So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky!
– John Dryden, “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day”
The woman with the purple hair moved her arms feverishly back and forth in front of her face, and I thought she was beautiful. If she squeezed my heart not saying anything, I didn’t want to think about what her voice could do.
It would be music.
I scratched my head with my right hand, trying to figure her out. I felt she knew me and my tricks and my shame. I laughed, knowing I was just a young widower trying to reassemble the jagged remnants of life.
She continued to move her arms, passion on top of passion, her eyes intense with fire, and I took one step toward her.
I made eye contact. Her arms still moved, but she started to walk toward me. She was approaching on the gravel street. We were outside and it smelled cold and mature, like old leaves.
We were a foot apart and my mouth was dry. I moved my tongue around, begging for moisture, but I couldn’t talk.
She didn’t talk either.
We stood there, like two Pinocchios just wanting to be real.
Then her arms moved again, only this time it was much slower, almost thoughtful. Then I realized. All of my talk wouldn’t matter, because it would never reach her.
I raised my right hand, extended my pointer, pinky, and thumb, and lowered my middle two fingers.
I love you.
I’m an idiot.
I turned around on the road and walked away from her, turning left into a small path behind Joe’s barn.
Who was this girl, just motioning at me? I didn’t even know her, and who was I to say “I love you”? She had turned my life upside down enough for one day. I would just go home and eat Oreos and read Poe and wallow.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around. Her face looked confused. She cocked her head to one side, like a dog, but a pretty one.
She turned, beckoning me with a swing of her right hand, her purple hair electric in the dusk.
I followed, a hapless victim of curiosity.
We walked for about a mile. We didn’t talk. That was okay. My stomach was knotting itself up in confused balls of uncertainty that made me want to throw up and smile at the same time. This was something. We didn’t need words for affirmation.
We continued walking, and I noticed that her steps were light. She didn’t walk like everyone else. She didn’t float, and she didn’t glide. It was just light, like nothing I’d ever seen before. Everything about her was soft and gentle and genuinely her, though she was obviously broken.
Here I was, a lanky guy from the backwoods bumbling behind her, begging to be brought into her realm. My left toe caught and I stumbled a bit, but she didn’t turn around. I guess we were both broken.
We walked, two wind-up toys running out of artificial life.
She finally turned left, a burst of wind blowing her yellow blouse away from her body for a second. She had turned onto a cement driveway. Ahead in the distance stood a proud Tudor house. The sunset was leaking around the sides of the house, but the bright red of the bricks still hurt my eyes.
She spun around and looked me in the eyes. I stopped walking. She smiled, and I wanted to cry. I didn’t even remember to smile back. She beckoned with her hand, just like she did the first time, and we started to walk together.
The leaves were crispy and falling and I stepped on one. I stepped on two, three, four. They layered the driveway. She didn’t step on any.
We were in front of the house now. Instead of going through the front door, she climbed over the short white fence on the side and I followed. We went around to the backside of the house and entered through a dilapidated back door with a broken lock.
She and I went up two flights of stairs. The first was an auxiliary staircase made out of wooden planks, but the second was carpeted and even. I could feel its cushion through the soles of my shoes. She knew her way around. It was comforting, and familiar.
She walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. I followed, although I wasn’t sure what we were doing. She took a half-gallon of milk from the refrigerator and looked at me quizzically, her head cocked. She moved her arms and hands for the first time since she had asked me to walk with her. I tried to show her that I didn’t understand.
“My name’s Johnny.”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me,” I said.
She took my hand and placed it on the half-gallon and then pointed to my chest with one finger.
“Oh, no. I don’t want any. Thanks.” I shook my head “no,” and she understood.
She poured a glass for herself. She drank it, leaning against the counter underneath the microwave.
She placed her empty glass that still held the faint white hue of milk in the sink and walked out of the kitchen. I followed quickly, trying to keep up with her.
Her hand reached behind to grab mine. I reached forward and she held it. We started running, exquisite furniture and civilization blurry around us. She stopped suddenly and I ran into her back. She turned around. I laughed and took a step back. Our hands were still joined.
Her excited, erratic breaths told me we had reached our destination. Walls lined with books. Two black leather armchairs. The ceiling was dark, but the good kind of dark, the cozy kind. She flipped on the light switch, and I saw a record player. It was dusty and exhausted but she walked toward it with volition. She grabbed the top record from a pile on the floor. Its cover was grey with a yellow square filling the front.
After placing the record on the player and putting the needle down, she handed the cover to me. I held it in my hands, and just as I discovered that it was the London Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth, the music started to swell. The opening notes brought chills to my heart and I had to sit down.
But she didn’t sit down in the chair adjacent. Instead, she smiled at me for an instant, and then began to twirl around as the music swirled, her purple hair spreading out from her head. She could fly. Tears escaped from her closed eyelids.
She was lifted by something beyond bars and measures. She flew over sound and light and time, and for a second, I was flying, too.
Some people think my blog is too “dark.” I understand, and am going to attempt to make it “lighter” at times. This one’s for the optimists in the room. Oh, and if anyone else wants an acronym made in their name, I’m quite good at them, so request, and I shall create. Hoorah!
L ate at night, you
E at food
A nd watch American Idol or something. (The previous sentence is pretty much just speculation.)
