The Song of David
Author:Amy Harmon

“Hello, Amelie. I’m David. And I’m not.”

 

She smiled again, and I found myself smiling too, the pang of sympathy I’d felt for her easing considerably. I didn’t know why I told her my name was David. No one called me David anymore. The name David always made me feel like I’d failed without even trying. It was my father’s name. And his father’s name. And his father before him. David Taggert was a name that carried weight. And I had felt that weight from an early age. Then my friends had started calling me Tag. Tag set me free. It allowed me to be young, free-spirited. Just the word itself brought to mind images of running away. “I’m Tag . . . you can’t catch me.”

 

“Your hands are calloused, David.”

 

It was an odd thing to comment on when shaking hands with someone for the first time, but Amelie curled her fingers against my palm, feeling the rough ridges that lined the base of my fingers like she was reading braille.

 

“Exercise?” she guessed.

 

“Uh, yeah. I’m a fighter.”

 

A slim eyebrow rose in question, but her fingers continued to trace my hand intimately. It felt good. And weird. The roof of my mouth started to tingle and my toes curled in my boots.

 

“The callouses are from the weights. Pull-ups. That sort of thing.” I sounded like an idiot. Like a dumb, Rocky wannabe. I might as well yell, “Yo, Adrian!”

 

“Do you enjoy it?”

 

“Fighting?” I asked, trying to keep up. She didn’t converse like the girls I knew. She was so direct. So blunt. But maybe she had to be. She didn’t have the luxury of learning through observance.

 

“Yes. Fighting. Do you enjoy it?” she clarified.

 

“Yeah. I do.”

 

“Why?” she asked.

 

“I’m big, strong, and angry,” I said honestly, smirking.

 

She laughed, and I expelled all the air I’d been holding since she’d held out her hand in greeting. Her laughter wasn’t girlish and high, tinkling and sweet. It was robust, healthy, the kind of laugh that came from her belly and had nothing to hide.

 

“You smell good, David.”

 

I half-gasped, half-chuckled, surprised once more. But she kept right on talking.

 

“So I know you are big, strong, angry, and you smell nice. You’re tall too, because your voice is coming from way over my head. You’re also from Texas and you’re still young.”

 

“How do you know I’m young?”

 

“Old men don’t fight. And your voice. You were singing Blake Shelton under your breath when you approached. If you were older you might sing Conway Twitty or Waylon Jennings.”

 

“I sing them too.”

 

“Excellent. You can sing while we walk.” She flicked her stick with a practiced hand and it collapsed neatly into thirds. Then she tucked it under her left arm while reaching toward me with her right. Then she wrapped her hand around my bicep as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And we were off, walking slowly but steadily through the silent streets, the snow falling, the wet seeping into our shoes. I am a guy who can make conversation with the best of them, but I found myself at a complete loss.

 

Amelie seemed completely comfortable and didn’t offer up conversation as we walked, arm and arm, like two lovers in an old movie. Men and women don’t walk that way anymore. Not unless a father is walking his daughter down the aisle or a boy scout is helping an old lady across the road. But I discovered I liked it. I felt like a man of a bygone era, a time when men would escort women, not because women couldn’t walk alone, but because men respected them more, because a woman is something to be cared for, to be careful with.

 

“There was a time when everything in the world was more beautiful.” The words fell from my mouth, surprising me. I hadn’t meant to think out loud.

 

“What do you mean?” She seemed pleased at my statement. So I went with it.

 

“Well, if you look at old pictures . . .” My voice drifted off awkwardly, realizing she couldn’t actually look at old pictures.

 

She saved me, gracefully. “If I could look at old pictures, what would I see?”

 

“They had less. But they had more. It seems like people took more care with their possessions and their appearances. The women dressed up and the men wore suits. People wore hats and gloves and were well-groomed. The way they talked was different, more careful, more cultured. Same language, but totally different. Even the buildings and the furniture were beautiful—well-crafted with attention to detail. I don’t know . . . The world had more class. Maybe that was it.”

 

“Ah, the days when men didn’t fight for a living and women didn’t dance on poles,” she said, a smile in her voice.

 

“Men have always fought. Women have always danced. We’re as old-fashioned as it gets,” I shot back. “We’re timeless.”

 

“Nice save,” she giggled, and I laughed quietly.

 

We walked in companionable silence for several minutes when it occurred to me that I had no idea where we were going.

 

“Where do you live?”

 

“Don’t worry, big guy. I know where we are. Turn right on the next corner. I’m the old house thirty paces in.”