Continued from It Sings Itself - Part One
It Sings Itself - Part Two
After unwinding the cord from my purple and white finger, I lower the phone back into its carriage and get up from my chair. Walking towards my patio, I slide open the glass door and step out onto the concrete deck. The concrete warms my bare-feet as the sound of a small low-flying aircraft buzzes in the sky above me. Leaning on the patio railing, I feel the comfort of heat permeating my flesh from the wooden rail. A warm summer breeze wafts in and brings with it the smell of petunias crisping in the July heat. The Queensland villa complex is buzzing with activity as several of my neighbors take advantage of their Sunday away from work to tinker in their flower gardens or wash their cars.
It always strikes me as wrong that people have to work long hours away from home so that they can have their weekends to work at home. Karl Marx believed that subsistence labour ultimately results in complete alienation from one’s true hopes and dreams. Perhaps this is the reason why so many people find it difficult to support me in my desire to play music. Educational attainment has an accepted dollar value placed on it. Music doesn’t. Unless you are of the very small group of individuals that the industry has chosen to see as talented, musicians are generally seen as troubled and lower class. I imagine that my daughter’s failure to see music as an important part of my life is reflective of society’s views.
Monday comes too quickly and as usual I am running behind. Cursing under my breath as I gather myself, my books, and my purse together, I descend the staircase of my villa.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit !” I sing as an arpeggio while I dig through the mound of shoes in my front-door closet. After putting on my off-white strappy sandals, I run out the door. On the drive to the university, I notice a swarm of other students sweating under the late morning sun as they make their way from student housing to their classes. As we wait together at the red light, united by our blind quest for higher pay, I wonder how many of them worry that their hustle, bustle and sacrifice is all for not. I wonder if the pretty girl to my right in the pink denim skirt and white cotton half blouse can feel wrinkles forming under the never ceasing pressure applied daily as an initiation into the cult of academia.
One thing that I have come to realize is that women have a definite expiration date. In the music business, this end date seems to be late twenties to early thirties. This is because the decision makers in the industry feel that people, in particular women, lose their marketability, therefore their worth, after they reach a certain age. Does the pretty blond girl know that she may be spending her most socially valuable time crouched beneath the heavy load of university expectation in pursuit of a dream that may or may not actualize?
“Baby, the only reason that men want to talk to you is because you’re fuckable… very, very fuckable… You don’t need to be smart, so don’t worry about it!”
If my worth is determined by my fuckability yet my sex appeal inevitably fades with age, what does my future actually hold for me other than a slow and visible decomposition of my value? With the onset of the green light, a swarm of students, myself included, lurch forward, marching towards a concept, a dream, a myth, mindlessly believing that the achievement of credential is somehow worth the shedding of youth, and thus embarking on a journey into incremental worthlessness.
I arrive at school only a few minutes late, and lucky for me, the professor was also running behind.
“Today we are going to talk about your research project,” the professor says as she waddles into the classroom, “I trust that everyone has a topic selected?” Scanning the classroom for nodding heads, she pauses in the centre of the room. “Wow, it looks like there are a lot of people who decided not to attend class today. That’s very unfortunate for them!” She flashes a smile, raises her thick eyebrows, and continues to walk to the front of the room. “Ok folks, I’ve figured out how this is going to work.” She places her briefcase on the table near the front chalk board. “First, I need to know what your research topic is, and then I need you to pick a date to do your presentation. I’ll come around and talk to you in your individual groups…” Opening her brief case, she pulls out a white folder full of crinkled pages and post-it notes and places it on the left side of the table. “Actually, could you folks get into your groups right now so that I can see how many groups there are?” Walking around her table, she stops, resting the edge of her large ass against it, “and yes, I mean right now!” She flashes a quick ear to ear grin. Professor Jane McDuff was a humpty-dumpty of a woman with short graying hair and brown eyes. She always kind of reminded me of the character “Pat” from Saturday Night Live because she was neither masculine nor feminine. She always wore baggy pants that seemed to hang in the crotch area and over-sized sweaters over collared dress shirts. If it wasn’t for her name, I imagine the class wouldn’t know whether she was a man or a woman.
The class clattered with the sounds of chairs being repositioned and tote bags being tossed from one spot to the next. Slowly, looking around, I noticed that I was the only student who was not in a group.
