Even before he opened his eyes he felt the rosewood glowing in the dark. His room was so small it was as if he were living inside a guitar case, but it was a good place, quiet and out of the way, where he could practise undisturbed.
When he’d lain down, his classical guitar was in the corner. Now it stood at the head of his bed, the hole in the soundboard staring at him like an immense eye. The strings rippled, as if moved by a sigh, calling out to him in the silence.
He had been in a nightly flight from his body, attempting to break free from the constraints of fingers that could barely span five frets. In his dreams he had the long fingers of a concert artist, deft and agile, capable of expressing the most exquisite rubato.
Now he took his guitar in hand, and at once felt a strange fiery sensation rise from the soles of his feet, to the palms of his hands, to the tips of his fingers: the Duende. It was that mystical force poets can sense, and no philosopher can explain.
He played the prelude from Suite Espanola, fingers flying across the guitar neck. He was no longer in disharmony with his destiny, but free to be what he most wanted.
And at last he felt the joy in his own body, and in the guitar, the two of them, composed, as if they were one.
Category Archives: Frank Rasky
Les Promenade des Anglais in Nice had been magnificent. Everything a young buck of a backpacker from Canada could’ve hoped for to satisfy his wanderlust.
He had his own room overlooking Baie des Anges where topless beauties carpeted the beach. It was like a dream, better than any postcard sold at Rue Paradis.
He spoke passable French, and charmed local femmes. But it was a different story when he crossed the border and landed in Rapallo.
He spoke no Italian, memorized only a few phrases. But life for foreigners in Europe, he’d learned, was kinder to Canadians.
“Sono Canadese,” he proclaimed to the clerk in the grocery shop. “I am from Canada.” And, for good measure, he tapped the maple leaf on the front of his t-shirt.
“Si, Canada!” she exclaimed. “Desidera?” she asked, which he understood to mean desire. He was thirsty and hungry, and desired water and bread.
“Dove acqua?” he asked. She brought him bottled water.
“Dove pene?” he asked. She laughed, shifted her gaze to below his waist, and brought him a loaf.
Later he learned “pane” meant bread, and “pene” something else. He’d unintentionally asked, “Where’s the penis?”
Soon after he headed by train for Rome. Then, by plane, to London, where he was sure not be misunderstood.
It was there he met a maiden who offered him a bed for the night. When he awoke next morning, he asked for food.
She smiled, and brought him a steaming helping of her speciality, Spotted Dick.
Boxing Gloves for when I get hit in the head. Mother Love for mother who bought the gloves so when I get hit, it won’t hurt so much. Broken Heart for when my love left me for being a dreamer. Manx Cat to remind me that whenever and wherever I am thrown, I still stand.
Are you there? It’s been so long since I had someone to talk to. Besides Oscar and Wilde, I mean. I feed them crumbs of bread. They’re my pet rats, my only friends. Besides you, of course. How kind of you to remember me! How shall I begin?
I haven’t always been here, you know. Not in this dark place, like being locked in a closet. Once I was like you. I lived in a world of sunshine, flowers, fresh baguettes, morning coffee, unlocked doors, places to go to, people who saw me, smiles, and I smiled, too.
Then the black bulldog grabbed me. That’s how my misery began. It got me in its grip, pulling me down to where I couldn’t find myself, and the more I struggled to get free, the more it locked onto me tighter, until I couldn’t breathe. Now I don’t fight it anymore. It’s easier that way.
I don’t remember how long I’ve been here. I’m just so glad you visited! I apologize for the mess. Please, eat these crumbs of bread! Somewhere in the darkness is a key. I misplaced it, has that ever happened to you? If you find it on your way out, give it to Oscar and Wilde. They’ll know what to do.
Closet doors frighten me. That’s why I’m in the far corner of this forgotten place. But it’d be nice to know the key is with my two dear friends, before I forget.
They slept in the same bed but that was all they had in common. He, an editor, had shelves filled with literary works and she, his wife of many years and never much of a reader, had strewn their apartment with Madeline children’s books.
“Good morning, Monsieur Editor,” she said, in her singsong of half English, half French. “Today’s menu is made of eggs du jour.”
He sighed, got up, adjusted his royal purple pyjamas, and said, “Thank you, Madame, but I think you meant to say eggs are ON the menu. A menu can’t be made of eggs.”
She smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Ecoutez, cherie. The kettle is perking. I’m making you café very au lait.”
He grunted, put on his polished leather slippers, and said, “Thank you, Madame, but I think you meant to say the kettle is BOILING. Coffee pots perk.”
She smiled, took him by the hand, and said, “Allez to the balcony for brekkie au soleil. ON the menu are croissants. No crumbs.”
He grimaced, but said nothing. She led him out onto the balcony. “Where’s breakfast?” he asked.
She stood behind him, and pushed. Over the railing he went, landing twenty stories down.
She got a croissant and a copy of Madeline in Paris, returned to the balcony, and sat in the sun.
He was tout fini. She would illiterate him from memory.
“I tried to tell you, Monsieur Editor,” she said with ennui, munching her croissant. “No crumbs.”
It’s a shame you’re so tall, he said. Too bad you’re so short, she said. She was a gorgeous 6-foot-tall blonde, and he was a love-smitten 5-foot-9. He was three inches from heaven.
He launched his campaign. He sent her photos of Tom Cruise draped under the arm of Katie Holmes. He bought her Manolo Blahnik heel-less shoes. He encouraged her to slouch, and taught himself how to walk on his toes.
He was a relentless dynamo of confidence, creativity, generosity, and humour.
She surrendered; they married, and she gave birth to his son. As it turned out, three was his heavenly, and lucky, number.