A few weeks after me and Kyoko got back together for the second time, we went to the wedding for one of her friends from work. Kyoko hadn’t put her own wedding ring back on yet, and we still hadn’t sorted out any of our old communication problems, so I kept my guard up. After everything that had happened between us over the past ten years, I was afraid of letting her back in too quick.
Seated beside us at the reception was my sister’s best friend from middle school and a tall, skinny guy who said he was her husband. Once me and my sister’s friend had exhausted all the pleasantries and stilted small talk demanded by the occasion, the husband turned to me and grinned.
“Do you like death metal?” he said, leaning back in his chair and shredding on an invisible guitar.
Our table sat at the edge of the dance floor. Thumping electronic dance music roared in my ears, so I had to read his lips to understand what he was saying.
“Not really, I listen to jazz mostly,” I shouted. “I used to play piano in a jazz trio a bunch of years ago, but I had to give it up to—”
“Yo, you got to listen to this, then,” he said, handing me a tiny red thing that looked like a plastic kidney bean. He pointed at the kidney bean thing and then to my right ear. “Try it. Since you’re a musician, I’m pretty sure you’re the one person here who’ll actually appreciate it.”
I stuck the kidney bean thing in my ear.
Moments later the husband’s body dissolved into a cloud of gold dust. Kyoko and my sister’s friend were looking at pictures on Kyoko’s phone, so they went on talking as if nothing had happened. Sinking to the ground, the cloud of glittering dust hovered across the crowded dance floor and seeped through the grille of one of the thumping speakers. Soon the pulsing dance music morphed into a dizzying cacophony of alien screams, razor-wire guitar, polyrhythmic drum grooves, and atonal piano arpeggios.
When I pressed my hands to my ears in surprise, Kyoko turned to me with a look of concern.
You okay? she mouthed.
I pointed to the speakers behind us.
What? she said, with a shrug and a shake of her head.
“Can’t you hear the—” I shouted, but then the alien music was abruptly cut off by the intro to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
Kyoko squealed with delight and grabbed my hand.
“Holy shit, I love this song! We have to dance to this right now!” Kyoko yelled at me, her eyes glazed and glowing, her cheeks as red as the dregs of wine sitting in her empty glass before her.
When I turned back to the chair beside me, the husband was sitting there once again, back in human form, gesturing with his head at the speakers from which his alien death metal had been blaring moments ago.
“So how’d you like it?”
“I wasn’t a huge fan of the vocals, but it was pretty interesting, musically. I really liked the piano parts.”
“Hell yeah, man,” he said, “there’s a lot of good shit out there in the universe.”
“Yeah,” I said, glancing over at Kyoko, who writhed in her chair to the rhythm of Lady Gaga’s music. “Do you want your headphone back?”
Keep it, the husband mouthed, with a grin. Then he took a drink of water from his glass and turned back to his wife. Before I could ask him any of the thousand questions flying through my head, Kyoko popped out of her chair and started tugging me onto the dance floor.
“Come on, Nick! We’re missing the whole song!” she said, happily drunk, her warm hand wrapped tightly around mine.