“Elizabeth… where are your partners?” Jane asked as she sat down on my desk.
“Well…” I laugh, “I don’t have any.”
“Why is that?” she asked in almost a whisper as she leans in towards me.
“I started my project last semester in John Johnson’s class and my partner didn’t take this class.” I smile as I look up into her weathered face, folds of skin hanging beneath her chin.
“Ok… good enough… what do you have for me?” Leaning back on her right hand, she raises her knee onto the table, wrapping her left hand around her black runner.
“Well, last semester, I started a project that looked at gender inequality of university faculty. I think I’ll continue with that topic,” I respond as I flip open my binder, “I found a ton of stuff on it, and it is fairly interesting.”
Pausing, Jane scans the classroom for a moment, and then stares back at me, “are you passionate about the topic?” Eyes narrow, she stares at me in a frozen stance. Her nose whistles as she waits.
I am alarmed by this question. What place does passion have in my Research Methods class? I thought university was about ignoring passion.
“I can see by the expression on your face that you think I’m crazy for asking such a question, but bear with me!” Jane shifts the edges of her ass from right to left. “This class is two semesters long. If you are going to be able to stay focused and excited about your project, you need to work on something that is near and dear to you in some way. Are you excited about gender inequality of university faculty?” she asks, her eyes locking with my baffled gaze.
“Well…” I stammer, “I found it very interesting that women are still discriminated against even when they are university faculty. I think it’s important research and…”
“That’s not what I asked, are you passionate about it?” she probes, the faint smell of garlic and ouzo candies wafting from behind her teeth. “You think about that. I’ll be back!”
With that she slid down the table to talk with the next group. I watched as Jane talked to them about their project. I watched the group of girls all nod their heads enthusiastically when they were asked if they were passionate about their project. Were they just lying to make Jane happy or were they actually studying something that will fulfill them in some way? This thought spirals in my mind.
“You know… of the things that really bug me, my biggest pet peeve is people who don’t have a passion in their lives,” Mark says holding the marijuana smoke in his lungs. Exhaling, he passes me the joint and I take a long toke.
“What do you mean? I respond. I slide the joint between my lips. As I inhale, the end of the joint glows red. I slide in closer to him, straddling the gear shifter, then pass the joint back to him.
“Well, take Kelly, for example… she has no passions so she tries to piggy back on top of mine. She tries to somehow find a place in music, but she can’t find one: she’s not a musician.”
“Isn’t she just trying to support you? That is her ascribed role, isn’t it? You know… as your spouse…” I smile, grabbing high on his thigh and rubbing the flap of his zipper with my pinky finger. Flicking the joint out the window, he turns his body towards me.
“The worst part of her not having a passion is that she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand that music is something I need to do to survive. I can’t live without it. It’s not something I endure to support someone else. It is who I am.” Mark rubs his fingers tips up my arm, hooks my bra strap and pulls it to my elbow.
“I totally know what you mean. Music is my life too. I can’t even imagine…” Mark places his forefinger firm against my lips. Smiling, he unzips his pants and pulls my head into his groin…
“So, Ms. Smith… I assume that you have taken some time to consider my question?” Jane asks from behind me. Startled, my body lurches with shock. I turn around to face her.
“Yes…” I stammer, the taste of Mark still permeating my mind, “I have to research something to do with music. Is that alright? I mean, can I do that?”
“Of course you can do that,” she snorts as she pulls a chair out from beside me and sits down. ‘I suggest that you study something at a local level. Pausing for a moment, she pulls at the lose skin under her chin. “How about local level musicians and their sense of self?”
“Ya? I could do that? I ask as a smile creeps across my face. Suddenly my mind explodes with visions of interviews with local musicians, gig visits and critiques, and reintegration back into the music scene. When I first started school, when the cravings for live music got really intense, I would go out to see live music at the Blitz down town. But when I was there, and I would venture onto the dance floor, I always felt like a starving beggar, desperately trying to gather fallen scraps: discarded performance vibes that I could absorb from the floor. I yearned to perform. Sometimes, I would get so upset that I would have to leave the club.
