Friday, June 15, 2012

Old Souls

One great thing, he paused, is to relive life. You don’t make mistakes any more, you think before you act and when you act you are alive. Make no mistake, mistakes are out the window, if there is one, and they wizen in the stark sun after rain. You feel as happy as you believe you’ll ever be. Believe this and the enormous weight of regret is lifted like a Godlike act of sorcery, the way the sky turns all colors with rainbows and all. So now, or then, she’s here, or there, smiling and laughing and talking and listening the way she was in the beginning, as she is now, as she shall ever be, world without end . . .

Then he went out looking for work. The woman downtown found his name in the files, commemorating the stint during the World’s Fair managing the apartment complex transformed for the duration into a motel and now back being apartments again, as it was in the beginning and who knows what will be next . . . He got this lead and and here he was on the street again, following the slip of paper between his fingers, wanting, or hoping, to do the best he knew how and get the job, put her through school the rest of her way and be given the chance–mere chance--to love her longer, live with her and be her love and she be his . . .

The guy said, Sure, you’re a writer, you can write, I read, I’m a reader . . . And they got nowhere. Bobby said, I also read. The interviewer asked, Where do you want to be ten years from now? Bobby thought about it longer than he should: I’d have to think about it, man, I sing, I write, I play clarinet, I listen to strangers talk, I’m an amateur archaeologist digging deep, excavating old souls, those that you don’t see or hear anymore but there they are when I hit bottom, there they are . . . The guy interrupted, What are you trying to tell me, you don’t want the job? Bobby said, I’m trying to tell you who I am . . .

Paula didn’t go to mass. He wondered aloud why priests donned robes and censer in one hand, then the other, delivered, incensing in many shakes–casting ashes of the dead in the shape of smoke? No more funerals. They went back to bed to love some more. Money was low, why not try Black and Tan? He assembled his clarinet, warmed up with scales, then started his old favorite, the one she sang better than anyone he’d ever heard. He didn’t know until he was playing through "St. James Infirmary" one day. She found the words between breaths where and how he’d imagined. And he knew she knew.

It seemed to him she let the breath syncopate, the last word trip into the next like a brief skip but never a hop or jump, and then she reached below her God-given soprano, she liked to call it, and found something low down, at least for her in her glorious skin with her high cheek bones and everything about her more than beautiful in the light Black and Tan pooled and bathed the stage. She could sing "Easy Rider" and did, she knew "C. C. Rider" too. She loved Billie Holiday, so she did "Don’t Explain," the whole thing. He asked her where she’d been hiding her voice. She said, I didn’t have anything to say before.

(31 May, 15 June 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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