(NOTE: Based on today’s The Daily Post writing prompt)

Robert sat in his seat, looking out over the crowd, scanning the faces for clues and insights into each individual’s personality. There were some who appeared to be open books, obviously lost in thought or pondering some issue in their lives while not really listening to the music. Others were more impassive, giving their full attention to the orchestra whose music was building to a crescendo that seemed to shake the seats.

The performance hall was filled to capacity but, as the performance moved toward its ending, Robert suspected that wouldn’t last long. He remembered a favorite quote from The Age of Innocence, that the only thing Americans loved more than going to entertainment was leaving it. The crowd would start to thin out soon as people made their way to the coat check and then the valet and then home.

He, on the other hand, would be staying to the end. There was nothing for him to rush home to. His life had fallen apart several month ago, the result of bad choices made regarding his family, alcohol and finances over the last few years. Where once he’d been relatively happy and fulfilled and supported by a wide network of friends and family now he had almost no one who would reliably return his phone calls. Not that he could blame them.

So he stayed, content in the moment to enjoy the remainder of the concert and analyze his fellow music lovers. Those two over there looked as if they couldn’t wait to get out of here. That woman was trying to put as much distance between her and the man in the next seat as possible. That man was about to lose his patience with two kids who couldn’t stay still. That woman looked as if the weight of the world were crushing her.

He wondered briefly how many others were doing the same thing he was. Looking around, he tried to spy anyone scanning the crowd like him but didn’t see anyone. Most people seemed content to enjoy the performance. Perhaps they were true music lovers, the kind that felt the music stir something in their very soul. Perhaps this was their one respite from a life of drudgery that they intended to enjoy to the utmost.

Whatever the reason or rationale, he thought as the players slid the downward slope of the musical phrase they’d just climbed, they were all together here in this moment. Eventually, either sooner or later, they would all disperse and go their separate ways, no longer joined into this particular communal event. Robert knew what awaited him at home but felt no pull toward it. He put the thought out of his mind as much as he could and slipped back into the moment, intent on enjoying the music right up to the moment it was over.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.