Trace rises from his bed, tired and groggy from a late night of spreadsheets. Later today he will present his lab findings to the department’s director. Trace rolls his neck—a feeble attempt at releasing the weeks of stress collecting between his shoulders.
He ducks through the short doorframe of his historic Victorian-era duplex apartment. He picked the character’s place, not the few comforts of sewer, water, and electricity. It can be drafty, and he relies on the city’s wi-fi network, but he’s decorated the pad with delicate LED lights that climax under the crown molding. Stained glass and a moody paint scheme adding ambiance and class.
Trace, standing at almost six and a half feet tall, brushes his teeth in the black and white-tiled bathroom that drips antiquity. Nothing’s changed since the owners built the home in 1890. He checks his smile in the mirror and drops his toothbrush into the built-in cup and brush holder, left of the original porcelain pedestal sink.
Still struggling to wake up, he steps into the shower and lets the near-scalding water wash over him. His mother used to scold him for wasting so much electricity heating water when he lived at home. Now, he enjoys this single luxury twice a day. He steps out and wipes the steam from the mirror with a raveling hand towel when he’s done.
The extent of his grooming, one or two brush swipes over his head, which is all his neat crew cut demands. His robe awaits, hanging neatly, with the belt wrapped around its waist on a hanger behind the door. He takes it, shakes it out, and, slipping his arms through the sleeves, makes his way to his kitchen.
As he steps into the pantry, distressed floorboards creak under his bare feet, and a long-haired cat, the color of smoke, weaves in and out between his legs. The cat, affectionately called Tesla, has been his companion for five years. Ever since he wrapped up graduate school.
“Hey, sweet girl,” he says, bending down to run his hands over her fluffy tail. Tesla jumps up onto the counter, purrs and prances about as he prepares his morning coffee. The coffee maker drips slow but constant. He could buy a newer one, but he’s had the old Bunn since college.
As he waits on the carafe to fill, he scrolls Instagram. Mindlessly, he double taps photo after photo of chess boards, art exhibitions, a girl from graduate school, until he runs across a famous DJ he’s followed for a year, it seems. He watches a video of the energetic musician dancing and entertaining at a nearby club the night before. The musician in the video intertwines string orchestra music with heavy Psy-Trance bass.
Trace enjoys music. He learned to play the cello as a child and sat second chair at the high school orchestra, but doubt got the best of him, and he quit. Ten years later, he still enjoys playing music but from the comfort of his home studio. Working alone allows him to move in different, more inventive directions.
As the downbeat drops in the DJ’s next song, Trace notices a mysterious symphony bridge. His ears perk, and he’s entranced by the medley and the energy of the beat. He scrolls through the comments and notices such shallow remarks as “you’re so hot, or yummy you.” Shaking his head, he takes a sip of coffee and scrolls further down. “Why would anyone want to bother writing insults?” He asks Tesla, now waiting for kibbles by the bowl.
He absentmindedly fills Tesla’s bowl, and by the time the song is over, he’s rolled his eyes and scoffed at several of the uninformed comments. The lack of recognition compels him to type. “Great song choice. The complexities of your mix are impeccable, and I appreciate the use of cello during the bridge.” He hits send.
With the last sip of his coffee, he paces, checking his phone for a reply. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. It’s only been a minute, but already, he feels silly for putting his opinion out there for the whole internet to see.
He goes to his wardrobe to get dressed for work. Staring back at him, a rack full of shirts. His choices are white, black, gray, and olive green. Most of his dress shirts follow that palette, with the brightest shirt being a slightly lighter shade of green. He springs for the lightest green button-up and dark bluejeans.
His digits work the buttons into the buttonholes, and when he’s done, he turns to the mirror. He tugs his shirt, adjusts his belt, and checks his shoes. Trace is athletic, and he’s particular about how his clothing fit on his body. Finally, he smiles and pulls a gray cardigan over his outfit for an added layer of warmth. On the way out, a loud ding from his phone startles him, causing him to bump against the doorframe and drop his phone.
By some stroke of luck, his screen is intact. It shows a banner with a notification from “Jake FX” “Thank you for the recognition. I’ve enjoyed that ballad since my time at my university’s music program.” the DJ from the club texted, closing with a thumbs-up emoji.
Yeehaa! Trace interjects, bounding down the apartment stairs, letting out a cheer of laughter.
WE&P by EZorrilla.
Original story by Breanna Leslie