I am a second tenor.
So says Steven, who I met on Thursday at the Palette and Chisel, at the opening before the opening of my friend Errol’s art show, “City” – Artist Date 49.
Steven is a member of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus – the beneficiary organization of 20 percent of tonight’s sales. He is introduced to me by the Kent, the Executive Director, who is introduced to me by Stephanie, Errol’s partner.
We are chatting when he gets the nod that it is show time. He grabs my hand and says, “Come on, let’s go.”
“I don’t sing.” I protest, remembering my friend Teresa insisting the same when she was asked to audition for Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco. “Can’t you just belt something out?” So she did – the theme song to the Flintstones. She didn’t make it past the first verse.
“Of course you do,” Steven says. “You are a second tenor.”
He does not push further, but instead, joins his colleagues at the piano.
When he finishes, I ask him how he knows I am a second tenor. “Easy.” Everyone who claims to not sing is a second tenor. It is an easy range to sing, he explains. And there are lots of them – second tenors – so it is easy to be one among many.
I love the idea of me – a straight, Jewish girl who can’t carry a tune – surrounded by gay men singing Christmas carols. It seems somehow “right,” although certainly not congruent to the notion of “one among many.” I have weaseled my way into more unlikely settings. But I am pretty certain he was jesting.
He reminds me of the chorus’ upcoming holiday shows, and invites me to come watch open rehearsals on Sunday afternoons – both potential Artist Dates (Stephanie mentioned my practice to Steven and Kent when she introduced us) – then warmly takes my hand in his and bids me adieu.
Tonight is actually the second Artist Date Stephanie has “invited” me to– the first being her and Errol’s home in Bucktown, which was highlighted in a garden walk this past summer. I am humbled and touched by her interest.
However, I notice that tonight, unlike most of my previous Artist Dates, stirs up very little in terms of thoughts, emotions and memory. I am decidedly – without having made a decision – present.
I notice the chicken satay and Vietnamese spring rolls. The brownies and fruit pastries from Alliance Bakery. All of which I avoid.
The mild flirtation from the bartender who tells me I look like a character from a show on A&E. “But much better looking,” he says. I smile and tell him I do not have a television.
Errol’s paintings. So much rain. Like tiny kaleidoscopes sliding down windshields. It is wet outside tonight. And cold. Winter is coming.
I am drawn to the saturated colors of “Backlit,” “Shadows” and “Days End.” Purples and Yellows. And I tell him so.
My friend Dina asks if I recognize where “Backlit” is painted. I do not.
It is Paris.
She can tell from the roofline, she explains, using a fancy term I don’t know to describe the classically Parisian use of attics.
Dina lived in Paris 30 or so years ago. I always imagined I would live there. Or New York. Or that I still might. They feel familiar to me – they always have. And I’ve never been lost in either one.
Yet, right now in this moment, I feel no desire to be anywhere but Chicago. In spite of its cold, dark, rainy-ness.
I am driving my friend Leslie home and I mention that the man I asked out for coffee via Facebook has not responded. It has been more than two days and I am surprised by his lack of contact. It seems out of character. Mostly because I think he is a man, and not a boy. I am a little disappointed, but nothing more. I’ve made no investment. The crush diminishes.
“And then there were none,” I tell her.
And for once, I don’t mind.
Up until now, life without some sort of love interest felt sad. Somehow lacking. The crush, the flirtation, gave me a sense of hope. Of possibilities.
But I don’t feel sad right now. Absent is the familiar pain stemming from the fear that I will be alone.
Frankly, I am a little stunned. I am afraid to give this experience a voice. That I will jinx it.
All I know is, right now, my life feels full. With friends. With art. With possibilities. And I am, blessedly, not particularly troubled by what I lack. And by moments too far ahead.
It is as it was promised to me, that I would find contentment where I am right now. Content in my role as a second tenor. One among many. Easy.