Crumb [kruhm]. Noun. 1. A small particle of bread, cake etc., that has broken off.
He, the writer, worried all the time, about everything, but today he was worrying about his age. He had been to the theatre the night before, a weekday, and got much drunker than he’d intended (being amateur theatre, the beers were only six dollars). He had gone because he was curious about the show, a jukebox musical based on the songbook of one of his favourite bands. The professional version had been slated to come to the small city in which he lived, then been cancelled without explanation after he had bought tickets for the New Year’s Eve show (he was refunded in full). He had also gone because there was someone in the cast he knew from years ago, a singer with a golden voice and a broken brain. All her life she had been in and out of institutions, sometimes bedridden for months on end undergoing ECT, which seemed to do the trick for a while. She was perfect for the role, a hammy villain, a Wicked Witch of the West for the digital age. He had lost her number, if he had ever had it, and she wasn’t on social media. He would just have to go and hope he could catch her in the foyer afterwards and tell her what a great job she’d done (he knew she’d do a great job). As it happened, after the show he ran into the ex-boyfriend of his first serious girlfriend who was, in the way of small cities, now with the singer. Feeling old, he waited with the ex-boyfriend, making slightly dissociated small talk while the cast emerged in dribs and drabs into the foyer. He was fascinated and, in a way, uplifted by them, by their imperfect bodies and voices, the kind you would never see or hear on a professional stage. He had so much admiration for them, these mums and dads and students and who knew what else, sacrificing their nights, giving up huge chunks of their busy lives to make a show for no reason at all except the love of it. Amateur. Didn’t the word itself mean lover? The singer emerged, half her face still daubed in silvery science fiction makeup. She burst out laughing when she saw him. He wondered if she was in one of her manic phases, or if it was just residual energy from the performance. How long had it been since they had seen each other? Six years? Eight? Ten? It felt like a lifetime ago. Eventually she stopped laughing but her eyes kept returning to his hair, greyer and thinner than when they had last spoken in the flesh. They swore at each other and called each other obscene names – an old game of theirs, they liked to quote The Exorcist – and she pointed out a man in the crowded foyer, dark-haired and tall, taller than him, six foot three, four. At first he thought he was a friend of hers, but then it clicked – the man was her son. The last time the writer had seen him he had come up to his waist. Now he worked in chemicals. Thinking back on the night before, the writer remembered standing on the pavement with the singer, being introduced by her to a stagehand (actors he could understand doing it for the love it, but stagehands?). After a while the stagehand, who was very young, had moved away, and the singer asked him if he was happy. She was happy, and wanted to know if he was too. ‘No,’ he had said quickly, too quickly, and tried to light another cigarette. His matches – old and thin, of the kind you used to see in fishbowls in hotel lobbies – kept breaking, just crumbling to pieces in his hands.