He sits alone onstage, his fingers urging notes and chords out of his piano, his voice husky, growling all my secrets for anyone to hear.
I slam down a shot of liquid courage and leave the safety of my usual hiding place in the back corner of the bar,(more) closer to the stage.
Right there, in front of God and anyone bothering to pay attention, I walk onstage, slide his piano just a little bit to the side as his hands continue to make magic, deep low notes humming through my core, and straddle his lap, face-to-face as I press my mouth to his.
He doesn't miss a note.
Of course this is all in my mind as I watch him play.
In reality, I just sit, watch, and listen.
I do leave the safety of my hiding spot though, that much is true.
There's an empty table right up front. I notice that people don't always like to sit at the table closest to the stage although I don't know why.
I'm not one of them. The closer the better as far as I'm concerned. Especially when he's onstage, exposed and brutally honest.
The people watch but they don't see.
They listen but they don't hear.
I immerse myself in everything he is, everything surrounding him is light and dark fighting for dominance and I can't tear my eyes away hard as I try.
Every word he sings is an arrow piercing my soul.
Every key his fingers touch is my flesh and I shiver as he plays me.
He sings my pain and it mingles with his.
He plays my torment and it blends together with his own, a beautifully torturous melody so blatant it astounds me that nobody hears what I hear.
He plays just for me.(less)
I love endings. Let's begin there.
The last day I spent with my girlfriend, Lucia, before velocity and inertia carried me away and away from that tiny town in the high desert, her bedroom floor was our final frontier.
As Morrison Hotel spun again and agai(more)n on her record player, I rolled her dreadlocks ever tighter between my fingertips and whispered the lyrics of "The Spy" to her:
"I know your deepest secret fear,
I know everything."
Behind the words, a piano riff slow and bright as honey trickled, keys sending shivers down strings. From the flat disc of the record's universe, the vibrations of those strings touched us like we wouldn't touch each other.
There on her plush rug, while we were two touching but still open strings, enough of our boundless dimensions overlapped that the tin can telephones of our mouths melded, and messages that had traveled for light years were received, finally, and decoded with infinite care during a spontaneous case of time dilation.
String theory is elegant in its ability to describe invisible things. A hypothetical string, being one-dimensional, has the dimension of length but not width nor height. Picture one.
You can't. Length alone is undetectable.
Like visualizing the length of a song, the length of a love affair, the true length of the dreadlocked hair of a girl I knew, whose strings were as tangled as mine.
Physicists struggle to unify the complimentary but different equations they say describe the universe. I say do this:
Write each equation on a chalkboard big as a house. Write the next one over the top of it. And the next. Like the faces of successive lovers, like the years of an invisible life, like many piano keys struck at once, singing in every dimension.
The mechanical wolf in my mirrored self's chest crunched the marionette's wooden skull in his jaws, the shards disappearing down his gullet, followed quickly by the rest of the delicately carved body.
With downcast eyes, my doppelganger watched the scene playing out inside her. Sh(more)e looked up at me after a moment, the gaps in her grimace stark against her otherwise perfect teeth. I pulled away from her stare, gave my attention back to the wolf in her belly, and he paused in his clockwork bone crushing to speak.
"You should have said no." His voice was grinding gears.
"Why didn't you? I might have stopped."
"Fair enough. I wouldn't have stopped."
The wolf spoke truly. I couldn't have stopped him, or I would have. He'd been gnawing my bones for years.
No longer. I climbed to my feet.
Asmodeus suddenly roared and my mirror self vanished. Disease's children scattered, settling and crouching under the low branches of nearby trees, waiting.
Only Asmodeus, Disease, and I remained in the clearing by the rivers, the grumbling thunder overhead momentarily quiet. The axis of my dark Wonderland had shifted. They shifted warily in the soft sand.
Asmodeus spoke first.
"I put you back together. Your sins are inside you again. Give in to me, or you'll be consumed by them."
"No, not this time."
I turned to Disease. She reached toward me with a manicured hand. I stepped back quickly.
I gave you mercy. You felt clean when you couldn't eat, didn't you? I cleansed you.
"You tricked me. I was never dirty."
Asmodeus and Disease exchanged a glance. They still saw a victory. The stepped closer together, then toward me.
"You are alone." They said together.
It was the inevitable time of Saturday night that happens in small town bars everywhere once midnight's near. The opening piano riff of 'Old Time Rock & Roll' sounded over the general din; someone had finally been unable to resist it, clacking drunkenly through the mouldy oldies the jukebox(more) was crammed with.
That piano trill. The good-old-boy vocal kicking in, sturdy and dirty as an old truck bouncing along a country road. Instantly everyone was excited. Davis rested her head on the bar.
All around her women held up their beer bottles and began high-stepping in strappy Payless sandals. Men played invisible guitars, strumming with their can-holding hands. Everyone sang along. Davis sat, propped up on her elbows with her face down. She was surrounded by glasses ringed with foam and her own old-fashioned glass, the whisky without potency somehow; even after three she was painfully present in the moment.
The smell of onion rings seethed from the shortorder grill. The bar top was sticky and smelled of Windex. That old-time rock & roll! That old time rock & roll! That same old song. She wondered why she'd come home.(less)