When I first performed on the opera stage, strumming a faux mandolin with painted strings, the palatial new homes of the Met and the New York City Opera (NYCO) had just opened to blaring media fanfare, glaring at one other across a corner of Lincoln Center’s plaza. The Met had Chagall murals two stories tall and acres of red velvet on its swooping staircases; the New York State Theater, NYCO’s site where I appeared, was a glittery glass and cement box whose lobby was guarded by two white marble giantesses melting into one another like vanilla ice cream cones. But the Met had a colossal flop on its opening night, and we had Beverly Sills, whose Cleopatra in Handel’s Julius Caesar was making her, at thirty-seven, an overnight sensation.

Arriving for my first rehearsal, I explored the theater’s subterranean maze of corridors. They reverberated with the sounds of pianos plinking, carpenters hammering, and, most thrillingly, singers vocalizing in scales that leapt and fell like the plumes of water in the fountain outside in the plaza. Passing one studio, I watched a slim, white-haired woman rehearse a row of dancers prancing in slow motion like beautiful greyhounds. In a warehouse-sized room, painters in overalls transformed plywood frames into an oriental temple.

When I spotted a door marked Auditorium: Do Not Enter, I had to slip through it. Inside, only a few dim lights were on; I groped my way toward a seat and stared up at the walls of a shadowy canyon, tiers of boxes rising in what looked like layers of crimson shale. The curtain, rippling up to a flat sky, gave off a golden glow as if the sun were rising behind it. The scents of perfume and plush upholstery hovered. The amphitheater was not so much empty as resonating with a prolonged hush; I was sure I could hear the echoes of voices floating out over the seats. And of the footsteps of singers and dancers and supernumeraries—“supers” like me—moving like spirits up there on the stage.


My performing career had begun when I’d sung in Greenwich Village coffeehouses; it later soared with my appearances on Voice of Kenya’s Sunday Star Time shows. But recently it had gone into a tailspin, along with the rest of my life. Like a lot of former Peace Corps volunteers, I’d come back to America with no idea what to do with myself.  In a Lower East Side tenement, I lived in a fourth-floor walk-up across the hall from an actor couple and a rock drummer who headed a local Communist Party branch and his girlfriend who illustrated underground magazines—sort of like La Bohème with sizzling radiators. During my three years teaching in Africa, performing had been a welcome sideline, an inspiration as I happily struggled to write a novel. The finished book became my life’s proudest accomplishment—until it was rejected by every publisher I approached in New York.

Now all my characters, including my flamboyant heroine, wailed at me night and day to save them from premature burial. My family pressured me to get a real job and earn decent money. But I held out, living on part-time tutoring work and agonizing over how I might rewrite my novel. After midnight, I obsessively practiced my guitar—but for what? While I’d been overseas, most of the performers I’d hung around the Village with, like Bob Dylan, had either moved up to bigger venues, or had vanished into what I dreaded was real life.

My actor neighbors, recently stars in an Iowa Shakespeare troupe, were also in crisis, waiting tables in a dive called The Fat Pussycat while they hoped, mostly in vain, for audition callbacks. Roger got so desperate to walk onto a floodlit stage that he signed up for a non-singing role at the NYCO. The next day, though, he found work playing a troll in a New Jersey children’s theater, and asked me if I’d mind taking his spot.

I’d been an opera aficionado from the age of sixteen when my favorite uncle—the family black sheep who played piano at cocktail parties and had a “roommate”—took me to the old Met on Thirty-ninth Street. During college, I’d waited in snowstorms for standing-room tickets. In rural Kenya, I’d once climbed steep mountain paths to a village where another teacher owned Beverly Sill’s first album, which we played over and over on a plastic phonograph until the batteries ran down. Would I mind performing in an opera? I was at Lincoln Center early the next afternoon.


The other supers, I soon noticed, referred to singers by their last names, except for “our” star, whom everyone called Beverly. On records, her light, soaring voice had an endearing quality that made me feel close to her before I’d even seen her. The moment her laughter rippled outside the rehearsal room, the waiting cast and crew stopped talking in midsentence. I understood why the press had nicknamed her Bubbles; her laughter created a champagne-tinted mist that transformed that cavernous space into an intimate salon where she was about to take over as hostess, belle of the ball, den mother—who could tell? But we were sure it was going to be fun.

