All day I have been hearing jazz faintly playing in my room.
It does not seep through the wall nor does it rise from the chambers below. The riffs are generated within my mind. My ears glimpse phantom sound waves—unseen, invisible. Their nonexistence will startle me any longer. For I am a music box of gray matter, looped melodies play unfettered. No finger can flick the needle from its worn grooves.
The bubble of my life, the low moments when I stare through the lists of arbitrary tasks I must check off to feel alive (cleaning clothes, counting cash, pumping gas), are now accompanied by the low, droning between-the-tracks filler of a psychedelic rock album. Vinyl. Original pressing. Spared of hipster pretension.
Paper does not peel off these walls. They are not yellow. I am not bedridden. Still, something claws out from behind panels of drywall. We once read that story and spoke of its symbolism. I am not postpartum. I am barren without womb. Here in my prison. A free man.
“Look at me,” I cry out, using my inside voice. The inside my mind voice. The one no one ever listens to, not even me.
My feet patter down glossy wooden attic steps and each time they do I must pivot for my hands are empty of the item I’d meant to take with. Body out of synch with mind, whether moving or in rest. This mind travels to the past in screaming punctuality during its twilight sauntering. Dreams are memories; days to come as a smear of inconsistencies. Yet their mystery brings smiles to my soul. Sparks of flame igniting tinder, the frame of the fire ready to burn. Tomorrow’s tomorrows build to a lifetime.
Each old man whose ear I bend about how I dream for days gilded in fortune tells me in short response some variation of: “grow something within yourself and do it before you can look back knowing you’ve left the heaviest rocks unturned. Grow something more than grey hairs twining out from your ears.” I quip back and cover my envy. Thou shalt not covet, though I do. I covet the fulfillment I see in the old-timers’ eyes, the pride in their voice.
Then I better myself in their wisdom. I go to rushing streams. I skip pebbles in preparation of upturning boulders. Training misspent, distracted.
I am seated with the pen in my hand. Here on the third floor. A wailing saxophone rejoins the errant jumble behind my ears, the trio in the corner of the café when I first looked up from my letters to see her. And the next her and the next her. We always met through letters. Speaking was never the strong suits of my former loves. Nor was it of I. My memory is abundantly clear. Too clear.
I argued with childhood. I embraced adolescence. There it happened. There it all happened. I have the power to compose a fabricated imprint of the characters I have known (and been) in my days and nights and filter them for the eyes of another (or many others), taking my place on the shelves of the bookstores through which I obsessively careen or in the cloud where my words will reside on pages bound in binary while batteries feed their being.
I beg of the world for the time, for my hair to fall slowly and my hand to moves swiftly over pages. A dictionary palette to order the chaos in my mind. World and time; I possess them both, as did he who strolled atop the sandy shore. The songs are spun by the mystics of the days I must create for myself. Beyond myself there is an audience, a readership. They await. So I join in harmonious longing, a dragon slain at last.
Quiet! There they are again. The soft riffs of that saxophone, for their improvised movements guide my feet in sporadic rhythm as they sway further from the beat of that uprighted bass. I will march forth from this attic room. My feet shall tamp the earth below me. You will hear the journey told. You will see. Your vision. My eyes.