It Sings Itself - Part One
I can’t find the file that I am looking for. After spending several minutes randomly opening file after file, I decide to do a digital system search for it. Clicking on the start menu of my computer, I select “Search for files or folders.” A panel appears prompting me to enter the data from which it would conduct the inquiry. A yellow digital cocker spaniel sits at the bottom left hand side of this panel blinking his eyes. He reminds me of the quintessential dumb blond stereotype with his blank stare and blatant eagerness – nice to know that my search is being spearheaded by a character that personifies absolute stupidity. I shift in my chair, uncrossing then crossing my legs, before typing the word ‘Mark’ into the search box. After a few seconds of watching the digital dog flip through a small red book on the screen, four files labeled with his name appear.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” the dog asks, twitching his nose.
“No, I didn’t,” I say to the dog, “but thank you for caring so much!” Clicking the mouse on the new search option, I specify a deeper search. My actions seem to excite the little dog. This time he bends over, sniffing the ground at his feet before starting to dig a hole that never appears. His actions didn’t make my search look very hopeful.
A list of files emerge and is littered with press releases, song lists, contracts, and other such documents, the remnants of the band Mark and I had started together. Music was such a huge part of our life together. I feel so far away from that now. My life, for the most part, has been silent since I started university. After a few minutes, the search ends with sixty-two hits, so I carefully scroll through the list. The file I was looking for was nowhere to be seen, but near the bottom, seemingly out of nowhere, I find a file entitled “M It sings itself.”
Curious about the contents of the mysterious file, I click on it twice with the mouse. The file opens to bear the contents of a poem.
Sometimes the music, like love,
Even when the instruments
Sometimes the singing
Even when the voice
Then, coming together
We are surprised
The music is still there
It sings itself.
The curser blinks on the page as I stare in disbelief at the poem that appeared from beyond the grave. Mouthing the words quietly, great heaves of longing rage through my body, invading my veins, blurring my eyes. I inhale deeply, grinding my teeth over the inside of my lip. Pausing, my jaw clenches, sending a dull ache pulsing into my shoulders. Tasting the blood on the tip of my tongue, I exhale. I can’t restrain it. I am consumed by his memory.
“Hand me the water,” Mark requests with a wink. I pick up the Evian bottle full of Smirnoff. The band is vamping on the intro riff to “Chain of Fools.” Pulsing, the bass accentuates the off-centre groove that Paul had set on the drums. The guitar tickles the melody, like feathering a naked body, teasing, enticing me to begin the song. Swaying in time, Mark and I dance towards each other as I toss him the bottle. In one graceful motion, he snatches the bottle from the air, opens the lid, and takes a large gulp. Throwing back his head, he shakes his grey curls before licking his lips.
“Ah!” he smiles, facing the rhythm section, “Nothing like a nice drink of water.” Replacing the lid, he motions for me to take a drink. I dance towards him as a large haze puffs from the smoke machine just off the stage. Grabbing the bottle from his extended hand, I lick the lid and place it between my teeth before spitting it to the floor. Keeping my eyes on his, I tilt my head backwards, allowing the liquid to burn down the back of my throat. I swallow twice. Gasping, I scrunch up my face and take three sucking breaths to cool the burn. Mark chuckles as he plucks his tenor sax from the stand, placing the reed between his lips. The small pub is suddenly filled with his deep soulful serenade as he weaves a melody between the bass and guitar lines.
“Come and sing,” the sax line beckons , “we need to hear your voice.” Placing the open bottle at my feet, I take my place at the microphone.
“Chain, chain, chain,” I sing as Mark frames my voice with saxophone melody, “Chain of Fools...”
The distant ringing of a phone jerks me back to my place at the computer. Realizing that the ringing phone belongs to me, I spin my chair, and pick it up.
“Hello,” I say into the phone.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Sarah. I got your message to call. I made some time for you today.” She laughs.
“Oh… well, that’s good. How are you doing? How are things at your Dad’s place?”
“Everything is good here. I want to get my tongue pierced. Dad said that he will pay for it. Grandma said that she’ll never talk to me again if I get it done. Cool, hey? Makes me want to do it more…Oh, Dad…”
“That’s not nice to purposefully irritate your grandma. How is junior high treating you?”
“Ummn… school is good. Any way, did you know that Dad is completely paranoid of snakes? This is funny actually. He was in his room and was all ‘Sarah, come here… there’s a snake,’ but there wasn’t one. It was actually a piece of wood. I laughed myself stupid. Then, one time, he came out of the bathroom and made me check him for snakes. Crazy, hey?” She pauses.
“Sounds like your dad is kind of losing it. Have you been doing your home work?” I ask.
“Yes mom,” she sighs, “I have been doing my homework. I’ve decided that I want to do well in school. I’ve decided what I want to do… you know, as a career.”
“That’s great, honey. What have you decided on?” I inquire, suddenly becoming aware of my full bladder. Scanning the task bar of my computer, I notice that it is four o’clock.
“I’ve decided that I want to be a mortician.” She pauses, “I know, you probably think that’s stupid, but I want to work with dead people and stuff, and no matter what you say, that’s what I want to do.” Her voice stiffens.
