If you are related to me you shall not read this. Not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.
I spent my next few hours in that gorgeous place in rather a whirlwind of activity. I was overcome with gratitude for Bengt and Tone’s hospitality, who showed their gorgeous house, recommended me a walk and a swim, fed me, and shared great music and conversation with me. Because it was so… I’ll just share the snatches I wrote that evening (which may or may not become a song):
“Chopin, even played badly
Moves like nothing else.
As the middle aged talk
Quick Norwegian flowing over a gushing brook.
And the sun dips below the horizon for an hour or two,
And the stars struggle and fail to shine through the indigo sky,
The water sparkles like rustling tinfoil and the feel of satin.
A cold shock and I am dizzy. I am scared.
Are my ears going? Why am I here?
And Chopin still goes. The pain in every key
Stroke – resounding in each note fumbled uncertain
Or pounded too hard.
A roaring fire on a cold summer night,
Snapping at the mosquitoes resting in my hair.
White wine in hand, cardamom and hibiscus,
Hot tea before me.
The guitar strings won’t stay in tune.
Just replaced on Alia’s admonition.
Leonard Cohen implores me to take Berlin and I think
Yes. New York is done.
Now tears squeeze at the rims of my eyes.
Though the conductor mangles Chopin –
Too march-like and the pianist melodramatic,
And rows of discs remind me how little I know,
In a hundred year old home filled with memories
(That aren’t mine) left by a man suddenly passed.
My mind drifts unbidden to who I miss though
I know I miss an idea only.
And I clutch at the pages. Allegro now.
A freight train trundles by.
The light soft from candles and dim lights.
Hearing going in and out with the lake waves like static fuzz.
Where is a one to share the french lyrics on the table.
The disappointment on the streets,
The confusion and unease at the fire,
The bad Chopin.”
I wrote that in a quiet time between letters in a cozy little alcove inside just before bed. Tom and I were to share a bed (since the couple couldnt have expected me) and I turned in first. I dont know how long I’d been asleep when I woke rather groggily to the feel of dull metal sliding across my cheek and the sound of Brahms. Tom was peering curiously at me – in just the curious way that made me instantly terrified. He muttered – to himself and half to me, maybe – saying he was sorry that we woke me, about how strange that life can be instantly snuffed out (the metal still dragging over my cheek was in fact a candle snuffer), how nice the radio was… Then it got odder. He asked me who I was and didn’t believe when I insisted I was Terrence. He told me I was like the painting in the bathroom – sometimes it looks like a boy, sometimes a girl. He set the snuffer down and wondered to himself why some things are called sin – it’s not really a sin, is it? It’s a good time to try new things, right? The strangest thing was that I felt most scared that he would do something that he would regret – I honestly don’t recall worrying about my safety. There was this strange, demonically posessed but naive gentleness about him and he muttered confusedly. I managed to placate him with insistences that he needed sleep (he hadn’t slept more than two hours for the past few nights) and he went off for a walk.Somehow, I must have been truly exhausted, I fell asleep instantly afterwards.
That marked a turning point. After that night I started to believe Tom’s “oppressors” opinions that he was sick. He began to buy everything he saw – a boat, a camper van, a speaker set, a grocery bag full of cds, random foods. He went off to a nearby town to find the girl we’d met on the train, saying he was to marry her. He was gone most the next day and I took the opportunity to travel to Arvika with Bent and Tone – a very, very strange town that felt like traveling to 1950s Texas. All the cars were from that time (it was apparently something the locals loved) and the main square downtown featured about twenty Swedes dressed in black T-shirts jeans, cowboy boots and hats all dancing in a metered square dancish way (yet all facing the same direction, moving in a tiny circle, touching their hand to their raised boot behind them, etc.) to a hilariously ironic song. The lyrics included the refrain: “I’m a country boy, I’m as country as a boy can be… I mash up my own taters and I snap me a mean green bean…” It was a strange place. There was even a ski lift into the water where people would rush down and splat into the the water beside a boat teeming with barely clothed twenty somethings just off the dock.
As for that afternoon: again here’s a sketch of a couple hours with Bengt and Leonard, who we met passing down the street and invited to sit with us.
“A squat man, rotund with a great beer gut. Skin mottled and weathered but tan; thick legs, body threatening to spill out of his clothes – a too small t-shirt and daisy dukes, ripped himself it would seem, the pocket of the original jeans peeking out at the edge of the woefully short leg. Short stubbly hair around a bald patch – the fairest blonde turning grey. Leaning back, drinking a tall golden Pilsner, hands alternating between a perch behind his neck and his meaty thighs. On a newly painted, woefully old stodgy wooden deck chair, padded doubly with bright yellow cushions and white trim. Speaking Swinglish – to me, to the man across the red wooden slat table.
A man with the pale blotched skin, intense blue eyes, creased forehead and thing wisps of greased back hair that come with age and chemotherapy. No shirt covering the sagging flesh, the scars from surgical intrusions – even armpit and chest hair thin and woven into long matted ropes by sweat, stomach spilling over the front of beige shorts and belt – answering in enthusiastic, hand-accentuated round English. Short vowels swallowed, long ones stretched forever. Knobbly legs crossed over at the knee, silvery and ending in the smooth bare feet of a child. Movements sometimes wild and always laughing, shoulders heaving.
I sit picking at my calloused over heels just dipped in the still cold lake resting from the burden of comprehension in the bouts of Swedish, speaking mostly in the language of eyes.”
Leonard thought I was twelve when he met me.
Song of the Day: Piano Concerto No. 1 in Em – Frédéric Chopin