Pairing: Simon & Garfunkel
Summary: What if they didn’t meet as teenagers, but at a later time? Could you imagine them falling in love again?
Review: this series has not been Beta’d…yet…
Disclaimer: Even though this story is based on several things both Paul and Artie said over the years, this is in no way biographical. It’s an exploration of an alternative timeline.
Chapter IV: Words and Melodies
Suddenly everything was much easier. Paul regained control over his classes and got back to actually teaching. His concentration was a bit off, his mind kept wandering back to Art who was teaching a few floors higher up. The best way to deal with that was talking, so that was what Paul did. In one class he discussed a book, trying to get the students to think about the characters, the plot and what they thought the writer was trying to get across. In another class he talked about the history of English and put the students to work, figuring out the differences between American English and Brittish English. Overall, it was a successful day. He got work done, he got students to learn something, and he got back on schedule for exams. He wondered how Art was doing. Was he also thinking of music once he put his students to work? Was he also thinking about last night?
Paul got himself an empty note book. It was going to inhabit his teacher’s bag and lay on his desk in class. It would get picked up when Paul got the time to write new songs or ideas for songs. It was good to be back, it was invigorating; new ideas flowed from his pen in rapid fashion. The music was in Paul’s head, he never learned to write music. It didn’t matter, the music was the easy part, the words needed working, that was what the note book was for. Paul liked how it looked like he was doing English, how easy it was to hide what he was really doing.
Art didn’t really think of the night before, because he wouldn’t let himself. He knew he wouldn’t have the discipline to concentrate on his work. He knew, if he took time out to think about what happened and how it made him feel, his mind would soon drown in emotions and feelings he couldn’t control. So he made sure he was doing maths with the students, presenting mathematical problems and trying to solve them through discussion in the classroom. He made sure they explored every avenue, dissected every solution and write out every proof in detail. He did this in every class he had that day. He took the opportunity to explain new material, inching ahead of his schedule. His students would be more than sufficiently prepared, because their teacher was in love. Interesting concept.
Only in his office, with a fresh cup of coffee, to prepare the next day and some homework to correct, did his mind wander to the night before. He slept on the couch, very aware Paul was asleep above him in the bed. Art couldn’t suppress a smile nor the glint in his eyes. Life seemed so much brighter. Paul at least wanted to play music, maybe even play other games, which came as a surprise to Art. He was used to having to be subtle, drop little hints, see if the bait was taken. In this case Paul popped the question. Actually, he guessed Art’s sexual interest, didn’t shy away when Art made some innuendo’s; he didn’t give permission either. His reaction turned Art on, made him fantasize, made him giddy. It put him into motion and walking to the other side of the school where Paul’s office was. He wasn’t entirely sure Paul would be there, but since it was late in the afternoon, he sure didn’t have any classes. He might have gone home but if he was still there, not many people could disturb them. Even most of the teachers had gone home by now. Hopeful he hurried through the empty hallways, his footsteps echoing against the brick walls. It was very dark on the other end of the building making Art’s hopes evaporate. It was clear it had been a while since the last person had left, all the lights were off, all the doors were closed. Right at the end of the hallway was the door to Paul’s office, a small room where they used to keep paper, stationary, empty notebooks and fresh chalk. When it was clear a new colleague was added to the team, the small closet was redecorated and changed into an office. The idea was, once the old English teacher retired, the new one would not only take his job but also his office.
The door was closed, Art couldn’t detect any light coming out from under the door; the room didn’t have any windows. He was about to try the door handle and got a shock when the handle moved on its own volition. The door swung open to reveal Paul, bag in hand, coat on his arm. He nearly stepped into Art, instead he staggered backwards just as startled as Art. They both took a few moments to readjust their composure. To Art’s relief Paul beamed at him, it automatically pulled Art’s face into a grin.
“I was just on my way out,” Paul informed. “You’re going home too?”
Art’s face fell for a split second: “Oh,” his voice disappointed.
He quickly recovered and smiled: “I was hoping we could spend some more time together.”
“Sure,” Paul nodded, “but not tonight; I need to get home.”
