At the top of the stairs, Nora heard the woman playing guitar. She was playing guitar and singing in the long underground pedestrian tunnel. Her guitar playing wasn’t perfect, but it was special, and her singing wasn’t perfect, but it went with the guitar. The sound filled the whole tunnel. It filled Nora, too.
Nora felt excited walking towards the woman playing guitar. Nora felt like there was a greatness to what was happening. A few subway passengers rushed past Nora. She slowed her steps.
The woman playing guitar and singing had her eyes closed. She was singing and smiling at the same time. The woman looked happier than Nora knew a person could be. There was something perfect about her. There was something about her voice and her closed eyes that made Nora feel so good. Nora felt safe in that underground tunnel with the smiling woman and the perfect music.
Every day, Nora spent at least five hours working on her own music, but she never felt like that. She had good days sometimes, but never felt the kind of happiness the woman was showing. The woman was inventing music right in front of Nora.
Nora leaned against the wall. She was directly across from the woman playing guitar. Passengers walked through the tunnel between them.
Nora had spent that last three years dedicating herself to making music. All along, she had been trying for greatness, and this woman was making greatness. Nora was always concentrating too hard to feel that happy when she played.
The woman opened her eyes. She looked at Nora. She continued singing and playing and smiling. Pedestrians walked between them. Neither Nora nor the woman broke eye contact. The music filled the space between them. Nora had the strange urge to touch the woman’s face. A part of Nora already knew what the woman’s face would feel like.
A subway underneath them stopped. A crowd of passengers filed through the tunnel. The woman continued playing. Nora held her gaze.
Nora wanted to bottle the feeling she had. She took a deep breath and tried to hold it in her lungs. She wanted to put the feeling in a jar. She would carry the jar with her everywhere. Nora would take out the jar and show it to people. This is when I was so happy, she would tell them. This is when the perfect thing happened.
The tunnel was empty again now. It was just Nora and the woman and the music. Nora and the woman were still staring at each other. Nora didn’t think she would ever be able to leave. She studied the woman’s face. She wanted to see how the woman could be so happy. There were wrinkles beside the woman’s grey-green eyes. The woman had eyes as deep as the ocean. Her skin looked soft and worn. The woman lips were huge. The woman’s lips seemed to move around the whole bottom half of her face while she sang.
Nora saw the shadow of something under the woman’s nose. Slowly, a drip of blood slid out. The blood dripped over the woman’s smiling, singing lips and into her mouth. Then there was another drip, then another. The woman continued staring straight at Nora. She sang and smiled and played guitar.
A red line of blood and drool escaped from the side of the woman’s lips as her mouth filled up with blood.
There was no one else in the tunnel. It was just Nora and the woman and the music still playing. The woman’s right nostril continued slowly seeping blood. The inside of the woman’s body was becoming the outside.
Drips of drool and blood fell from the woman’s chin and landed on her guitar and on the tiles at her feet. She was still looking at Nora. She was still playing guitar and singing. She still looked so happy. She looked happier than Nora knew a person could be.
Nora felt frozen there as the blood became a pool at the woman’s feet. She wondered if she had a tissue for the woman. She wondered if this was even real. She wondered how and why the woman was still playing that perfect song. Even with the liquid seeping out of the woman’s mouth, her voice remained the same.
Another subway stopped beneath Nora and the woman’s feet. The tunnel filled with people again. Some of the people stopped to watch the woman bleed. The woman continued smiling and playing. She was still looking at Nora, and Nora was still looking at her. The woman still looked so happy.
The tunnel started to empty. The woman closed her eyes. She was still bleeding and still singing. The song still sounded so perfect. It was made even more perfect by the blood and the woman’s closed eyes.
Nora had thought she would stay in that tunnel forever, but she found herself walking. She walked with the rest of the subway passengers, turned to the side so that she could still watch the woman. When Nora got to the end of the tunnel, the woman was still bleeding and still singing. She still had her eyes closed and looked happier than Nora knew anyone could ever be.
Nora felt like she had been underground for a long time. She took the escalator to the street and sat on a bench. The skin above Nora’s lips felt wet. She drew the back of her hand under her nose and pulled it away. A part of her was expecting to see blood, but there was nothing there.