Thank you for being here, holding me. I am so happy and so wretched. Before I tell you anything I need to make two things clear. The first, and most crucial, is that I have always looked weird, different. Strawberry-blond with one blue eye and one green. The pupils are never the same size. As if that isn’t odd enough, I have a very thin face and … everything. I don’t do muscles or even eating much. Exercise and eating are for people who have spare time.
The second is that I create music. 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 recorded 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 superior in any way … it’s because recently there has been an … echo … in my music. Spare time, what is that? I don’t even have friends, let alone go out with anyone. With a void inside me that’s … bigger than me … I just find other people hard work.
With those stated 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 talking in my sleep. Hearing this was the second biggest shock I can remember. I knew those words but they were not mine. My twin sister used to say those things when she was asleep. Mostly she sang them and sang them to several different tunes.
We were five when the barn we were staying in… Bear with me. It collapsed, right. She died. Twin sister. You’ve spent five years more or less in sight of each other or holding hands, sleeping together, plus sharing a womb. Growing together, 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 third thing I should have let you know before I started this.
Oh, another thing: this makes sense. We used to play on whistles made of willow. Mum made them in the spring. The whistles may be relevant; it’s only just connected.
The reason that particular recording utterly changed everything is those words are the only unblurred memory I have of her. Yes, there are photos, but few. Our family were very poor, more or less homeless and rarely had a way of possessing or charging anything which could take a picture.
Cherry used to sing those words a lot. 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 now except me. She was always asleep and fell silent at the slightest disturbance. 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 my memory of her. I had rescued something so precious and made it indestructible.
So, of course, I started composing pieces with her note progressions. These are the ones which draw the crowds.
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 the words 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 increments … and with so much backsliding due to trying the wrong ways or my head getting 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 I … we got it right. Some people say they saw her too. I’m not sure if they did. I wasn’t really listening to them. I was delirious with joy. She was there with a man pushing a baby buggy amongst the crowd. 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 were joy and concern. 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, she’s been trying 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 has a family and maybe a job. 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 said anything like this before … there hasn’t been the time. 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