Getting Played

Valarie Smith studied English, Creative Writing and Journalism at NYU before moving to Portland, OR, where she’s worked in corporate communications for many years. In between, she was a subway courier, a literary agency assistant and the manager of the personal ads at an alternative newspaper (and yes, she could tell you some stories).


Getting Played

Who dates a fucking bassoonist?

Look at him. Look at how phallic that instrument is. It’s like he’s masturbating right in front of everyone.

Which would be preferable to finding him alone with the oboist in an alcove behind the stage, as she did about a half hour before showtime.

Tall and straight as his instrument, he slobbered all over the mouthpiece, punching the keys with his fingers like he was trying to call for help on a push-button phone. He made love in the same inexpert, tactical way. She’d have been better off with a violinist or cellist. Such finesse.

The conductor tried to guide him into a decrescendo. Good luck with that. The mouthpiece, shaped like a crook, looked like someone had had enough and tried, in vain, to pull it away from him.

Against the bassoon’s incessant bleating, the oboe sounded soulful. No denying it—its player was prettier than she was. Thinner. Had better posture. They met at a benefit once; she remembered how elegantly the oboist extracted herself from the conversation, introducing her to a timpanist before moving on to someone more interesting.

That was also the night the bassoonist had taught her how to waltz. Awkward at first, she’d felt hidden, secreted, by the crowded dance floor. She gained confidence until she flowed, she twirled, she spun. At last, life outside matched up to life inside.

But now, as she tried to cross her legs, arms folded across her chest, her flats adhered to the sticky concert hall floor. She thought of the fights ahead, the decisions to be made. Could she do as the oboist did and extract herself from her own company? Could she move on to someone more interesting and leave her old self behind?

The bassoonist piped his breath into the giant question mark that was the mouthpiece, his lips where the period should be. She fantasized about screwing it to the back of his neck and blowing a poison dart through it, right into his esophagus. Or using it like a crank to wind him up like a mechanical doll, helpless to her whims.

Or she could blow on it, gently, and make him say the words she wanted to hear.

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