Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Mr. Barbicane Takes A Trip" Chapter Nine

She had fallen asleep during the Andante of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, BWV 1041. The beginning of the andante sounds like you’ve joined in a long climb up a hill. It didn’t seem so steep at the beginning of the walk, in fact it isn’t really terribly steep, but the rise is continuous and the distance to the top of the hill is longer than you expected. So the orchestra seems to be taking weary steps as you listen. They and you have grown very tired during a journey that was not supposed to require so much work. You were simply walking and you saw a hill and there might be trees at the top of the hill or a single tree. A single cherry tree white with blossoms so white they couldn’t possibly be real and you started walking up to the hill, toward this impossible tree at the crest, white blossoms against a blue sky, the landscape beyond the crest unknown to you. And you start to climb, climbing up the hill, looking down at the ground as you climb, sometimes looking up at the tree. Your breathing starts to reflect the unanticipated effort and after a few minutes you realize the hill is steeper than you think and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea and you might as well turn around and head back down before you go too far and you’re probably late anyway.

Then the solo violin arrives with one of those clear, simple, profound melodies of Bach’s as if to encourage the rest of the instruments that the struggle is worth the effort and the top of the hill is worth attaining. And the orchestra responds to this. There’s renewed effort after the first violin passage as they push on to the top of the hill. The violin returns again, encouraging, promising, leading. And each time it does, the rest of the instruments draw something from the encouragement and push on. The movement is made up of these alternating passages of effort and promise, struggle and assurance, leading you up a hill. Bach pulls you along, toward the top, toward the cherry tree with its crown of blossoms that must be made of tissue paper because nothing in nature could be that white. Somewhere in your mind you realize Bach is long dead, that the music that’s calling to you is almost three hundred years old and that Bach was only thirty-two when he wrote it and what the hell did you do at thirty-two that could survive three centuries? And still you climb the hill. The music won’t let you do anything else.

But the dream the young woman was having had nothing to do with Bach. The parts of her brain listening to the music were not in communication with the parts producing the dream.

In the dream she was standing in front of the movie theaters up at Universal City Walk waiting for her father. This was odd because she hated going to the movies up at City Walk and because her father was dead. But dreams exist outside logic, or else they have their own logic which states that since a thing is happening it can’t be impossible so you better get with the program.

She stands there in the middle of all the lights and sound, the bad music blasting out from the giant television screen on which is projected a music video almost in sync with the music pouring out of the speakers. She hates this place. She had her ass grabbed in a crowd outside Gladstone’s in this place. And somebody once tried to steal her purse. Why would her father want to go to the movies here?

Her father shows up and he looks the way he did when she was a little girl, when she watched him march in the veteran’s parade down the middle of Maple Avenue. She was proud of him, of the ribbons and decorations on his jacket, proud of his veteran’s cap. Much later that night he came home drunk and pounded around the first floor of the house and scared her so much that she tried to pull the table next to her bed in front of the door, but that only managed to knock her lamp that had a carrousel for a base off the table. It fell to the floor and the carrousel broke and the noise was enough to bring her father stumbling up the stairs and she tried to keep him out, she was so afraid of him, she’d never heard him really drunk before and he really didn’t get drunk often, but there’d been a big blow out at the volunteer firehouse after the parade. She got in bed and pulled the covers over her and started to cry. Her father came in and asked what she was crying about, but she was too scared to answer. Then he saw the broken lamp on the floor and imagined that was what she was crying about. He leaned down and scooped up the parts of the broken lamp in his hands and stood. He stood there, weaving, still very drunk, with the pieces of the broken lamp in his hands and telling her to stop crying because he would fix it. He’d fix the lamp and everything would be okay. And as he said this, pieces of the lamp were falling and hitting the floor and breaking into smaller and smaller pieces and even drunk he knew repairing this lamp was something he probably couldn’t do. He just wanted her to stop crying.

He was wearing his veteran’s cap as he came through the crowd at City Walk and went to her and hugged her and told her he was sorry he was late. It wasn’t that he hadn’t died. They both knew he was dead, but now he was back and that seemed perfectly normal.