She walked in holding sheet music in one hand and a cardboard coffee cup in the other. Unable to see her face at first, I gazed into her incandescent hair, a red blonde aura that rippled like soft feathers. When she turned to greet the supers and chorus, her features lit up, her round cheeks glowed.

“Hi, everyone! Thanks for coming!”

A few people started to applaud, but she flapped her sheet music in the air to shush them, her smile widening.

“Look,” someone whispered in my ear—a man called Horace. He seemed much older than the other supers in a threadbare suit jacket and silk cravat; the rest of us wore jeans and open-neck shirts. “It’s all put on!”

I whispered back, “What is?”

“Beverly’s constant cheeriness. Don’t you see?”

No, I didn’t. I was as smitten as everyone else and had no idea why this stranger was confiding his weird opinion to me. He slipped away, shooting me a glance that caught in my eye like a gnat.

I concentrated on the director, who sketched out the opera for us. The Abduction from the Seraglio was one of Mozart’s less frequently performed works, he intoned, but nonetheless contained some of his loveliest melodies, especially the famous aria “Martern aller Arten.” At the drama’s opening, Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman—he pointed to the lead tenor, who clapped one fist nobly to his shoulder—is searching for his lost fiancée, Constanze—here Beverly clasped both hands to her breast, rolling her eyes toward the heavens—who has been kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery to a Turkish pasha, Selim. The pasha was played by a tall, bald man who stared grumpily over everyone’s heads, refusing to smile even when a few people started a stage hiss. Beverly gave him a quizzical look and shrugged.


This broke the tension. From then on, the rehearsal moved along quickly. Singers, chorus members, and supers were shown their positions along taped lines on the floor. The lead tenor and Beverly da-da-da’d their parts quietly to save their voices. But in the final act, Pedrillo, Belmonte’s manservant, tried out his complete love-song beneath the window of Constanze’s maid, Blondchen (called Blonde in this English-language production; Beverly pronounced it “Blondie” in the Brooklyn accent she lapsed into occasionally.). I joined the cast’s applause as the young singers bowed.


On the evening of the first production, I stepped into a big, busy dressing room: metal lockers, shower stalls, rows of dressing tables with oval mirrors topped by horseshoes of carnival-like light bulbs. The supers rushed around, some pulling off neckties, some stepping toweled out of showers. Amid all the steam, the place echoed like a tropical rainforest, everyone humming opera tunes in twittery falsettos or froglike basso profundos. I tapped the shoulder of a man in what looked like tuxedo pants. He turned sharply: Horace again. His hair was grey at the temples; his craggy face might have appeared distinguished except for a red-pocked drinker’s nose. I told him I was subbing for Roger and asked if he knew where I was supposed to go.

He squinted at me, evidently not recalling we’d spoken before. “Christ! Why aren’t you shorter?” His baritone resonated across the room. “You’ll have to be remeasured for a robe!”

“Not your problem, Horace!” sang a guy from the showers. “You were demoted!”

Dem-ohh-ted!”chorused several men shaving at the sinks.

“Fuck you, one and all,” Horace muttered, and pointed me toward a corner locker. “Over there, whoever you are,” he said, and walked off.

A curly-haired man stepped up to introduce himself as Rudy; he had my locker combination. Like my neighbor Roger, he was a sporadically employed actor. I asked him if the other supers were actors, too. “A few are. Most of them are dedicated opera lifers.” They clerked in music stores, he said, and arranged their hours so they could rush over to Lincoln Center for rehearsals and performances. “Since my boyfriend started here, he’s in such a daze he’s forgotten how to ring up a cash register.”

I nodded, but—in these days before gay acceptance—I had to hide my surprise at hearing a man talk openly about “my boyfriend.” I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was probably the only straight guy in the place. It was a little like the feeling I’d had on my first day in an African schoolroom, an uneasiness that had vaporized quickly—as I had a feeling it would here—when I became too involved in my new work to think about it.

“Don’t mind Horace, by the way.” Rudy twirled his finger beside his head. “He used to be in charge of the supers. Strutted around this place barking at everybody. Then he missed some rehearsals, and I got his slot. Which is mostly just doing roll calls and handing out pay envelopes at the end of the run.”

“So why does he think the position’s such a big deal?”

