A Bear's Contentment
by Hairy 1
As the seasons change, Daniel's routine remains steady as always, work, the library, his garden, his reading. One Saturday, as he turns from checking out his latest stack of books, he sees Miles standing behind him with his own stack of books.
"That one on the top of your stack is good, but you have to have read the earlier books to really get the depth of it" Miles says.
"I've read them, and agree" Daniel says with a smile, but again hears the music in Miles' voice. He swallows, and with uncharacteristic boldness, asks “Would you like to go for a cup of coffee to talk books?"
Miles hesitates, and Daniel quickly blurts "Don't worry about it, you're probably busy, it was just a thought."
"It isn't that, I'd really enjoy going for coffee" he says with a big smile "but I don't drive, so I'll have to keep an eye on the clock as my walk home is a long one and these small town buses didn't run very often or very late on Saturdays."
The local coffee shop, Joe's Jo, is locally owned and a quick couple of blocks down the street. It is a comfortable old area with sofas and chairs, a small stage for performances, as much a hang out place as anything. They discuss books as they sip the perfectly brewed coffee, and then how things are going with Miles since he has moved to town. He says he has met a lot of people, especially artists and musicians, which allows him to get to the art fairs and play much more easily.
"They are all fun people, but I've really enjoyed this discussion over books, it's something I've missed so much" he says, explained that before moving he had belonged to multiple reading clubs and routinely attended talks by authors on the campus of the city college. "So few people here are widely enough read to catch all my obscure references, it is just so nice to relax and talk without explaining"
Daniel laughs, "In my office, most of my literary references are caught onto, but most people tended to stick to one genre and aren't as eclectic in tastes as we are, so I do get my share of blank looks."
"I'm sure you get more looks than blank ones, Daniel."
Just then, before Daniel can puzzle out the statement, they both hear the bus pass by, and realize that they've lost track of time.
"Damn" Miles says "now I'll have to walk."
"Don't be silly, we can just head to my place, get the car, and I'll drive you home."
"That’s too much to ask. I knew I needed to watch the time, this is my own fault."
"There's no fault to be had. The bus was early. I'm the one who invited you, so if there is fault to be had, it’s mine."
"OK, OK, there is no fault. I just am used to be independent, and with all the rides I have to use to get to performances, I'm sensitive about accepting more" Miles states as he reluctantly accepts the ride.
They walk back to Daniel's house, where he invites Miles to step inside. "No, I'm fine, I don't want to impose," so Daniel quickly grabs the keys and starts the car.
"Sorry it's nothing fancy, once I got used to the old station wagon, I just seem to find a big comfortable car and stick with it."
Driving to the apartment, Miles suggests "Maybe we could meet next week at the library, and you can tell me what you thought of the new book over coffee?"
It becomes part of Daniel's routine, as the seasons have ended Miles weekend art fair performances. Each Saturday, there is the river, the library, and then coffee, always careful to keep an eye open for the bus.
As fall turns to winter, one week at coffee Daniel sees a sign for the following Friday when Miles will be the performing artist for the evening (Joe's Jo frequently has folk singers or poets on Friday nights to attract a crowd).
"What's this? That's wonderful. I thought you might be missing your performances at the fairs."
"Yeah, I'm sort of excited. The sound will carry differently inside than it does outside."
"I bet you'll sound great."
"I hope so. I hadn't mentioned it as I didn't think you liked my music that much."
"Remember that day in the park? I guess I've just never told you how that very first song that I heard you sing still haunts me. It was so beautiful. I hear hints of it all the time." And with a burst of confidence "Oh, I'll definitely be here."
The week passes as it always does, and that next Friday, Daniel is a bit nervous about going out by himself to see Miles, this seeking out companionship instead of solitude, this break of routine, all disrupting his sense of security. But he steels himself, telling himself it is silly, that this is just a night out at Joe's Jo to hear music, nothing to be nervous about. His quells his excitement to see Miles perform with the knowledge that this isn't about spending time with Miles, and that Miles' friends are sure to be there as well.
