Stale beer. Strewn glasses. Sweating cans. Wet rings on polished wood. Big Ed steps under the light. Towels the sweat off his forehead. Mumbles something about a special guest into an overly-hot mic.
Nobody looks up. 'Cept me. When I see Lev hunch his way to the stool(more), guitar in hand, I almost choke. He doesn't say a word. Just looks around the bar, as if defying anyone to stop him. No one does.
He starts playing. His fingers move stiffly. The homespun bandages on his wrists and hands come a little undone. Strain creeps into the corners of his eyes.
He is transcendent.
Not because he played well-- his technique was always rigid, off-tempo-- but because he was unstoppable. The sacrifice was evident. Playing had cost him everything. He'd given it, even when the music gave nothing back.
As I watch, the bleary, beer-soaked background of the bar begins to fade. I see the fires of hell begin to rise around him, like serpents striking. Even as the flames began to lap at his flesh like a rising sea, even as his flesh begins to yield and give way to ash, he does not stop, until absolutely nothing is left.
I realize he has something I will never know. But then, I suppose I have things he'll never know as well.