“Of course you can do that. I can see it in your face that you ‘have’ to do that!” Smiling, she knocks on my desk twice with her knuckles and heads to the front of the class.
“Ok folks… as you know your topic outline is due next Monday. Please include a list of possible sources … Don’t forget that… Have a good weekend.”
The classroom explodes with the sounds of chairs clanging, desks knocking, and students chattering. I slowing reload my bag pack with heavy text books. The sun shines in through the window, sparkling as poplar leaves vibrate with the summer wind. Still smiling, I walk into the sunlight, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. The gentle heat permeates my skin and I am hopeful.
“I believe I suddenly have a lot of research to do. I best head to the library!” I chuckle as I leave the classroom.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I arrive home just as the sun begins it’s descent behind the mountains surrounding Kamloops. My mind buzzes with excitement and information over load as I begin to mentally sort though all the information that I found at the library. I have decided to focus my research on how local level musicians see themselves as artists. This will give me an opportunity to ask them if they have ever felt like an outcast, or lost… or if they have ever felt like they will never play music again. I envision questions with the likes of Jerry Blain, Jim Frost, and , Kirt Delaney, all players who I had spent time with in the past before I decided to go to school. As I climb, a fragrant summer breeze caresses my face, ruffling my blond hair.
“I should go to the Blitz tonight and see if I can find some musicians to interview,” I pant. By the time I reach the top, my heart is pounding. I fumble with my keys and open the door.
“Home at last…” I whisper, tossing my keys on the kitchen counter and dropping my backpack on the floor. The light on my answering machine blinks bright red. Pausing, I take a sip of water, then press the play button.
“Mom… I really wish that you were home! Geez… are you ever home? I need to talk to you. Please call me back as soon as you get in! I go to bed at ten.” Sarah’s voice resonates with sharp tones and annoyance. I grit my teeth and take a deep breath. I pick up the phone and dial her Dad’s number. It rings three times before I notice the time: it’s after ten and they are both in bed already. I hang up the phone.
After I finish my water, I head upstairs to take a shower. As I enter the bathroom, I reach into the basket of hair accessories sitting to the left of the sink. Inside I find a pink hair band, a copper beret, a bunch of black hair elastics, and a mound of miscellaneous hair clips. After digging in the basket for my silver shower-clip, I find a small beaded bracelet that Sarah had given me when she was about eight years old. The beads spell the phrase ‘I love mom.’
“Why do you have to be such a glutton?” Mark yells at Sarah as she settles back into her seat at the table after serving herself a very large second helping of spaghetti, “That is the reason that you are so fat!” Her face drops as her body slumps forward. She focuses her eyes on the centre of the table as she pretends to ignore his harsh words. With her fork, she twists the noodles into a large ball before stuffing the mound into her mouth. Mark takes a long drink from his vodka tonic, breathing out his nose into his glass, then abruptly stands up, shoving the table towards Sarah in his haste.
“How can you live with yourself? Look at you? You’re so unbelievably fat. Do you like being fat? Does it make you feel good to be so disgusting?” Mark paces back and forth in front of the table. I am sitting beside Sarah, watching the softness of her gentle eyes become guarded with grief. Still staring at the table’s centre, she continues to stuff her face with spaghetti. I hear the clinking of ice in Mark’s glass as he takes another drink. I look up at him as he flips his hair over his shoulder. His eyes are fixated on Sarah. Licking the salt from the rim of my glass, I take a drink from my Caesar. Sarah looks up at me. Her eyes glisten with sadness, begging me to rescue her from yet another one of Mark’s verbal attacks. I feel a tingling in my stomach as my own tears pool. From under the table, I secretly reach for her hand, but it is out of reach…
Blinking my eyes, I focus on the face in the mirror in front of me. I take a deep breath, forcing the surge of regret deep into the pit of my stomach. I really let Sarah down at the table that day. I shouldn’t have let Mark treat her so badly. I should have left him long before he died. My love for Mark was always about me, my dreams, my needs. I thought that if I was happy, Sarah would be happy, yet in all fairness, it certainly appears that she was not. But I loved him so completely.
Peeling back the green cloth shower curtains, I climb into the shower. The warmth of the water tingles on my bare breast as I allow the spray to run over my face. The blast of the shower head numbing my scalp, my hair forms a saturated shield between me and the light of my bathroom. The sounds of cascading water hypnotically pulls me into a state of reflection.