“Oh,” Art once again failed to hide his disappointment.
“Unlike you, I still live with my wife and she expects me to come home. Especially since I didn’t at all last night.”
“Yeah,” Art understandingly whimpered. He followed Paul a few steps behind.
Paul turned the key cautiously and tried to make no sound opening the front door. He didn’t feel like facing his wife explaining where he was last night. He could easily hide or forget to tell her about his new best friend or the funny fuzzy feeling he had just thinking about him. No, best he didn’t mention Art, he wasn’t actually sure he could hide how excited he was about this new friendship. Paul tried to sneak upstairs, but he was spotted.
“Where you going!?” her voice urgent.
Paul stopped halfway up the stairs, a disappointed sigh escaping him. He turned and went back down and into the kitchen taking his time. She stood at the work surface, in the middle of cooking, a knife in her hand, a partly cut vegetable in front of her. She looked expectantly at Paul.
Paul tried a smile to soften the situation, his wife still looked suspicious.
“Uh, yes,” he started scratching his head. “I didn’t come home last night.”
Joanna rolled her eyes: “Yes, I noticed. What do you have to say for yourself? Couldn’t you have called?”
Paul grimaced: “I forgot, sorry. I was at a colleagues place.”
Joanna bit her lip, studied his face, tried to sniff the faintest trace of perfume.
“Yes?” She said as if she didn’t believe him. She repeated now confirming this time: “Yes…The headmaster called, if you got home all right. Of course I told him you didn’t, since you weren’t home at all. I suspected you were at your colleagues place, since she was to bring you home.”
That situation Paul hadn’t considered yet; it seemed more natural. Should he go with it?
“No! He’s a guy, not a female. I’m not cheating on you, if that is what you think.”
Joanna didn’t look convinced.
“You can call the headmaster and ask,” Paul suggested.
That did the trick, Joanna relaxed momentarily before tensing up again: “What happened? Why did you leave school early?”
Paul, who thought he was off the hook, was trying to escape. Her prying eyes scanning him again.
“I didn’t sleep well the night before, I was tired. I nearly fainted in front of the class.”
Joanna’s eyes cast down as she remembered the night. They fought. Paul didn’t sleep in bed with her. She never really thought about it, assumed he slept on the couch. When she looked up Paul disappeared up the stairs.
He still hadn’t apologized to Paul. For some reason he was making up excuses telling himself the right time hadn’t presented itself. Ofcourse, that was nonsense; they spent a whole evening eating and talking. Art let several opportunities pass, what a coward. It was just that he didn’t know the words to say, why he ran. Thinking back to that evening, Art could feel that sudden overwhelming sensation. It nearly choked him, took him by surprise. He didn’t know what it was or why he felt that way. He could still see that small dark figure in the dim light of a street lamp, crawled away in his upturned collar, the guitar case hanging from his shoulder. He remembered those dark brown eyes piercing through the night, almost as if he looked straight through him. When the question came, Art felt found out. It was as if Paul really saw through him. Never before had anyone come so close; it scared Art, so he ran. Art shook his head at his own silliness. Paul couldn’t have known, they only just met, hardly exchanged any words, and yet.
There was one thing he said though. He said he saw Art fifteen years before in a talent show. That was a bit freaky. Did he look him up? Maybe Paul really did know more than Art realized. The thought was scary, but also fascinating. Why would anyone memorize someone because only three short minutes. Art knew he was a good singer, he just never thought he had that strong a staying power, that anyone was impressed enough to remember him fifteen years later. On the other hand, Art had been just as impressed with Paul when he saw him playing on Bleecker street.
None of his encounters with Paul had gone to plan. Not even the one where Art was in full control. Paul had been so tired, so out of it, Art could have driven him all the way to the west coast. Art could have done things to him when they got to his appartment. He sure did think about it when he watched Paul slumped against the car window in the passenger seat. All he wanted to do was take his small frame into his arms, hold him close and tell him it was all going to be okay. They didn’t really talk in the car, Paul was drifting in and out of sleep. He didn’t even stay awake long enough to tell Art where he lived.
