Headphone Girl

Black headphones against a dark background“I’m setting fire to my Twitter,” Viola says. “It’s too much of a fucking mess. That whole place is imploding so hard that it’s going to suck into itself and black hole the entire thing into another dimension.”

We are sitting on the roof of her house, just outside her attic window, in a place most people would consider dangerous. We are not most people. It’s cold out, and gray, and an icy wind is blowing, but there is still a plague going on, even if most of the world is pretending that there isn’t. Up here, we can take off our masks and pretend as well.

“I’m not sure what I’m doing with mine yet,” I say. “I’ve been there a long time, you know? Eleven years, that’s what Twitter tells me. Kind of hard to just toss it all in the trash and move on.”

“It’s all digital noise anyway,” she says. “It doesn’t really exist in any meaningful way.”

I tap the shingles with the toe of my boot. “I don’t know about that. It’s like eleven years of letters I wrote.”

“Nah. It’s like crap you wrote on napkins and forgot to take out of your pocket when you put your pants in the washer.” She sits up straight suddenly, and points across the street, at a young woman walking at a speedy clip along the sidewalk. “There she goes again.”

“There who goes?” I ask.

“Headphone Girl.”

“Who’s Headphone Girl?”

“I have no idea,” Viola says. “A couple of times every day, she zooms down the street with those cans on her ears. Like speedwalking or something. Different time every day, but seriously, it’s every single day.”

“Wonder what that’s about.”

“I don’t know. I might write a poem about her. There’s something mythical in her that I like. She’s not the sort of person who wastes time thinking about her Twitter account.”

Headphone Girl moves quickly to the corner, then turns and disappears from our view.

“Every day, huh?” I ask.

“Yup,” Viola says. “Every day. She’s my current personal hero.”

“You could do worse.”

She nods. “Much, much worse.”

The wind picks up and surprisingly, a light flutter of snow blows over us, even though the sun is bright and I can’t see a cloud in the sky. It’s not more than a handful of flakes, and it zips past us and vanishes in the same direction as Headphone Girl had moments before.

“Fuck it,” Viola says. She takes her phone out of her jacket pocket and swipes it open.

“Fuck what?” I ask.

“I’m ordering some headphones. Some nice Bluetooth ones. I’m going to start walking around the neighborhood a couple of times a day, get to know Headphone Girl. Maybe start a coven or something.”

“Beats being on Twitter.”

“Everything beats being on Twitter, Bastian.”

“You’re a goddamn delight, Viola.”

She taps the order button on her Amazon app. “I’m a delight who is going to have some nice new headphones in two days, that’s what I am. Charter member of the Headphone Coven. You’re going to see two of us out there walking around by next week, I guarantee it.”

“Beats being on Twitter,” I say again.

She nods. “Everything beats being on Twitter, Bastian.” She puts her phone away, then pulls her mask from her pocket and puts it over her nose and mouth. “It’s fucking freezing out here. Come inside. We can be crotchety by the heating vent for a while.” She finesses her way through the window and back into the attic. I put on my own mask and start to crawl after her, stealing a glance at the street as I go in.

Headphone Girl is coming back around the corner, focused and determined.

Without thinking, I raise my hand to wave at her.

Without breaking her stride, she waves back at me.

I crawl through the attic window, and I feel as though I’ve been blessed.

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