I pause before I sing. An instant expands; into a domain. An expansive – no, endless – black landscape, a plane. The ground reflects a softly glowing moon above, as if it is water in the night. As I walk towards him, the ground ripples only gently, as if my shoe landing was a single drop. It does not get wet. Each step in my black dress shoes echoes in a marble hall that is not here. *Clop*… *clop*… *clop*… *clop, clop*.

“Why me?”

The young man before me, sandy blond and thin, though not sickly, stands relaxed and inquisitively. From his tone, he is curious, if anything. He can’t be more than 17. I think I know him.

“I don’t know, Moon River. I know you fit my voice. I know you fit my preferences and tastes, at least how Jacob Collier performed you.”

“But you are no Jacob Collier, nor can you come close to imitating him. No offense.”

“None taken. You’re right.”

“Then what was the process for choosing me like? What lead to me?”

I want to say that I couldn’t possibly know what lead to him. There is so much to him that precedes me; so many that know more about where he came from, and who he is. But that’s not what he means. Still, I wonder, why is he so young here?

“I doubt it’s anything deep. You just came up first. You were the last song that I had performed solo, and recently too. Maybe you remember, during karaoke?”

“Yes, that was exciting!”

Easy for you to say

“Back then, I felt I would be able to sing you justly, and, having felt like I had done so, I guess I felt the same this time around. I think, maybe, in a desire for decisiveness, I found myself acting swiftly for how immediately entered my mind.”

“Why rush such an important decision?”

“Things need to be done and a song needs to be chosen. And it’s not that important a decision. I didn’t even have to choose a song I could sing well. But you are a song I can sing, so locking in that I would sing you seemed… fitting.”

“You didn’t have to choose a song you could sing well, so you chose a song you could sing?”

“No! I just… okay give me a sec…”

Damn, this kid is annoying…

“Fine, well, I’d be ignorant to deny that there are social pressures to perform the song well. There always are, for these performances and “expositions of self”.”

Well that sure puzzled him, but how? I don’t see anything wrong with wh-

“That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, you said it yourself, the “musicality” so-to-speak – I mean, the quality of your voice – that’s not what you’re gonna be graded on. So it would seem to me that this pressure is perceived to exist or anticipated, as a mere possibility.”

I see now. He’s naïve. He doesn’t understand the ways we pretend to behave so as to be polite, to hide condemnation from those to whom we have, in some way, agreed socially to respect.

“Here’s what you have to understand. Every person brings some level of judgement that they cannot suppress internally, only externally. And even that is hard, since the external is motivated by the internal.”

“Yes, but then what does it matter? There is no way to know to what extent they are judging you, or how much that will carry over in other interactions with them. For all you know, they might be in love with how vulnerable you are.”

“That’s some Hallmark love story you’re spouting–”

“But I’m not wrong.”

As ridiculous as the scenario sounds, it’s not so far off from how some people fall in love. The smallest things attract us or repel us. But it’s not so easy to get over these things; the possibility of positive reception does not cancel out that of negative, even if it’s hidden in the audience’s mind.

 “I would say… it takes an especially vulnerable person to be open to musicking. You have to be wisely vulnerable. Not just letting others get to you, but willing to give yourself up because the stakes are low. Yes, you’re right about that. I have to be vulnerable, and reveal this unexposed part of myself to strangers.”

At this, Moon River mischievously – albeit minutely – grins, only through one side of his mouth. His face angled down, he raises one eyebrow and makes eye contact, as if to prompt me to correct my last thought.

“It didn’t sound to me like vulnerability was in the rubric. You don’t have to.”

The eye roll I give here is warranted, I’d say. But I’m not that mean about it.

 “But I’m documenting my journey. I guess I don’t mind saying it, a part of me wants to be more vulnerable. And I’ll go as far as to say that if you respect yourself, you make your wants more requirements than not. Not to mention, you have to start these “pursuits of ideal self” early. Because if you only just at the end are the person you always wanted to be, then what did you do?”

He seems to like what I’ve said, though the glisten in his eyes as he gazes absentmindedly just past me tells that he wishes he could relate better.

“I can’t say. I’ve only been what people make me. But that’s good! At least I can’t think of a good reason for you not to pursue vulnerability. I take it you want me to help you with this somehow.”

I’m happy he’s a willing agent. I feel I can count on him, and that feels good.

“Since you’re offering,” I say with a joking chuckle.

“You’re not that hard to sing. You are a comforting lullaby. This simplicity is the constraint in which creativity thrives: the creativity to explore; to encounter vulnerability in you; to push into higher keys; to use a falsetto that might not be great; to sing at a volume where others might hear.”

Moon River grins freely now.

“Then let’s get to it. ‘There’s such a lot of world to see’.”

A smile makes its way to my face.Moon River… and me.”