With a sudden gust of wind, the summer breeze opens the lilac cotton curtains just enough to catch a glimpse of the full moon illuminating the sky. The silhouette of Mark’s muscular body, tense with passion as he rhythmically rocks forward and back, forward and back, glistens in this flash of luminosity. My body, moist with perspiration, is aware of the open window as each hair follicle stands overtly aroused by the unexpected chill. My areoles changed from smooth rings of softness to fully erect nipples, pulsing with craving as my body trembles with each thrust. His long silver hair hangs down over my face, brushing my cheeks, caressing my lips. With his left arm, he cradles my upper body. I could feel the bulge if his forearm against my back, flexing then releasing...
“You’re so amazing!” Mark whispered between deep breathy moans as he pulls my body into his, “I could make love to you forever…”
Grabbing the soap, I turn away from the downpour and lather up my body. Mark’s death brought with it the end of music for me. Without him, I feel like half a person. When he was alive, I believed that we would make music together forever. My childhood dreams of becoming a famous singer seemed possible, even likely. Truthfully though, I’m not sure what I miss more: Mark or the music? I so long to just be a part of music again…
Suddenly, I hear my phone ringing. I quickly rinse the soap from my body, turn the shower off, and jump from the tub. Toweling myself off as I race for the phone, the chill of air-conditioned air plasters goose bumps over my skin.
“Hello?” The water in my ear sloshes against the phone and drips from my elbow onto the desk.
“Mom, was that you who called a little while ago?” Sarah asks.
“Yes, I was returning your call, but I…” She cuts me off.
“I told you that I went to bed at ten. Why did it take so long to call me?” she asks. Her voice firm with annoyance. My body shivers as I try to stretch my small towel around my body.
“ I’m sorry. I was at school. I am working on a new…”
“Any way, I want to come home.” Sarah declares.
“Why honey, what happened?” I ask as I dab my hair with the towel. My nipples ache from the chill. I rest the phone on my shoulder and cup them with my hands.
“Nothing… I just want to come home,” she responds, “I’ve been away long enough and you said that when I am ready to come home, all I had to do was call you.”
“Well, did you and your Dad have a fight? Is that that why you want to come home? Is that what happened?” I ask. Silence runs down my legs, pooling between my toes. “Sarah?’ She takes a deep breath and exhales loudly into the phone.
“No, Mom, that is not what happened. Dad and I talked about this over dinner and he thinks that I should live with you. It’s been fun here… you know, because my Dad is crazy and fun,” she chuckles, “but I never really wanted to live with him. I just wanted to get away from Mark, so yeah…” Her voice trails off.
“Honey,” my throat tightens; my heart races, “I’m really sorry that I…” Lips trembling, I take a deep breathe, “ I’m sorry that I let you down.” Tears cascade down my cheeks and over my chin. “I love you very much.” I hear Sarah’s soft breath against the receiver.
“I love you too… Mom, I’m tired, so I’m going to go to bed. Dad is driving me there after school tomorrow, so yeah,” she sighs.
“Ok, so you’ll be here around five thirty? I’ll make you a special welcome home dinner.” I wipe the tears from my face.
“Yep… Ok… see you tomorrow...” Sarah says as she yawns into the phone.
“Goodbye, sweetheart…” She hangs up the phone.
Returning the phone to the carriage, I stand shivering, staring out my front window, relief flooding my body, like the pouring of warm water over my quaking flesh, soothing, caressing me as I envision her return. Sarah has been gone for far too long. I miss the days before she was a teenager, before Mark, when we would lay together under my down duvet on weekend mornings giggling and talking like old friends about her classmates, her little crushes, and her dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She used to confide in me.
“Well, if Sarah is coming home tomorrow,” I smile, “I have go to the Blitz tonight to gather up musicians to interview.” I whisper as I stare at the city lights beginning to glow at the bottom of the hill.
“Sarah… is coming home… tomorrow… oh yeah!” I sing to the melody of the Powder Blues song “Doin’ It Right” as I skip into the bathroom, my breasts slapping against my rib cage.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To Be Continued....
Next week: It Sings Itself - Part 3