and so would all our friends,” she laughed.
“They have no idea how crazy I am about you. I love you, Delilah.”
“I love you, too.”
“Do you think any of them have ever felt this way?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how many of them would walk a thousand miles for each other.”
“Hey, that sounds like a song!” He started strumming the opening beat of The Proclaimers’ song, ‘(I’m Gonna Be) Five Hundred Miles.’ “And if I haver / Yeah I know I’m gonna be /I’m gonna be the man /Who’s havering to you…” He interrupted himself. “Hey, Miss English Major, what does ‘haver’ mean, anyway?”
Delilah laughed again. “It’s a Scottish term. It means you’re talking foolishly, which you are.”
“You’re so smart.”
“I love you. And if you keep havering and you walk a thousand miles, our friends will definitely all laugh at you.”
“Let them laugh. We’ll laugh at them and they will never know why. I love you more than I can ever express, no matter how many songs I write.”
“You make my heart swell and melt and swell and melt all over again.”
“My world is different without you in it. I miss you.”
“I miss you, too. I wish I was out of school. I wish it was three years from now when we knew where we were going to be and we were working and living and together….”
“We will be together. We will.”
“I need to get back to this stupid book.”
“It’s not stupid. It’s philosophy. Philosophy can’t be stupid.”
“It’s stupid, or I’m too dense to get it. It has to be one or the other.”
He was reluctant to cut the connection. “Be good, study hard. Two more years and you’ll be through with school and nothing will keep us apart.”
“I miss you.”
“Don’t miss me. Study. Work. These two years will pass quickly. By the time you graduate summa cum laude I’ll be famous. I’ll be famous because of you.”
“Because of me?” she echoed.
“You’re my muse. It’ll be because of you. I feel another song coming on. Another love song for you.”
“I want to hear it when it’s done.”
“You will. And I’ll be there as soon as I can figure out how to get there. I promise.”
“Break a leg on the audition tomorrow.”
“You say that to actors, not musicians.”
“Good luck, then.”
She cut the connection.