"He flew to Germany to discuss Brecht and Goethe. Of course they thought he was insane."
He hadn’t remembered fainting.
He wanted to ask the sandwich makers if they had some napkins he could use to wipe the blood from the back of his head but if they were anything like the cheap bastards who worked in the Subway's he used to frequent in Brooklyn, he knew he'd get nowhere. He used his sleeve to soak up the blood, it wasn't much.
He walked back to the corner where he fell and stood at the crosswalk as the tram passed. A caterpillar on wheels. Blank faces looking out from their cages; the glare of the sun revealing their fake halos and hollow eyes. The tram moved quickly and its rambunctious rails made the Maestro weary of its real strength. He was reminded of The Little Engine That Could. He didn't know why. The tram passed and waved noisily--modern modes of travel begging for forgiveness. The screeching and rumble made all the pedestrians cover their ears. The rails in the street reminded the Maestro of his sojourns through his boyhood San Francisco travels in the backseat of his mother's car...and the chitter chatter and clang clang of the steel bars shook him and the gray-ness of seven years and orange jumpers reverberated like an echo chamber.
The light turned green and they all walked for the money. It was as he reached the opposite curb that his heart slipped. Ever so slightly. The way a cat adjusts its sleeping position. It was the type of beauty that makes a poet jealous or an atheist create a religion.
The woman's face seemed to say "Handle With Care". Her delicate features were etched with a loving poise as if the brush across her face said to its own bristles: "Check this out." Her lips had the sculpted and untouched look of a marble statue or a grandmother's china set. Majestic, but almost too sterile. But real. So real that you knew if you touched it, you could break it...The delicacy of her face hosted a pair of bright cavernous eyes. Her hair waved and nestled around her head. And her collarbone, too, seemed unloved and therefore all the more inviting. Her breasts hung and bobbed naturally, barely hidden beneath a thin wisp of loose cotton. The Maestro's mouth twisted dumbly and his eyes ached. He felt bad about every negative comment he had ever made about women. Or life.
He watched her cross the street and saw the poetry in her gait, her bent head, elegantly tired arms. What he had always read about in dance books is what this woman was. The purity of her movement--was a great deal to take because it championed the "Beauty of a Better Tomorrow" philosophy in today. Her demeanor was confident, but mortal. And her curved marble lips were not pursed for her victim; they were curled up for grace. A shift of one minor muscle and it would have read as a smirk. All that beauty, like the blanket of stars at night, swimming through this sea of contempt, unpleasantness, and bitter digitized Eleanor Rigby's of the world.
Seen, but not valued.
Hated because it lived and breathed.
Scorned because she was beautiful, but not wealthy.
Single, but not lonely.
Happy, but not ignorant.
And it was in the way she bent down to adjust her shoes that the trembles started and pain swelled...
He had to do something; he was still dizzy from his episode minutes earlier. He sucked on his dwindling saliva and hummed. Her tiny ballet shot adrenaline-razors through his veins.
Her shoes: tattered, worn, dejected. But treated like the hands of Moses. She was so casual that it frightened him. The cardboard around her feet were folded and molded like moccasins. The shoestrings were made of wire like un-done hangers. If it hadn't been for sanguine stretching for August, the stitches, like crimson thorns stuck in benign berry--he would have never noticed...And that is what continued to pain him.
Her refusal to crumble and still search for meaning in between the pitied streets of a broken cabaret city and a metropolis frozen in spirit, caught between two different chords--minors and majors clashing and bending like fists in a boxing ring twirling with the sprays of sweat drooling on the grooves and in between the rich peoples’ collars, made him sad. And he looked and he could feel the threads of yesterday's train pulling and hooting at some distant lonely region of his brain. Her old fashioned elegance reminded him of those black and white movies from the 1940's and instantly his parents, who always appeared larger in his memory, came to him with comforting compassion and an immense yard of broken TV's, each gripping its thwarted dream...
His head ached when he imagined the pain of her footsteps, his guts revolted--but like everyone else with a battered soul, shot nerves, and no hope--all he could do was stare and stand motionlessly. At least he gave her full attention. She removed all her clothing and ejected a rolled up ball of tissue in between her legs to help stop Aunt Rosa's mighty flow. Sadder than an unemployed man's footprints in the snow on New Year's Eve.
Sadder than a subway ride on a Sunday afternoon.
Sadder than people who believe that hunger isn't murder.
Sadder than a last minute pack or an eviction notice in the strange cool air of the summer solstice.
Sadder than a cemetery with gum on its fence.
And sadder than the boys who know who their fathers are--but have no desire to be like them.
Our Maestro did eventually make it to Brecht's grave.
An unimpressive forgotten plot of stone simply marked: Brecht.
In his pocket he had a message for the long-gone playwright. He unfolded and stuck it beside the gravestone. It read: "BARAKA SAYS HELLO." He would then inform the poet himself of his act and wondered if, when Baraka died, a German would make his way to Newark and leave a message on behalf of the already-dead Brecht. He wondered if anyone could understand the relevancy of this, if there was any relevancy...and then his erudition cramped and he let it go for a while calmly reciting a prayer for the disowned, fragmented, unknown terrified losers who inherited the painful gift of consciousness.
He left as soon as the fireworks started. He dared one to hit him. He rode the U-bahn back to the hotel.
He was tired.
And he was glad he could not understand any of the conversations around him.
-- Wedding, Berlin 2006
© Copyright 2006 by Dennis Leroy Kangalee, excerpt from the unpublished novella "The Maestro".
© Photograph of the author in Berlin:
"Baraka Says Hello " (2006) by Nina Fleck.
Copyright 2002-2012 Writings of the Nomad Junkie. All rights reserved by Dennis Leroy Kangalee.