Her knee jiggles. Incessant anxious energy has made its home in her veins, moving through her as steadily as blood. Today, though, the anxiety is a physical manifestation as it plays on her nerves. It is a violation of spirit.
The young man who lives above the organ rents his room for ten dollars a day. It’s a good deal for a student in the city, especially for one who’s rarely home and doesn’t mind choir practice on Monday and Thursday afternoons and during Sunday services. He’s rarely home on Sundays, anyway, spending those moments instead doing rounds at a community clinic. Though his mother raised him Catholic, he doesn’t spend much time in the sanctuary. He sees God in the world, in the face of the sick, the poor, the forsaken. Being a Christian, he thinks, means that you are a servant as Christ was. To be a Christian, one with absolute faith, your life is in service of love, no matter how painful that love often is.
It’s been such a long time since I saw you on stage, honey dripping from your hair in the spotlight as you transformed from one of those caged birds into a wild falcon. You were all motion and music. And as your violin cried out its sequacious notes, I sat in that uncomfortable auditorium chair with stemmed roses and baby’s breath digging into my forearm. Lateness forced me into the back of the room due to lateness, but you reached me from your perch a dozen yards away, standing before the conductor, swaying in time to his baton.
In the attic there lives a ghoul. His name is Frank. He is not loud. He does not take up much space. He does not eat food. If you didn’t look hard, you wouldn’t see him at all.
Madelyn sets the crossword to the side. None of the answers are right, but she still managed to make everything fit. Making yourself right tastes better over a cup of instant coffee. Her daughter gifted her fancy beans from Colombia last Christmas. The bag sits on the counter next to the coffee pot, unopened. She likes the ink print on the front so much that she could never bring herself to open it. She settles for opening more cards with other people's names on them instead.
Madelyn finishes The Plain Dealer’s daily crossword puzzle in thirty minutes flat. She gets up from the kitchen table for a second cup of coffee and stirs in three spoonfuls of sugar. Metal on ceramic echoes through the kitchen. When she sits back down, she takes out today’s bundle of mail and removes its rubber band, bounty unfurled.
This room has four walls, but it is also without walls, expanding past the fragile steel of my skull. A fragment of me looks at rows and rows of glass bottles that harbor remnants of some yesterday. I am there, fingers tracing along bumpy corks and smooth, cool glass. Memories pulse beneath like a plasma bowl, striking out in purples, blues.
As a preamble, I want you to know that Richie Smith and I released an honest-to-god spoken word/ambient jazz album on November 17. You can purchase it or you can stream it, whichever will go a long way in supporting us. In many ways, Bug Eyes is the sort of emotionally grounded art I wanted to consume when I was younger, and it blows my mind that I now get to make it.
We aren’t ready. When Sebastian holds the door, and the sky blinks into blackness, we aren’t ready. When everyone is left standing in the neon glare of street lamps, we aren’t ready. And when those lights inevitably wink out, too? Well, we aren’t ready for that either.
My father always told me to look to the stars to find my way home. That was true a long time ago, when he was younger, before the universe started fraying at the edges. The stars haven’t shined brightly in decades. Even if they did, I’m not sure I would know the way home, especially all the way up here. But it’s easy to pretend that I can pinpoint where Earth is out this little window, despite the fact that there is nothing but blackness and the occasional moon or bulbous orange planet that doesn’t remind me of our galaxy at all. We’re far from where we started.