Sarah has always been a dramatic child. Even as a baby, there was something kind of tragic about her. In this phase of her life, she seems to need to be reactionary, as if her reaction and rebellion to other people’s expectations are actually setting the perimeters from which she defines herself. Of course, as her mother, this aspect of her identity-definition drives me to annoyance within seconds. Especially since it seems clear to me that she couldn’t actually like many of the things that she now claims she couldn’t live without. The problem for me is that being aware of what it is that bothers me about her doesn’t seem to help me get past it. As a result, I spend a lot of time feeling irritated with her, and not liking her very much. I feel guilty about this, yet I can’t seem to find a way to communicate these feelings to anyone who won’t judge me. But worse, I can’t seem to communicate these feelings to Sarah. She might just think that I don’t like her. The guilt forms a froth between us as I try to once again disregard the feeling rather than work through it.
“You want to be a mortician? Do you even know what a mortician actually does? I answer, wrapping the telephone cord around my index finger.
“Yes!” Her voice resonates with annoyance, “I checked into it on the internet, and I saw a bit of a movie about it. I like it and I think that it’s cool. That’s what I want to do.” Silence thick as gravy steams between the telephone and my ear. Tightening the cord around my finger, I notice bright purple ridges forming. I squeeze my thighs together.
“You didn’t go anywhere near Mark’s body at the funeral. If you liked dead bodies so much… “
“I didn’t like Mark – dead or not!” she scoffed, “I think his death was the best thing that ever happened to you. After he died, you stopped drinking so much; you met Robert and he’s a nice guy; and you went to university.” She pauses, “Oh… hang on, there’s someone on the other line.” With click, the phone line is silent.
Her words - I think his death was the best thing that ever happened to you - reverberated in dark spirals, moving outwards through my mind, expanding in ripples, in waves of memory.
“Oh my god!” I gasp, rushing over to him. He is face down on the floor in front of the toilet. His arms, laying palm-up at his side, appear rubbery and blue. The skin of his naked body emanates with a pasty whiteness. I reach for his shoulders, feeling the coolness of his body against my warm hand. I attempt to move him, but I am unable. I notice a deep-purple dent above his right eyebrow and a patch of grayish drool pooling beneath his lips. Indiscernible words zip through my mind, call out my name, warn me to run, permit me to cry. My body spins inwardly. I can’t breathe. I stagger towards the door, towards the wall. I reach for the countertop. I kneel beside him.
“Mark, Mark! Wake up!” I wail. I shake him. I can’t breathe. I stagger towards the door, towards the wall. Reaching the countertop, it pulses beneath my hand. Tears flow into my mouth.
“Mommy, are you ok?” Sarah asks from just outside the bathroom as she peaks her head around the door. I lunge towards her.
“You need to go back to bed!” Grabbing her hand, I spin her around and shove her towards her room. Feeling faint, I reach for the wall. Heart pounding, tears streaming, I return to Mark and close the door. Again, I try to move him. Acid rises in my stomach, burning through my chest, my breasts. My heart bounces beneath my chemise: nausea. My knees quake. I lean against the wall, straddling him; he is beneath me. Stepping over, I reach for the door knob, but I trip. His fingers beneath my bare foot, I jump, like a lemming into a porcelain ocean, plummeting from the edge of a volcano, toilet water churning, bubbling, fires screaming from the pit of my stomach. Panting, I balance myself against the countertop.
“Mark?” I scream as I kneel down beside him. His body is stiff and his arms, his arms that had last night held me beneath his sweat covered body, are stiff and blue. Screaming, I pace back and forth within the four by four bathroom. Around and around I circle…
With a sharp inhale, my shoulders rise and my chest tightens. I shake my head; my face reddens as I grit my teeth. How could she think that his death was the best thing that ever happened to me? I was happy when I was with him. I was happy when I was playing music, when music defined me as a person. Now, when people ask me what I do, I have to say that I am a has-been musician, and presently, am a wanna-be academic. I’m in the middle of two worlds: one where I want to be but society makes it impossible to survive there, and one where I have to sacrifice my thirties to get to, where I am taught to think critically so that I can know how completely fucked we are, and where I have to spend over sixty thousand dollars to even find out if the promise of happiness at the end of university is a myth or a reality. I am terrified in this new world, and I’m deathly afraid that one day the gatekeepers of the university are going to get wise to me and realize that I’m truly not smart enough to be here…
“Baby, the only reason that men want to talk to you is because you’re fuckable… very, very fuckable,” Mark turns away from the song that he was mixing on his Mac G5 and pivots in his leather chair towards me. “You don’t need to be smart, so don’t worry about it!” He grabs my ass from beneath my black leather skirt. Moaning, I lean towards him, biting at his bottom lip, while grinding my backside against his hand, beckoning his fingers to slip beneath my red satin panties…
“Ummmn mom, that’s my Grandma on the other line. I have to go. Can you call me later… Mom?” Sarah sounds impatient.
“Sure… I’ll call you after supper,” I reply as images of Mark play like a silent movie on the periphery of my mind, “Talk to you later.”
To Be Continued...
Next week, It Sings Itself: Part Two.