“I heard he was a Broadway star years ago, but he hit the skids. This gig is all he’s got left.”

Roger had lent me a stage makeup kit, but I had no idea what to do with the creams and powders I found inside. Rudy showed me how to put on a mud-colored foundation, terra-cotta blush, then dark eyeliner. “Don’t worry, no one’s really going to notice us on stage. All this—” his powder brush traced a flourish in the air—“is just part of the fantasy, a perk of the job.”

“It doesn’t feel like a job,” I said.

“That’s the point.” He got my robe—which fit—and turban, and helped me put them on.

Wow! ”I grinned at the beige troubadour admiring himself in the mirror. It felt terrific becoming someone new—just as when I’d fled my family to go to Africa years before. I’d left behind an insecure kid to become not only a professional singer/musician but a novelist, as well as a high school teacher who’d been called Mwalimu—a Swahili term of respect—helping to educate the first generation of postcolonial Kenyans. Back in the US, though, I was a tiny frog whom nobody noticed, let alone respected, in a huge, impersonal pond. But look at me now: this exotic character—his flashing eyes, his floating hair—on his way to Xanadu!


I rode upstairs with an elevator-load of humming fellow Turks and some cartoonishly sexy harem girls in pantaloons and pointy hats trailing clouds of gauze. Everyone was smiling with expectation, women bouncing silky bodices in rhythm to the music. We burst out in a happy scrum and dispersed into the backstage world of canvas palaces. Costumed villagers and stagehands, singers and lights men milled around. Hoisted on cables, metal banks of lights clanked into place overhead; yellow, blue, and scarlet beams blazed down through the jells and blended into an iridescence swirling with firefly-like dust motes. The air smelled of sweat, makeup, fresh paint. From beyond the curtain I heard violins squeak, oboes honk: the orchestra warming up.

Ah-ah-ah-AH!-ah-ah ahh—” someone sang scales from a little room offstage. Then a trill, two high notes rippling together like fluttering bird wings. A woman stood in the doorway in a long skirt and puffy blue blouse. There was that conflagration of red gold hair—Beverly. Previously I’d been positioned a few feet from her in rehearsals, but hadn’t wanted to spoil her concentration by speaking to her. Did I dare, now? I waited. Finally I strolled in front of her door.

Sorrow had become my lot . . . ,” she sang. Her voice faded out.

“You sound wonderful,” I said, pausing as I walked past.

She gave a slight bow of her head, her gaze far away, but for a split second, her lips parted just enough for her white overbite to shine out, a sliver of a smile.


Tripping over my robe, I continued on to the props table. When the man handed me my mandolin, I nearly dropped the thing, it was so light. Once I’d wielded a gleaming dreadnought of an instrument, the only twelve-string guitar in the Republic of Kenya; the TV studio musicians used to examine it in wonder. This mandolin felt like a papier-mâché melon. Never mind—like my costume, the instrument made me a bona fide cast member, and if it hadn’t been so fragile, I’d have hugged it.

The standby signal was given; a hush fell over the backstage area. The overture leapt up. I stepped into my spot on stage, raised my ax into strumming position. Applause broke out as the curtains parted; a fogbank of blinding light appeared between me and the audience. Mozart’s music swelled around me. The pasha glided onstage in a wheeled boat pulled by concealed cables. Accompanying him was his prisoner, Constanze—Beverly—who stepped on shore to sing her lament to her lost love.

Off to one side, I strummed the painted-on strings of my mandolin along with the orchestra. Magically, they gave off a rhythm I could feel in my fingers—because Beverly, glancing my way, was actually keeping my beat.

In rehearsals, sung quietly, her aria had just been a pretty tune, but now its swelling notes flew into my ears and unnerved me. I’d lost a love, myself—my failed novel’s heroine, no less real to me for being fictitious than Constanze’s fiancé was to Beverly. Until now, operas had been sublime entertainment: outdated spectacles as the occasions for glorious music. Suddenly the soprano’s clear, plaintive voice exposed my own aching sorrow. Yet the music illuminated it with such an intensity that the pain was not only bearable but something to value, even to treasure. Love’s power expressed through art was never lost; it might still sustain me.