Art put him in his own bed, because he never bothered to clean up and redecorate the guest room. Paul immediately curled up under the blankets and fell in a deep sleep. Art watched him for a little while, admiring his tan, the soft line of his arm, his hand resting on the bed next to his face. He looked so peaceful, so sweet. It was then those bad thoughts infested his mind.
It was so easy, so logical and natural, neither Paul nor Art had to think about it. As they became closer they readily found they shared a lot of interests, views and perfectionism. The first time Paul went to visit Art with his guitar they played and sang till one of the neighbours started pounding on the walls. Unlike any of Art’s past collaborators Paul was willing to slave over the vocals and harmonies and Art was patient and supporting when Paul was searching for the chords and melody, all in the name of music. They shared an unspoken rule that every line deserved the most attention till it was just right. At the same time they started working on bringing their voices together.
To their delight their voices fitted together quite nicely and it didn’t take Art much prodding and convincing to take it a level higher and bring their pronunciations and timbre together. That was one of the things they were working on. Art was learning the songs Paul had written, writing harmonies for them and thinking out arrangements they would then try to record with Art’s old tape machines. Their ideas about music were fairly similar, but they had different ways of execution. It was then they started arguing finding out the other man was just as stubborn as themselves.
Paul was spending more time at Art’s than at home. They also started to leave school early to work at Art’s place on the preparations they needed to do for the next day at school. This way they had time left to work on their music, beit practicing or writing. Usually, they started with playing music, shaking the school business off and relaxing into the music. Sometimes they’d next launch into another session of vocal training, still preening on their harmonies while Paul was also learning to deliver stronger and steadier vocals. Other times Paul would show a new song to Art and they’d work on that, or Paul would go to work on a new song while Art was writing a harmony to an existing song. Most of the time they got so taken up by their music, they would forget time and forget to eat. Sleep usually automatically followed when sights blurred and they had trouble keeping their eyes open. Neither was very concerned about their regular job.
Paul felt happier than he had the last year. He was writing and playing music again, it made working his teacher job less exhausting and his overall existence bearable. It helped Art was a great motivator, he assured Paul the songs were good and encouraged him to keep going. Paul always was happiest when writing new music, now with Art around it basically gave him an extra spring in his step. He was still anxious about performing in public; the sour taste of his last and failed performance was still in his mouth. Art didn’t push him, only tried to paint an image of what it might be like, how wonderful it could be. The problem was, he couldn’t be sure it would be a success. He still wanted to get back on stage and sing for an audience again; he missed the applause and delight on people’s faces. He missed sharing that state of bliss and joy, so from time to time he stuck his toe in the water to see if Paul had changed his mind, if only a little. They could be so beautiful together.
Paul sat bend scribbling ideas on paper, completely engrossed by the act of writing. He looked like to Art’s mind, the rest of the world wasn’t there. Art finished work on the harmonies of a song. He sat up to talk to Paul, but stopped himself when he saw Paul completely absorbed in a new song. He looked peaceful, for a change not melancholic and sad or worried. It warmed Art’s heart, especially since he’d gotten to know Paul as an insecure man which often cast him into depression. Of course the slow failure of his marriage didn’t help, nor did his perfectionistic and controlling nature. Art analysed it all stemmed from that insecurity, the fright he didn’t matter in any way, the scare the things he did didn’t matter in any way, and the crippling dread that nothing he did or was, was good enough. There was no need for Paul’s fears, Art thought. Paul was one of the brightest people he knew and a very talented musician and even a good English teacher. Art also knew that taking away those fears wasn’t going to be easy, because they were so deeply ingrained in Paul’s nature. Instead, the best thing Art could do, was standing by him, giving him the support he needed and ensuring and encouraging him.
Art had been reflecting for quite a while and Paul still didn’t seem to have noticed. Art came around to the indescribable feeling he grew used to since he knew Paul. He cared for him deeply, wanted him to do well, wanted him to be happy and most importantly, wanted him around. Paul made Art’s life more complete, brighter, more interesting, but also more complicated and rougher. It didn’t take away from the love Art was feeling.
“What you’re working on?” Art prodded, his voice soothing and calm.
