THE SAME SONG • by Alisa Alering

There was a young woman named Natalie who needed someone to love her. She lived in the city, and there was lots of love around — on the train, rollerblading along the pier, buying Sunday morning danishes, holding hands in the square under a tree of calling birds, smiling behind steaming paper cups of coffee.

First she tried the clubs. She put on her eye shadow and took off her jacket. She kicked and she shimmied and she felt good. The men stared at her and danced with her and took to her to the sex shop around the corner and pressed her up against the wall. They went home with her, tangled in her polka-dot sheets with her, let her cook them pancakes and eggs for breakfast. But they didn’t love her.

Then she tried her family. They talked to Aunties and Uncles, called in favors, consulted astrologers. She met men who were bankers, engineers, entrepreneurs. Small men, tall men, fat men, bald men. They sent her text messages, brushed her cheek with their dry lips, and said “I’ll be in touch.” But they didn’t love her.

So, Natalie got sad. When she was sad, she listened to love songs so she could dwell in her sadness. She listened to the songs, and the music poured into her heart where it mixed with the loneliness.

Natalie said to herself, “These men,” and she sat down at the piano to write a song about the perfect man, about the man who would love her right and never leave her. She wrote his black hair, and hummed until it came out like charcoal. She wrote his green eyes, and tapped the keys until they came out a compassionate but stomach-tingling shade of green. She wrote his kind heart, and sang the notes until it came out big and bright and overflowing, devoted to her.

She sang the song right through. She got up from the piano and stood at her window and sang out the song into the concrete, into the city, into the air, to the smudged little birds that roosted in the parking garage across the street. She stood at the window of her seventh floor apartment and sang.

And then it was Monday again, and she was back on the train. Natalie got off at her stop in the center of the city. She crossed the square where the daffodils were planted in bright rows, where the water burbled in the fountain. Where the birds in the green-leafed tree were all singing the same song. Her song. The birds in the tree — the finches and pigeons and chickadees — were singing her song, the song she had written and poured her heart into.

Under the tree, on a bench, was a man. He said to Natalie, “It’s a beautiful song.”

Alisa Alering was born and raised in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania, where she ran around barefoot and talked to the trees. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, Clockwork Phoenix 4, & Writer’s of the Future Vol. XXIX.

This story is sponsored by
Nine Romantic Stories — The charm of Hollywood, tinged with the metaphysical — “gorgeously eccentric” stories by Carla Sarett. EDF Readers: use coupon BB76W for .99 price.

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  • Your story is quietly beautiful, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming. Loved the line about writing his black hair until it came out like charcoal. It’s a familiar theme of finding love when you least expect it, but told with freshness and a lightness of touch. As you can tell, I liked it.

  • Not usually my cup of tea, but have to agree with Justin on all points.

  • Yes, Justin explains best what I liked about this story.

  • Tina Wayland

    This is simply beautiful. What wonderful writing.

  • Michael Stang

    The story sounds as if you wrote it at the piano and reincarnated it from bird song. Light and feathery, neccessary. The happy ending (too good to be true?) is pretty once upon a time. 4-stars

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I think the MC doesn’t actually mean “love” because her family took all that trouble for her — “Then she tried her family. They talked to Aunties and Uncles, called in favors, consulted astrologers” so the family must have loved her to take all that trouble for her. I think she means specifically a man who loves her enough to marry her. But that relies on the question of whether she loves any particular man enough to want to marry him. The story hasn’t shown that to have occurred. Maybe the man on the bench has enough of the same interests to start a conversation leading to love.

  • Lynn Vroman

    Beautiful, lyrical writing! I loved it!

  • John Brooke

    Sweetly sung story that was romantically disarming. Skillfully written avoiding the usual, maudlin, mawkish, clichés. Alisa has certainly earned five golden stars.

  • Lovely and poetic. I like how the very condensed story arc also manages to contain specific, evocative details (e.g., “They went home with her, tangled in her polka-dot sheets with her, let her cook them pancakes and eggs for breakfast.”)

  • PDW

    Nicely done!

  • chris

    What an absolutely lovely story. Thank you for lifting my day.

  • Angela

    Lovely and enchanting with a nice tone. It stays with you.

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