He knows exactly who Robert is.
Calvin sits up, jerking his guitar to stand on one thigh. “Mr. Okai.” He swallows. “I didn’t realize you were standing there.”
“My niece tells me your name is Calvin.”
Calvin looks between the two of us, working this out. Robert, with his smooth dark skin and meticulously short hair. Me: pale and freckled with a chaotic, weedy bun on top of my head.
Robert reaches out a hand, and Calvin immediately takes it, standing. “Yes. Calvin McLoughlin.”
This makes my uncle laugh, and the boom of it eases the line of Calvin’s shoulders. “That’s a pretty Irish name for someone with such a good tan.”
“My mam is Greek,” he explains, and then looks back and forth between me and Robert again, as if asking a question of his own.
Robert tilts his head to me, releasing Calvin’s hand and saying in turn, “I married her uncle.”
Calvin smiles, quietly saying, “Ah.”
I sense Robert straighten beside me, and Calvin mimics the posture. My heart turns into a snare drum: it is time to get down to it.
“I am the musical director down at the—”
“The Levin-Gladstone,” Calvin interrupts. “I know. I’ve seen It Possessed Him seven times.”
“Seven?” It’s the first time I’ve spoken, and Calvin turns to me.
He lifts his chin in a nod. “I think you sold me a T-shirt.”
I tink ye sold me a t-shairt.
I pull my surprised mouth closed to speak. “You didn’t think to mention this before? On Wednesday night?”
“You saw each other Wednesday?” Robert asks.
We both ignore him. “I didn’t put it together until now,” Calvin says, in that easy way of his. “I knew I’d seen you before, I just figured it was at the station.”
Robert redirects us. “So you know the production, then.”
Calvin pales. “Of course I do.”
“And, if you’ve seen it seven times,” Robert continues, “I’m inclined to think you’ve heard that Luis Genova is leaving, soon to be replaced by Ramón Martín.”
“I have.” Calvin scratches his jaw. “And I’ve also heard that Seth Astorio hasn’t played in four days. How’s the search goin’?”
Robert pulls back, studying him. “It sounds like you’re skeptical I can replace him.”
“Of course I think you can replace him.” He laughs. “Seth doesn’t.”
“You know Seth?” Robert asks slowly.
“We studied together.”
My uncle pauses, and I watch as his eyes narrow. “Seth attended Juilliard.”
Calvin lifts his chin with a cocky smile. “Aye. He did, in fact.”
I move past Calvin and sit heavily down on his stool.
Holy shit. Calvin attended Juilliard.
Robert doesn’t beat around the bush any longer. “Would you like to come down to play for us tomorrow?”
A hysterical urge inside wants me to pipe up that Calvin is busy on Tuesdays. At least, he must be, because he doesn’t ever do his regular gig of Juilliard-man-playing-for-change at the Fiftieth Street station then. I press my palm against my mouth to hold the words in.
“To play for you?” Calvin repeats, awestruck. “Ah, go on.”
“I’m serious,” Robert says with a tiny grin. “I’ll see you tomorrow at noon.”
I’m still awake at four in the morning, sitting on my couch, leg jiggling.
Nothing helped me sleep.
Not chamomile, not whiskey, not my favorite pink vibrator, not PBS.
I stand, absently shoving the vibrator beneath a couch cushion, turning off the television, and taking my array of glassware one-handed to the kitchen sink.
If I’m nervous like this, then Calvin must be losing his mind. Unless he thinks he’s only playing for the orchestra, which would be no big deal for someone from Juilliard. Of course Calvin would have no idea who else is coming today: At noon, he will play not only for Robert Okai—former conductor of the Des Moines Symphony and current musical director at the Levin-Gladstone Theater—but for two renowned Broadway producer brothers, Don and Richard Law, and the production director, Michael Asteroff, all of whom had planned to come meet with Robert anyway.
Because Calvin will play in the pit, Robert won’t be able to keep his audition a secret. Brian and whoever has come early from the orchestra will also be there, in the shadows, listening.
At dinner last night, Robert and I strategized: I wanted Robert to simply offer Calvin the role if he performs as well as we expect him to. Robert is the composer, he’s the musical director. Can’t he pull rank?
But Robert disagreed. “Theater politics are delicate.”
He would bring in Calvin without giving the others much information about him. A young guitarist, he would say. Someone Holland had heard play, and who transfixed him as well.
He would tell Michael that he wanted to brainstorm ways to incorporate the juxtaposition of Calvin’s polish and scrape. He would see how Calvin performed in front of such an intimidating audience. And then he would wait for it to be someone else’s idea that Calvin take over Seth’s solos.