He finally had Paul’s attention, eyes dark and wide, as if he was wondering where that voice suddenly came from. Paul looked down at the paper again, just words, no melodies. The melodies were in his head and the chords were in his fingers. If he picked up the guitar, it would come spilling out.
“I could never write songs like yours,” Art mused hoping Paul would join the conversation. “I tried, but the quality was poor, juvenile, silly little songs.”
He paused to give Paul a chance to react. When nothing came he decided on another strategy: “Wanna show me what you’ve got?”
Paul’s eyes were going over the paper again and for a second Art thought he lost him.
Instead, Paul finally joined the conversation: “It’s nice to write songs. It’s as if…” Paul hesitated. He was clearly searching for the right words.
“It’s as if they take…the worry from me. It lifts something, as if it solved a problem.” Paul appeared slightly confused. Art gave him all the time he needed to express his feelings.
Paul brows furrowed into a agitated frown: “Of course it never really solves anything…”
When he faced Art, the negativity slid away: “Do you get that with singing?”
Art smiled and nodded. He pointed at the paper: “You want to show me?”
Reaching out to his guitar he replied: “Yeah, sure. It’s not finished yet, though.”
“That’s all right,” Art shrugged: “Maybe I can help with finishing it.”
Paul unpacked his guitar with care, Art observed. Almost as if it was alive, a vulnerable baby. His fingers stroke along the body, like a lover caressing his muse. Art thought he would do that with his instrument. Hold on, he had an instrument, his vocal chords. He had to admit, he didn’t take that good care of his vocal chords with all his smoking.
Paul took a little time tuning his guitar while Art took the opportunity to pour himself a glass of wine. Paul wasn’t drinking along, he had a glass of cold water standing by. Art watched those hands, silky movements adjusting the tension on the strings, picking out the sounds with his right hand. Paul was a lefty, like Art to his delight. Unlike Art, Paul did manage to use his right hand more; Art never learned, he was a true lefty. Paul settled into his playing mode; back a little arched, a serious look on his face as he found the first chords and started to play a new song. It was calm like a water stream, deep like a still lake. It was worried and tired and expressed the state of the political environment they found themselves in. It was a typical window into what kept Paul’s mind busy, buzzing with worries. The tune was melodious and pulled at Art’s heart strings. He instantly loved the song and wanted to put love into it with his voice. He let Paul play it, finish it without him interrupting. A presentation of a new song was always very personal, especially when you’re Paul Simon. It was almost like a confession, or a declaration. In this song Art could feel it as clear and true like the paper pages on his table. It was one thing Art loved about Paul’s songwriting. Another was Paul’s honesty about and with the songs. Sometimes Art believed you could get to know him a great deal if only you listened. Of course, on a wider scale, Art believed that personalibility, was the reason why the songs were so good and could speak to a bigger audience. If only they got to hear them; the rest of the world was really missing out.
Paul was looking expectantly at Art. The long silence made him nervous, he needed to know if it was any good. A weight fell off of him when Art’s gaze met his, a smile broke through, and almost broken hearted he assured Paul: “That was beautiful.”
Paul’s shoulders slumbed, the tension going from his shoulders and neck, a sigh escaping his mouth.
“You think so?” he asked, still a little doubtful. “You’re not just saying that?”
Art shook his head: “No, I’m not really the kind to lie about it. I’m not very good at it.”
Now Paul finally dared to smile: “Good.” He put the guitar back in its case, not quite put away, but resting.
“I would love to sing harmonies to that. We could each take a verse to sing solo and the rest in harmony. I think that could work really nicely.”
Paul raised his eyebrows at Art: “You sound like your preparing a performance.”
“You can’t keep this from the world, it’s too good,” Art defended.
Art could see the lines on Paul’s face contorting back into a worried and doubtful grimace.
adapting and bending till their shared voices hit a tremor that simply soared. The first time they managed it they both shut down in surprise and shock. So that was what they had been missing out of. Lord, that was good, and it felt good too, it felt right.
Art in class thinking of how last night went. Thinks of how he avoided talking about two years ago.