This didn’t come to me whole, in a flash. All I knew was that I was overwhelmed by something important and felt an enormous gratitude for it. As the audience applauded, Beverly’s lips preserved her character’s sadness but her sparkling eyes revealed—to us in the cast—the joy she’d felt at expressing it so eloquently. Only when the pasha began complaining about Constanze’s refusal to yield to his advances did I remember that this was a comedy, one of Mozart’s lighter dramas. Some comedian, Mozart.


During an intermission, I saw Beverly chatting with the lights man at stage right. Holding her hand was a curly-haired little girl. Beverly lifted the child’s chin so she could watch the banks of colored lights move high above the stage. A look of wonder broke out on the girl’s face as three bright orange suns shone down from the flies.

“That’s Beverly’s daughter,” Rudy whispered, standing behind me.

“She must love listening to her mother.”

Rudy sighed. “She’s never heard a note Beverly sings. The kid’s deaf.”

“Oh, no . . . ,” I sucked in my breath, following the child’s upward gaze.

Beverly stooped beside her, face pushed into her curls as if to inhale them. Then the curtains parted. Violins plinked; in the spotlight, Belmonte and Pedrillo snuck up to the seraglio. Beverly paid no attention to them; she was miming speech to her daughter, her brow furrowed in concentration, lips stretching wide.

“She must be teaching the girl to lip-read,” I said, and Rudy nodded.

Then, as Beverly straightened up, she quickly rearranged her mouth and eyebrows. Her whole face suddenly shone with her famous smile. In a single beat she stepped onto the set and broke into a lilting coloratura. Her daughter bounced on her toes as she watched her mother sweep across the stage.


More productions followed in the weeks ahead. During act 2, when I didn’t appear, I always stood in one of the wings to listen. None of us wanted to miss the great “Martern aller Arten.” As the orchestra swelled, I watched Beverly glare defiantly at the pasha, about to accept a sentence of death rather than sacrifice her integrity. The aria began. The music soared through me. Along the wings, the heads of the backstage listeners nodded as if in a trance. All eyes were half-closed, as if the sight of Beverly, her arms rising into the beam of light from above, was burning almost too brightly for us to watch as she concluded: In death I shall . . .—be free!

I heard shouts, screams, the stomping of feet amid the thunder of thousands of palms being smacked together—from the front seats to the highest boxes. It was the sound of catharsis, a release of an ecstatic tension. But the audience wasn’t only bursting with admiration for Beverly’s voice; nor were they just cheering for a Brooklyn girl who had, from the age of twelve as a warbler of radio commercials, finally sung her way to the very top of the musical world. They were releasing a roar of triumph for the victory of courage over tyranny. Or so I was utterly convinced. I wasn’t the only one; the applause created a tremor in the house I could feel rising through me.


In the opera’s finale, the pasha—played by the bad-tempered, bald man whom I’d heard arguing offstage with Beverly—suddenly decided to release his prisoners, including Constanze and her maid, Blonde. With their lovers, the two women glided offstage to freedom in the boat while the supers stood rigid and the chorus sang hosannas to the beneficent ruler. On the last night of Abduction’s run, the curtain closed as Beverly was still waving in gratitude. Suddenly her tongue stuck out. She raised her middle finger to the pasha. The curtain parted again. She didn’t have time to hide her gesture from the audience; I heard laughter amid the cheers. Us Turks, supposed to be staring dourly straight ahead, were breaking up. I quickly stood at attention again, looking blank. I was a pro now.


That night I went home hoping my ebullient mood would fend off the gloom of staring at my wounded novel. And it did, for a while; I even managed to rewrite the first few pages. I thought my opera career was over, but early one evening, before the final, now-famous production of Handel’s Julius Caesar, Rudy phoned. He was out of town and couldn’t get back until around ten o’clock.

“I’ll be there in time to hand out the payroll,” he said. “But can you go on for me?”

“I haven’t rehearsed it! I don’t know when to make my entrances, where to go—”

“Ask the stage manager what to do. It’ll be easy. And hey, there’s the big cast party!”

With just an hour to get to Lincoln Center, I dashed to the subway station. The dressing room was in a state of season finale flurry. Aisles were gridlocked with Roman soldiers in shiny breastplates. As soon as I’d stashed my clothes in my locker, I was yanked off to have my face, hands, and shins slathered with makeup. Then two wardrobe men frog-marched me into a room where I was stuffed into a leather tunic that weighed at least thirty pounds. A helmet was clamped down over my forehead, cutting off my vision just below eyebrow level.

