Saturday, 7 March 2009

From the Ashes

The look did it all. Did it in less than half a second. He was there. I had him caught like a squirming fly in my sticky little eye. As I held his gaze, it was as if an unseen hand was reaching over to steal from his body a single glowing spark. Damn. He was beautiful. Damn. He liked me too. Damn, I was free. I had made my decision. I had done it. I was out.

I didn't even know this man. I knew he was incredibly talented, I knew his music moved and fascinated me, but I didn't know what he was like. But I picked him. Or rather, something inside me picked him and I endorsed its decision, knowing I had no political power to question it anyway.

I had a feeling. I was bored with losing people; bored with the relentless drabness of my mourning garb; bored with peering disconsolately into the oblong pit. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. All the romance had been drained from the feeling now. There was no more lashing hillside rain in my heart. No more trampled roses or thunder clouds. No more burnt-down candles, dying forests or cold breakfast plates; no more songs heard behind black glass on long winding night roads. All that was left was the silence of concrete and the paralysing iron-clad chill of a lesson being learned. I felt that I was encased within a thin metal eggshell; brittle, inflexible, perfectly formed and somehow protective.

"Stay in here," said a voice, "Learn your lesson," it promised, "And you can find peace. You will never feel that pain again."

"Move now" said another, "And you can break free. You can escape. You can live. You can taste those pleasures all over again."

There was only one answer. I had to get out. And the thing that would entice me out must be the thing that had put me there in the first place. And the thing that had put me there in the first place was reckless stupidity. Or passion, as I liked to call it. And so I picked him. A new lover. Let's see if I can get him, I thought. And I felt a stir in the molten heat at my core. I felt the iron around me beginning, not to crack, but to soften.

The man I chose was another musician. I'd only ever seen him on stage. I would go to his gig and he would see me and be stunned by my fascinations. I would get him.

I don't normally go for good looks and the musician was not pretty in that sense. His head was clean-shaven and he looked like a devil; stood like a Frenchman - that strangely exaggerated posture that makes them look like circus acts; like men in white tights, balancing on a running elephant, getting ready to grab a trapeeze; not quite masculine yet very far from feminine and at moments teetering on the brink of an exotic repulsiveness, like the scented, offal-like albino slither of a lychee in your mouth when you were already feeling sick. And yet, inexplicably, still devastating. How can I explain my response to him? I liked him in the same slightly hair-raising, slightly distasteful, slightly shameful way that I liked licking batteries or copper coins. I liked him in a stupid way; a don't-do-that-or-you'll-be-sick way. He was the perfect enticement from my iron egg. I would kindle a fire in him and throw myself onto it and I would rise from the ashes in miraculous innocence and hope; ready to start a new life and to wilfully waste it making the same mistakes.

The moment of the kindling went like this: he had to walk right past my seat to get to the dressing room. I was sitting at my table and at the precise moment when I thought he would be likely to catch sight of an eye movement of mine out of the corner of his own eye, I shifted my gaze up to his face and gave him a bold, challenging look. It worked. My timing was perfect. One minute he was trotting off the stage and walking through a faceless mass, just enjoying his applause and minding his own business, the next minute he was suddenly brought up short and looking back at me, full of that alertness that comes with a sudden blaze of mutual attraction. Meanwhile, his feet kept on moving him forwards and all at once, he was gone with the momentarily alarmed, flickering back-glance of a passenger spying you from another train.

I knew then that he would be back. And surprisingly, it almost didn't matter now, because the small spark I stole while his devil's eyes were floundering in mine had done it all.