There’s something about the cello that ruins the soul. It’s as if whoever first built one had fallen from grace, and in so doing, torn their heart from their chest and strung it from ear to toe. Before bleeding into the land, into history, into nothingness, they’d picked up a twig and begun to play. Death was not an option. Only a life of unending sorrow remained.
I recite this story to my secretary as I sit here and play. The notes rise and fall with her breaths. My fingers rest only when she blinks. I pour my everything into this most personal performance, not to impress, but to explain.
There was something unsavoury about her smile, an unavoidable diagnosis of disgust. Whilst she revelled in self-centred superiority, the world might’ve burned. The others played on.
She felt wrong. The whole thing felt wrong. As if having swallowed a live worm when expecting a jellied one, she wriggled within. I’d have wretched, but she was watching.
She’d done nothing other than sit there politely minding her own business. I hadn’t sought her, nor looked upon her by any other reason than an accident. She happened upon me. This was the simple truth.
Evasion proved the smarter side of valour. I slipped away to another table like a furtive rat, eager for some space and a place to breathe. She followed. Why the hell had I chosen this casino?
She sat and asked the time. I made a point of looking at her watch, but she ignored it. I gave her the correct hour but added twenty minutes. She laughed a crescendo.
I woke to an empty bed and an emptier wallet. She was long gone. I wasn’t annoyed, though. I blamed myself. She enjoyed her games, always had. I savoured them, too, once, but less so after we married.
On nights when the moon shines brightly and the moonbeams swallow my every exhalation, I pretend. Never for long. Never forever. I imagine myself with her of the dark swirling shawls and alabaster features, the one who’ll love me forever. I smile and close my eyes, but I always wake. She’s the one at the end of a heartbeat, the girl with hollowed-out eyes. She’s eternity in a sweeping, celestial moment, forgotten to most, but never to me. I’ll know her when the others falter. As millions tumble into abyssal pits or spiral in updrafts the opposite way, I’ll cling to the cliffs like an eagle, fractured granite marking my way. My free hand will reach out and she’ll take it in her bones for fingers. She has to! She must! And I’ll let go without hesitation, the already cold blood in my veins burning a hello. “Take me,” I’ll plead. “You’re already there,” she’ll whisper. And I’ll smile, sing, pass on without protestation. I will, my friends. For life is the dream and death the reality. How I hate not forgetting to breathe.
There were towers of cockeyed proportions springing from the ground at spasmodic intervals. Where the sun caught them sharpest, they glinted like stained glass windows, a most unnatural woodland. They swamped even the once-great mountains as if them just undulations.
Animals had taken advantage of this place, making squalid homes for no other reason than having nowhere else to live. A molehill shone with its tin dome. An owl’s oil drum echoed.
This was the world humanity had gifted them, our legacy to Mother Earth, obscure cathedrals of dumped filth. At least they no longer had us to deal with.
Death was an inelegant solution to an elegant game, an imperfect answer to the most perfect of all solutions. Yet here, Death held no sway.
Memories were never my forte. I remembered in fits and starts, never then till now, nor here to there. I recalled moments, or fragments of moments, nothing more, like a jigsaw turned upside down and with no means of reference to piece it back together. This was how the first conjunction occurred, grey on black, black on grey, always white in-between.
The small, white bird was not a creature of feathers and pumping blood, but of glazed porcelain with a copper beak. It sang, though, trilled its little metal heart out. It sang and sang and sang.
I put the bird in my pocket only to realise many years later, when next I checked, that it had a hole. I panicked then, something to set the heart palpitating. The dull boom, boom, thud of it rang throughout the place, as I searched everywhere except where I ought.
The second alignment came upon discovering the first of two pits. I peered in one, dropped to my knees for a closer look and almost toppled into the other. In a world of insubstantiality, they were flat, almost symmetrical, two discarded black orbs in a land of dusk. Well, until they blinked.
They say life comes in threes. Third time lucky and all that. Not for me.
The sun appeared like a coin from a grandparent’s pocket. You wanted it, needed it, but if you took it too quickly, you might not get another. I had desired the sun since I lost it. She always gleamed.
She was my little bird, pale with sable hair, which added to her ghostlike appearance. Her eyes were black. No other description fit them. Closing them was the hardest thing I ever did.
The sun, now bright and beaming like a lighthouse slicing through a stormy midnight, rose higher. It reached its zenith like a diamond in a jet black ring.
The voice hurt my ears. It rang through my befuddled thoughts like Big Ben’s bells thrust inside my skull. I hated pain. My pain, that was.
I didn’t answer. I never answered. The words were never quite there. Instead, I wrapped my fogged shawl closer, pulled it tight. Anything else might have killed me.
Author’s note: After seeing all the mindless bombs and destruction of late, I have decided to post this story as I can’t bear to send it out for print. As Marvin Gaye once said: ‘Whats’s going on.’
This colossal loss compounds at every turn. There is no hope. We have no hope. There never was hope.
As I sit and stare from my window like a moth bemused by a star, searching without finding, dreaming without knowing what of, the world around me crumples. This rock for a heart weighs heavy. The unending guilt, more.
Today I rouse myself from bed and endeavour to do. The question remains, do what?
A green shoot sprouts from a pot on my kitchen window. I neither placed it there nor remember my wife or daughter having done so either. Still, logic dictates they must have. Perhaps I am tireder than I thought. This newborn holds my attention as though liquid gold. New life, who’d have thought it! The tiny one strives to reach the jaundiced light abstracting the sky. I admire its gumption, if not its sense. Nevertheless, it is to this I turn my unwavering attention.
Three days later, I am sitting in the same chair, wearing the same fierce frown of determination, just from a fuzzier face. The shoot is now a stem. This stem is jade green.
There is a flaw to my latter statement. I have always believed plants a lush emerald until they flower. Grass carpets the world in emerald. Trees umbrella these carpets with protective shade, also emerald green, though their shade is not. Even the languid kelp fields swaying beneath the waves suffuse the deep in emerald green. So why is my shoot jade?
I have a purpose. Mother Nature, life, has granted me a meaning. I am almost complete.
I have shaved and bathed, for I feel today is the day. When I take the long walk from my bedroom to the back of the house and the chair set centrally in my kitchen, the one I have sat upon for three weeks in patient repose, I expect my flower to have bloomed. I race when a measured approach would better suit my condition.
The kitchen is gone, the only room they have exterminated.
It is not the loss of bricks and mortar, not the invasion, nor even the fact my home will soon collapse atop its amputated limb, but losing my little flower which chills. Losing an unanswered question, a hope.
I weep, as I have since the war began. I will never know what jade might have bloomed, or if it might have replaced the real jade, my Jade. This world has taken another step towards monochrome.