“You’re the general of Cleopatra’s army,” a dresser said. “And you’re on in nine minutes!”

Oh, shit! As I rode the elevator up to the stage level, sweat dribbled down my legs into my clunky, silver-coated boots. Stumbling into the wings, I searched for a familiar face. There was Horace, in Egyptian military garb.

“Hey—where do I go?”

You’re in charge!” His voice was thick. “Wha’ kind of leader of men are you?” He strode off.

“I’ve never seen Horace so pissed,” one of my warriors whispered to another.

“He thought he was going to be asked to take Rudy’s place tonight.”

“Rudy’s not here? Bad news for our side. Ptolemy’s soldiers are really butch!”

I finally found the stage manager, who grabbed my arm. “Okay, pay attention. Your life depends on it!” I dashed behind him across the stage, stopping at the foot of one of two staircases that slanted down from a narrow wooden balcony. Beverly rushed by, her feet invisible in a flurry of ruffles. She’d once said in an interview that her Cleopatra costume, cinched tight at the waist and spreading in long, creamy pleats, made her look like a Victorian lampshade, and she hadn’t exaggerated. Her headgear hid her hair and was topped by two high white plumes that a performing circus pony might have worn. But reportedly she looked terrific from the house.

I managed to follow my marching orders until, after a battle scene opening act 3, I led my troops away in retreat and found myself approaching a staircase. Was I supposed to walk around it and into the wings, or march up the steps and exit offstage left from the platform? I’d forgotten completely. My eyes stung with sweat; the scene blurred.

Up the staircase, or around it? Music and blinding lights swelled. I placed my right foot on the first step, then my left. With a sinking heart, I sensed a hesitation in the soldiers behind me.

On the top step was a woman in a plumed headdress, and she seemed to be poised to descend toward my platoon. She was Cleopatra—Beverly Sills—and she was glaring straight at me. She took a step downward. Then another. Her mouth opened. And she sang—a series of high notes which pierced my leather tunic like tiny, flaming arrows.

My helmet dug into my eyebrows. I was tilting backwards, my arm rising at my side. Suddenly something stopped me—a hand gripping my shoulder. A whisper—“About face!” Horace.

I caught my balance. Turning very carefully, I managed to step down . . . and marched slowly offstage into the welcoming darkness. As the troops broke formation behind me, I stood trembling until the curtain finally closed. Then I slunk deep into the wings.


My men and I were onstage once more, standing with spears behind the chorus. I’d never heard Beverly sing as ecstatically as she did in the finale. Wild applause broke out, buffeting the scenery like a gale; I was sure I could see the side curtains flutter and swell. On this last night, the audience didn’t want to stop cheering. Bouquets of flowers flew from the boxes. Beverly gathered one armful, then another, bowing, rising, bowing. The entire cast, even chorus and supers, joined hands to pump their arms in the air.


The crew didn’t want to leave. Like the others, I stayed backstage to soak up the triumphal atmosphere, breathe in the heady smells, memorize all the colors and lavish costumes. I also hoped to thank Horace, but I couldn’t spot him anywhere. Finally I crowded into the elevator with the other supers and we descended, all of us raucously humming snatches of arias. The metal music box plummeted through space. The doors slid open. We spilled out, still humming, and headed for the locker rooms.

Several supers mentioned that it was payday. The wages were small but they’d add up to a lot of grocery money. The first person I saw downstairs was Rudy, sitting on a bench in street clothes that made him look strange among the armored soldiers. Then I noticed that he was slumped over, head down. In front of him, his locker door gaped open, its hasp wrenched off.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, pointing to the empty locker. “I just got here a few minutes ago.”

“What happened?” someone asked.

“Has something been stolen?”

“The payroll.” Rudy’s head rose, eyes burning. “The manager put the envelopes in here before the performance.”

“Damn! Someone must have used a tire iron on that door!”

“Who?” I asked.

Everybody looked around. We were all here, weren’t we? No, we weren’t. I heard a name whispered—a kind of shudder: “Horace!” Someone said they’d seen him step into the elevator the minute we’d come offstage. He’d been the only super who hadn’t been upstairs milling around in the wings.

“Goddamn his ass!” I kicked the nearest locker. Spangles sprayed off the toe of my boot.

