The woman was a brunette, when she was alive. Now, in her grave, no more than a year after her death, the hair was gone. The hair.

She had sung — for some period of time as yet indeterminate but which could certainly be considered the majority of the period of time which she had been alive. As a child, she had been told it was a talent of hers; perhaps this talent had come to define her; either way, she ensured her listeners could not tell. That they could not tell whether or not her talent had come to define her. So she grew into a seemingly humble chanteuse; and this was exactly what she wanted. The seeming. Humility in the talented is grotesque, out-of-place; but in the genius, it was apt, nearly necessary. Endearing, almost. So, she fantasized — in those days, before she had turned even sixteen — that she would be genius and so that an air of humility would be requisite in her endeavors, regardless of whether or not it was truly warranted. She drew it over her voice like a veil visible only to her.

What no one had told her was that even little girls' voices change.

Somewhere between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, she had become an alto, a lamentable — lamentable to her — departure from her younger self's soprano. First it had been her highest A she lost; then the F-sharp below it became an ordeal; until finally, in one frigid fall, anything above an E became implausible.

If she was in the right acoustic setting — and she rarely was, save for a peculiarly-shaped motel room bath about forty miles out of state at which she had stayed several times, in her thirtieth year of life, during violent fits of desperation — she could close her eyes and squint her ears just enough so that the songs she sung, no longer fit for her voice, would sound near-perfect again. It took just the right mindset to keep the illusion aloft, and that achievement — of the ideal mindset — was a rarer occurrence than any of the other requisites, i.e., the acoustic environment, the arrangement of notes, the desire to sing, etc. The woman often saw herself as a tragic character in the second act of a self-indulgent film, the director's own life story peeking out from behind the script. She repeated the previous characterization — though the word she used in her mind was 'assessment' — of herself when she would lose all control, when she would feel herself drowning in the putrid sludge of self-pity, when rather than focusing on the matter at hand — singing, and singing well, and singing to save herself — she would disappear from her own sight and lose the ability to do naught but imagine. Disappear into an era previous to the one she currently inhabited, a period of time when she could still hit highs.

These imaginings could certainly be considered nothing more than the comforts a dying person will give herself; but they were also, certainly, nothing less. Nothing less.