Larger than Life

I’d fire you on grounds of insanity, Timothy’s publicist had said when he’d suggested turning down the Metropolitan Opera commission. Who pays who here, Timothy asked, sharper than he intended. After subtracting the publicist’s fee and various other expenses, Timothy’s collected royalties barely covered rent. Stop being a little bitch and write a love story, his publicist had said and hung up.

The first time Timothy had seen opera, he’d been thirteen and a substitute teacher had pulled out an ancient television and played Mozart’s Magic Flute while she took a nap in the back of the classroom. The overture’s opening chords might as well have sunk a rod through his skull and pinned him to his chair. He hadn’t known sounds like that existed. When the Queen of the Night hit her first high F, his blood felt suddenly magnetized. When Sarastro embraced his daughter and let his voice rumble through a low F, Timothy’s ribcage rang like a tuning fork. He hadn’t even known he was crying until the lights came on and Frankie McBride pointed and howled with laughter.

In that moment, he’d hated opera with a purity that took his breath away. What did they know about the real world, these people who broke into song every other minute and spilled their hearts as though no one could hear them. Tamino had risked his life after a single glance at Pamina, who had nearly killed herself an hour later when Tamino was forbidden to speak. How did Tamino even know that he’d like her? Why didn’t they use hand signals? None of it made sense and he didn’t know why he was crying and he couldn’t stand things that didn’t make sense.

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