Someone threw a helmet; it cracked against the wall, a hollow half sphere of cheap shiny tin. Everything looked phony now—my heavy tunic with its scruffy lining, my boots with their plastic silver trim. The Roman soldiers’ armor plates made clinky noises as they dropped to the floor. The place smelled dank; the steam that billowed from the shower room felt like a heavy, hissing fog.

“Did Horace get your money?” a blond super asked me. “I thought you two got on okay.”

In my rage I wanted to deny it. I couldn’t help remembering his hand on my shoulder, though. “I guess we did,” I said, finally. “But I hardly knew the poor bastard.”

Silence. Supers shuffled around. The blond guy muttered, “He fucked up everything!”

“He can’t have!” I stood up. “Hey, what about the cast party? It’s still on, right?”

Faces turned toward Rudy.

“Do supers get to go?” someone asked.

Yeah!” Grinning, Rudy jumped to his feet. “Damn right we do! We can still go!”

Costume shedding instantly sped up. Bathroom mirrors crowded with faces being cold-creamed free of makeup. I inhaled blasts of cologne. Suit jackets were briskly brushed down. On my way out of my apartment I’d grabbed a sports jacket, and now gave my lapels a last-minute brush.

Outside our locker room door, the women supers waited, elaborately coiffed as if they were nominees on Academy Awards night. Rudy led us up the long hall. When the story of the locker break-in was repeated, the women sympathized but were quickly shushed. As we turned one corner after another, snatches of Mozart and Handel rippled through the air. Our reverberating hum filled the corridor like an anthem.


Hushed, we filed into an enormous grotto lit with chandeliers and glittering mirrors. The cast party was a blur of balloons and tinsel, echoing laugher, congratulations, hugs, chatter and squeals. Singers and musicians and crew members mingled, drunk with bubbly mirth. Champagne glasses clinked and overflowed. Beverly rushed from friend to friend, embracing everyone, looking somehow both sleek and zaftig in a leopard-skin print outfit. Her hair, no longer hidden under a carnival headdress, rippled in its red golden cascades of curls. I kept standing on tiptoe in the crowd to catch glimpses of her, wanting badly to apologize for my stage gaffe. But this sure wasn’t the time; besides, I couldn’t get near her. She was gone out the door in explosions of flashbulbs.


Years later, living in Los Angeles, I saw Beverly Sills again when she performed at a big outdoor theater. Her fame would peak soon: the television talk show appearances, her long-overdue Met debut, a Presidential Medal of Freedom. That night, I could hear in her voice—a little strained, and of course with none of the thrilling intimacy I remembered—that her singing career was winding down. The audience still loved her, though, and showered her with cheers.

A month earlier, I had decided to return to Kenya, where, with a grant I’d received for some short stories, I planned to live—not teaching or singing this time, but finally restarting the novel I’d nearly abandoned. After Beverly’s concert, I realized, my season at the opera had helped show me that a life in art was not only possible for me, but necessary.

As the audience left, I was feeling exuberant but disoriented, and wandered away from the seats toward some fans gathering at the end of a tunnel leading to the stage door. A policeman asked me who I was. On impulse, I said with straight face that I was “a former colleague of Miss Sills from New York.” For some reason he believed me, and let me into the corridor. The old magic of walking through a subterranean theatrical maze rushed over me again.

Beverly was just coming out of her dressing room, no longer in her performance gown but looking great in slacks and a blazer, her hair as bright and feathery as ever.

I stepped forward. “You won’t remember me, but . . .”

She stopped. “Of course I remember you!”

Of course she didn’t; I could see that in her patient expression. Why bring up our last near-encounter, after all this time? Because I couldn’t stop myself. I blurted it out: about playing the general in her—Cleopatra’s—army in Julius Caesar and nearly leading my troops up a staircase into one of her arias.

That would have been fun.” She rolled her eyes. “So tell me, what happened?”

“Someone stopped me. I did an about-face . . . and took another route.”

“Good move, mon général.”

I nodded, catching my breath. “Anyway—you sounded wonderful tonight.”

“Well, thanks so much!” She gave me a plump-cheeked smile, her teeth flashing white. Then she raised her fingertips to her right eyebrow—was that a salute?—and walked off down the corridor.

In a moment, I left, too, listening for the echo of a hum to follow us out.  end