N evermind that–I love you a lot, and that’s
N o joke. I’m glad we
A re friends and it’s okay if you are sometimes rude to waitresses.
Death is an interesting monster. Sometimes it’s a monster that we adore and revere for nothing more than its power that only one could defeat. It’s a monster that undeniably terrifies us, but is that how it should be? Isn’t it really the ultimate gain? You could fit thousands of “me”s in death, and all of them would be happy, because they’re headed home. I smile when I think about it, but there’s still a heavy ball of something in the pit of my stomach that I can’t explain or scream away. It remains.
I sit here listening to music and eating pizza and petting my dog and feeling transcendent and exuberant. I put on a sad, understanding face of compassion when I hear someone has died,–yes, I said “died.” Please don’t patronize the dead by calling the battle they lost anything less than it is.–but some sick, human part of me ashamedly rejoices a little bit inside because I have won something small. I have survived a day that someone else could not. I rejoice, but then I claim humility. He has chosen to give me one more day–is his decision justified? My black, repeat mistake heart says no. But we are never capable of justifying ourselves. It is within this realization that the crux of our humanity and depravity lies. Amen.
What if we all wore nametags that told us when we were going to die? Hi, my name is Jill. I am going to die in 22 days. You could make it as specific (down to the day, hour, minute second) or as not specific (just the year) as we wanted. You could even choose not to have one. I wonder how many people would want one. I think I would rather not know. I’d forego the badge, and live every day as if it were my last (or my first.)
Why am I so sad when babies die? Because they’ve left the world without experiencing it. But then I think about the times when life is hell, and I wonder if they’re happy they never have to go through it. Some of them are. They get to spend eternity watching the rest of us struggle and love and break and be put back together again. But others–others watch, and their chest hurts a bit, because they’re not there experiencing. Their little minds and hearts have realized what some of us never will–that it’s the hell, the brokenness, the confusion, that keeps us alive, that lets us live.
So, call me crazy, but this is one of the most romantic passages of literature I’ve ever read. I’ve even contemplated putting it on a wedding program or something, just to be crazy and different and literary (or something like that…)
“He remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid that he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe and almost of that size and shape. When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, holding the rapier bill with its sandpaper edge and clubbing her across the top of her head until her colour turned to a colour almost like the backing of mirrors, and then, with the boy’s aid, hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then, while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep, his lavender wings, that were his pectoral fins, spread, wide and all his wide lavender stripes showing. He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.”
Disclaimer: This was written on October 23rd, and therefore does not really represent my current state of mind. I think I was just having a bad day. I did think it was particularly well-stated though, so I decided to post it.
I am scared. I don’t want things to change, but they will. I want love, but conditionally. If I can live in my hometown. If he will submit to my dreams. Is that even love anymore? I think my standards are too high, and I am not patient enough to satisfy those standards. What if he is 90% of what I need? 95%? 99%? It’s beautiful, but it’s still not 100%. He’s not here, and in his absence I’m forming bonds and making a life that he doesn’t fit into. That I can’t leave. It’s terrifying. And lonely. But it’s becoming less so. Where do I draw the line of perfection? It sears and burns so much that it’s irrevocable and I’m afraid to strike the match and light the flame. Because I don’t want to fail. Is love about finding someone who meets all of our needs and takes the fears away? I don’t know. I wish I did. Then I wouldn’t worry. Worrying is a sin. Part of me just wants to live my life and not have to think about anyone else. Easy? Yes. Satisfying? No. Where do I draw the line between comfortability and independence? Are emotions necessary? I understand that they make us feel alive and human and unique and transcendent, but if we didn’t have them, would we know what we were missing? We wouldn’t have to hurt/cut/cry anymore, but we wouldn’t smile/warm/cry anymore. Is it a good tradeoff? Part of me says “Yes.” A bigger part of me says, “No! Absolutely not.” But I still hurt, and wonder every time if it is worth it. Breaking backs broken for the sake of life. Is it worth sacrificing for others’ sake?
Writing is a medicine that makes old men dance and young girls cry and little boys yell, “Uncle!” It spurns and spins and exhilarates and then disappears. Silent as it came.
It is a balloon that puffs up and deflates accordingly. It sits downcast in a corner and righteously stands amidst gaudiness to signify complexity and worth.
Writing is a broken bone that scrapes and festers and burns. It heals on its own, but it is never the same. Sometimes it breaks the skin; sometimes it hides underneath the surface, still beating with the heart. IT cries, because the blood seeps through, but sighs as the red cleanses.
Writing is a watch that beats and clicks and tracks all that surrounds it. It keeps up, barely. It is worn out, and tired, gasping for breath, but it tenses and flexes to cross the finish line. It has always been a competitor, but the sleeper. The tortoise immortalized in a fable.
It is a man standing by an open casket, watching his life melt away. It becomes artificial and opaque and dead. Cremation helps but will not cure the emptiness. Dried out roses memorialize a twice-dead effort, a lost cause doomed to perpetual inadequacy.
Writing is a ring on a wedding day. A promise for tomorrow–at least. It is now beautiful, reflecting refinement. All past tarnishes forgotten in favor of a new self. It knows it is clean and it wants to be clean but memories of tarnishing still remain, crusty and dark.
Writing is transcendent.
It hopes, and makes hearts beat fast.
A drum of exhilaration.
Play me a song.