Rory was by the box office windows. He had their tickets and told them they had to hurry because they were late. Rory put his arm around her and kissed her harder than he should have kissed her in front of her father, but her father didn’t say anything and Rory didn’t say anything and the three of them went into the theater and found the auditorium they were looking for and went inside.

The inside was not like the real inside of the theaters at City Walk. Those theaters didn’t have balconies, but this theater did and they sat in the front row of the balcony. The lights were already down and the movie had already started. It was a movie she wanted Rory and her father to see. It was one of her favorite movies, but she didn’t recognize any of what was on the screen.

On screen people were on a very large airplane with no roof. The airplane was open on top, like a big old London bus, flying through the sky. She recognized some of the people on the airplane as the actors from her favorite movie and assumed that this must have been how the actors arrived to be in the movie and she’d just never seen this part before. She had a copy of the movie on DVD but she’d never seen this scene before. She turned to explain this to her father and Rory and that’s when she saw that her boyfriend and her father were kissing. On the mouth.

Rory, who was seated next to her, was twisted around in his seat and he was kissing her father and her father was kissing Rory back. Her father had one arm around Rory and his other hand cradling the back of Rory’s neck and Rory had one arm around her father’s shoulders and the other hand between her father’s legs. And they were doing this right in front of her, right in front of all the people in the balcony and there were suddenly lots of people in the balcony and the lights were on. The movie was playing, but the lights were on so everybody could see what was happening. And the thing that bothered her wasn’t that her father was kissing a man, it’s that he was kissing her boyfriend.

She told Rory to stop, but he acted like he didn’t hear her. He didn’t stop kissing her father, he just got more into it. She watched Rory move out of his seat, all the time keeping a lip-lock on her father, and turn to face the other man, getting down on his knees in front of the other man, getting between his open legs. Rory and her father held each other’s face in their hands and kissed with an ardor she’d never seen before. It was so intense that, in spite of who she was looking at, she realized she was getting a little turned on by the situation which, even in the context of a dream struck her as pushing the limits of acceptable behavior.

Then things got weird. She felt that sexual warmth growing in her and that was familiar enough, but then she felt something she never felt before which was a sense of growth between her own legs. A sense of some part of her filling with blood and taking on weight and dimension. She knew what this was even though she knew it was impossible. There was no question that she now had a penis and that it was becoming profoundly erect. She looked down and could actually see the shape of it growing down the inside of the leg of her jeans, pressed against her inner thigh. She didn’t want people to catch her looking at what was happening to her so she looked up, at the screen.

But what was on the screen was what was going on in the balcony. Up on the screen she was sitting in her seat, her hands grasping the arm rests. She pulled her knees shut to hide what was happening, but that just made things feel…interesting. She closed her eyes and concentrated on keeping her hands on the arm rests. If she took her hands off the arm rests she wasn’t sure she could control where they’d end up and frankly she found the situation complicated enough just the way it was.

The thing about dreams is that they’re irrefutable while you’re in them. Common sense would dictate that she had not in fact suddenly acquired a penis, but common sense holds no sway in dreams and the realization that it was impossible for her to have a penis is overwhelmed by the seemingly practical questions of what would her life be like now that she had one.

What would she do? How would she live? How would she explain this to Rory? Rory who was at that minute continuing to deeply French her father. And people were looking at her. Oh, God. Everybody was looking at her.

Now there was a trembling, a shaking. At first she thought it was something else happening to her body, that the vibration was coming from her. Then she realized the rumbling, the shaking was coming up through the bottom of the seat and through her and she knew with that certainty you know things in dreams that the balcony was about to collapse.

And through this confusion, the humiliating betrayal by her boyfriend surpassed only by the betrayal of her own body, rose familiar music which, after a moment, she recognized as “Sheep May Safely Graze,” a Bach cantata she loved and kept in a power rotation on her iPod. The music was not from outside, not from the theater, but was inside her head and with that realization the terror drained out of her, drained down along her legs, through her feet and out of her body. Bach was coming to her rescue again as he had so often in the past. He would protect her from whatever was going on and save her.

Sweeter and more dependable than God was Johann.

Safe in the hands of Bach, the dream retreated and she opened her eyes, just as the man in the seat next to her turned to look out his window at the clouds that had darkened and turned to lead while she was asleep.


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