Daniel walks the few blocks to the coffee shop, hugging his coat to himself as the weather has truly turned brisk. He finds it to be more crowded than he had thought it would be, and hangs back, walking the block a few times, shy of the crowd. Eventually, hearing the strains of music, he gathers himself and enters, carefully moving to the back of the room so as not to bump anyone with his large frame.
Then he sees Miles at the front of the crowd. Already a song or two into the informal set, Miles has paused and is talking about his music, but scanning the crowd. Suddenly he sees Daniel, their eyes meeting, and he bursts into a smile.
"This one is for a very good friend of mine" he says as he settles back onto his stool, his guitar cradled against him. Slowly, steadily, he strums and softly sings, the volume growing and building, filling the room as the audience quiets to hear every nuance, and the song that Daniel can't get out of his mind takes shape around him.
Daniel quickly sits down, stunned, mesmerized. "Could he really have done this just for me?" Listening to his friends' rich voice again, he is rapidly lost within the song.
As the night continues on, Daniel feels himself wrapped within in the comfort of Miles' voice, the gentle movements of the crowd not intrusive but instead enhancing the music as they are obviously enjoying it too. He is startled when someone asks if he'd like a drink, and orders an espresso, the smooth deep taste flowing with the music, letting him drift just as the current of the river does.
When finally the music is over, the coffee house is abuzz with conversation. It seems the evening will last a long time, as people order more drinks and snacks. Daniel sees Miles surrounded by admirers, and his instinct is to retreat. But instead, knowing what Miles' favorite beverage is, a highly sweetened cappuccino, orders one and brings it over to him. Daniel hesitates to interrupt, seeing Miles fully engaged with the crowd, obviously enjoying the discussion about his music as much as he does the discussions about books.
Just then, Miles spots Daniel standing back in the crowd. He excuses himself from the group, comes over and surprises Daniel by throwing his arms around him for a hug.
"Thank you for coming, it means a lot to me." he says. "I thought at first maybe you had changed your mind."
Handing him the drink, Daniel says "I'm so glad I came, it was simply wonderful. You’re so talented."
By now, the crowded has again surrounded Miles; tell him how good he was. Daniel is trapped by his side, one of Miles' arms still around him, smiling to people he knows from town who greet him as well. He makes small talk about various songs, at ease in the crowd and conversation now, enjoying how everyone has appreciated Miles' performance. Eventually, Joe's Jo is ready to close, and the crowd disperses.
Joe (yes, there really is one) walks over. "Hey, we're closing, but you're welcome to stay inside and wait on the last bus, it isn't for another 45 minutes. I'll wait with you and lock up after. I owe you one, that's the best business we've had in a while."
"Miles, you could come over to my place for a nightcap. That way Joe doesn't have to wait. Then I'll drive you home."
Miles won't hear of accepting another ride, but not wanting to keep Joe, accepts the offer of a nightcap. As they reach Daniel's house, a cold drizzle begins to fall, and they are happy to get inside and take off their coats.
Before Daniel can ask what Miles would like, he finds himself in yet another hug.
"Thank you again for coming."
Daniel wraps his arms around Miles, holding him close, feeling his warmth through their clothes. He finds himself relaxing, letting his face fall forward, feeling Mile's hair brush his nose.
"Thank you Miles, for playing that song, for making such beautiful music."
They remain there for a moment, and then Daniel remembers his place as host, and gently extricates himself and asks what Miles would like.
Thinking about it, Daniel decides upon a honey liquor that he enjoys, that the rich sweet taste might be to Miles liking and that the thick liquid might be soothing on his throat, and pours two cordials. Sitting in the living room, they pass time in pleasant conversation sipping the drinks, enjoying the company. Time passes too quickly, and all too soon Miles excuses himself, leaving to catch the bus, still refusing to hear of another ride.