The Beauty of Ordinary Life

Steel hissed as the tram reached the station and jerked to a halt. As the doors flapped open, Amália alighted, shaking her clinking umbrella until it opened with a thump. So what if she was running late? Let Patrick wait, for once. This was his idea, after all.
As she rushed down the sidewalk, her long green skirt dragging in the puddles, she replayed in her mind what she’d say to him. This time she wouldn’t put it off. Thunder cracked in the distance.
She waited at a traffic light and peered at her watch. Why hadn’t he given her more notice? Typical Patrick, she thought as rain pattered on the blue umbrella. Always so last-minute.
The lights changed. Honks and roaring engines overtook her as she tiptoed across the street, her high heels splashing on glittering puddles.
“Finally,” snapped Patrick, hands thrust deep in his gray coat pockets, as she approached. He had waited for her under an arch by the entrance to the concert hall. “We might as well forget it. Go somewhere else.”
“What?” said Amália. “What about our tickets?”
He shuffled as her umbrella dripped onto his shoes. “Forget it.” He shrugged within his coat. “They weren’t expensive.”
“Well, we can still try to see the second half.” She folded the umbrella and pushed past him to the door. She wasn’t having his passive-aggressive nonsense.
Patrick hesitated but followed. Their steps echoed in the empty foyer; everyone was already inside. He handed their tickets to a little man who took his time fishing with chubby fingers for spectacles in his pockets. A young lady with emerald earrings traded their umbrella and coats for a chip.
The stairs creaked as they rushed up the curved staircase but the doors to the auditorium were closed.
A woman walked slowly towards them along the corridor, past a vase with large flowers. “Sorry, we’ve already started,” she said. Her hair was all white but she wore a colorful scarf. She smiled apologetically and cleared her throat. “You'll have to wait.”
“Great,” said Patrick. He took a deep breath and glanced at the ceiling.
“That’s fine,” said Amália. “We’ll wait.” She looked at herself in a mirror and fixed her blonde hair.
Paul walked away to a bar at the end of the corridor and slumped in an armchair. Two servers took clinking glasses out of a tray and sorted them on the counter. Watching them reminded her of their latest fight. Did they do anything but quarrel these days? How could they have grown so distant?
The audience applauded behind the wooden doors. The usher opened them and Patrick rushed in, taking her hand. Despite her efforts, her heels clicked loudly against the wooden floor. She sat down lightly as applause was settling but the hinges on Patrick’s seat squeaked loudly.
The hall fell silent. A cellist turned over a music sheet. A few people coughed.
The music resumed; a piano and flutes, drums and violins. Calm and light.
Amália stared at the orchestra. What was she doing here? It wasn’t that she didn’t like concerts—she loved them—but she didn’t like classical music. This piece was utterly unprovoking and tedious; give her metal instead.
She flipped through the programme and stifled a yawn. And he said she was going to enjoy this? Well, this was the last concert she would have to follow him to.
She glanced at Patrick, who listened with eyes closed. He had explained to her that this is how he allowed the music to sway him. He was such a child!
The first movement of the second piece finished. The hall was quiet again, briefly. The second movement started.
A few rows back a couple whispered. She turned back but didn’t see them. The second and third movements followed smoothly. She tried to think of what he had said on a sunny afternoon in a Greek island, shortly after their wedding, but their fight from last weekend came back to her instead, fanning her burning anger. How many years had she wasted on him and his whims?
When the concerto finished, the listeners applauded and the orchestra left the stage.
Amália studied Patrick. Applause gave way to the drone of muted voices as people started leaving for the intermission.
“What did you think?” she asked. “Did you like it?”
“It was all right,” he said and stood. “How about we get a drink?”
“I’m okay. You go, I’ll stay here.”
Patrick frowned but joined the crowd.
Amália observed the hall from her seat. It was mostly empty but a woman was speaking a few rows behind her. The guttural hisses and scratches of Swiss German were hostile to her Lusophone ear.
She thought of Patrick and felt sadness replace anger. This was supposed to be a date, a time to have fun. She could see that he was doing his best, poor little Patrick and his classical music, to salvage the wreckage their marriage had become.
When the third-call rang Patrick came back with the crowd and took his seat. Neither said anything.
The orchestra returned and the murmur of conversation quieted. The conductor came out, greeted by modest applause. The music started, a piano and strings. Patrick closed his eyes and his head started swinging with the melody.
The music caught Amália completely by surprise. The more she listened, the more she liked it. Whoah, she thought. This composition is different, it’s actually good, very, very good. She couldn’t remember hearing anything like this before. Who composed this? She’d probably seen it in the programme, but she couldn’t remember. It must be a contemporary composer, not one of those boring old guys.
She wondered what this piece could be about. Sex? Love? War? Power? Gods? Death? The meaning of life? The beauty of ordinary life? She didn’t know. It didn’t matter.
The pianist took his fingers off the keys; time for the violins to lead. The rising trills captivated Amália. She imagined a city sprouting on a hill, buildings rising mightily with the melody, explosions of color in spring, trees jumping into the sky.
Patrick’s legs were swinging gently; she could tell he was really enjoying himself.
The music slowed, the quiet before the storm. As Amália leaned forward toward the orchestra, her seat creaked slightly. The music resumed with gusto, the piano joining the violins, thundering in a crescendo to a climactic finale.
A tickling sensation crawled up from the soles of Amália’s feet, spreading over her skin, intensifying as it reached her head. Now, this was music! This was something!
The piece finished. The audience erupted in applause.
Amália slumped back in her seat. “Wow,” she breathed. “I never...”
She took his hand as the musicians took their bows. “Wow, Pat,” she said quietly. “This was amazing!”
“Indeed,” said Patrick, sitting up straight and gazing at her. “Amália...”
She stood up and let go of his hand. “Let’s go home,” she said. “We need to talk.”