I am so happy and so wretched. Thank you for being with me despite my weird appearance. I have always looked like this. Strawberry-blond with one brown eye and one green. As if that isn’t weird enough, I have this very thin face and … everything. Cherry and me looked the same.
I’ve been creating music as usual. I’ll play abstract for hours, recording. When good bits happen I try to develop them but even if it all goes bad or out of my head – it’s there and I can go back to it.
My cloud backups are overloaded with stuff I’ll never use because I’d have to live three thousand years to work at it all. I’m the busker from hell – if you’re another busker. I play quietly but draw the biggest crowds, totally silent crowds. It’s not that I’m better in any way … it’s because recently there has been an … echo … in my music. It comes from a void inside me that’s … bigger than me.
Maybe I can tell you why – why everything.
Years ago I fell asleep still recording as I often do. Instead of endless breathing, very thin nose remember, I was humming in my sleep. Hearing this was the second biggest shock I can remember. I knew those tunes but they were not mine. My twin sister used to hum all the time. They’re children’s tunes. I think they’re probably on every child’s lips at some point, always were, right around the world for ever. You can hear them when little children play together. You can hear them when you’re passing a playground, even taunts and teasing can have the same note progressions.
We were five when the barn we were staying in… Sorry, bear with me, this is really hard. It collapsed, right? She died. Twin sister. You’ve spent five years more or less in sight of each other or holding hands, sleeping beside each other … you shared a womb. You’re tangled in so many ways. Gods, we even potty trained together – if you can call it that in the woods. I suppose being a twin is the other thing I should have let you know before I started this.
We used to play on whistles made of willow. Mum made them in the spring. The whistles are really important.
The reason that particular recording completely changed my life is those phrases and what she did with them are the only perfect memory I have of her. Yes, there are photos, but few. Our family was very poor, more or less homeless, and rarely had a way of possessing or charging anything which could take a picture.
Cherry used to hum those notes a lot and add nonsense words like some language we’d never heard. Hearing myself repeat them while sleeping was like having my heart punched and wrung out. I’d forgotten them! How could that have happened? It doesn’t seem possible and felt like I’d betrayed her in some way. Think about it. I doubt if anyone in the world knows those words except me. Sometimes I wonder if I sang them too, while sleeping, but I wouldn’t know, would I?
After months, day after day, of trying to get her half-remembered notes right – and in the right orders – I felt I had made a connection with her. I had rescued something so precious and made it indestructible. That was my most important thing.
When a twin dies, you don’t lose half of you. You lose nearly everything. It’s not about numbers and people. You see, there is the relationship between you, the communication, the understanding. You lose all that.
It wasn’t until Cherry died that I realised everyone who is not a twin … is alone.
The next thing was I started composing pieces with the stuff she hummed. These are the tunes that draw crowds like everyone can’t help being sucked back to being a tiny child again. You know, that thing children have, the awe, the wonder, the bigness and brightness of everything.
Look, you’re going to think I’m mad and I don’t care if I am after what happened today. But I practised those notes on my flute again and again. You can’t sing into a flute but you can wish Cherry into it. It’s a bit hard. It’s so hard, just another load of things to concentrate on as if there weren’t enough already.
But over nearly four years I’ve got closer and closer, by the tiniest bits … and with so much backsliding because I got it the wrong way or my head was overloaded.
Sometimes at night I thought she was even in the same room as me, getting closer. The faintest sounds of an oboe, like she was playing one, trying too, pulling me to her.
Today in the street I … we … got it right. Some people say they saw her shadow. I’m not sure if they did. I wasn’t really listening to them. I was dizzy with joy. I know it was her. She was there with a man pushing a baby buggy amongst the crowd. It was her but like a ghost; they all were. She came forward and danced, playing an oboe and crying like I was. Long hair in the sun, the too-thin face, the beautiful eyes. She’s grown up! Behind her tears was joy. I think she’s happy, has a family. She’ll want me to be happy too. The thing is … hang on a bit … the thing is… Look, I know now she’s been trying for years too, as hard as me. Give me a second…
Thanks. Your hand is so warm. Now I’ve, Cherry and me, have made contact, know each other are OK even if we are in different worlds, I think I can relax a bit. Seeing her is a tricky thing like a magic spell and I think it can only be done when we’re both playing. She’ll be busy with a family. It’s going to be hard to catch even a brief glimpse of her now and again – like I got today.
But … and this is me taking a huge step here … I can loosen up a bit now.
I’ve never ever told anyone anything about this before … there hasn’t been the… Or … or the closeness. I like you for your kindness and warmth. I don’t even know your name yet. I’m not doing… Are you doing…? Are you free to go for a walk or get a cup of tea or something?
©Gary Bonn, 2018
An Anthology of Gary’s Short Stories