This story was originally published in DM Du Jour and is reprinted below with the author’s permission.
Subatomic Love Song
Violins sing sweet melodies, and I hear them, down the street at the café playing their strings steady, solemn, stellar, rising and falling over the darkness that lay scattered between streetlights. It’s the first of September and the Los Angeles heat is as fervent as ever.
There are holes in your black knit tights. And I swear you’re tearing holes in me too. Here, where our heartstrings vibrate together…together…and then apart, you are ripping through me like a rocket. With your hands braced against mine, I begin to realize the impossible space between us, between now and then: who we are and who we are going to be. Even love songs have endings. And every film about two people meeting and falling for the thumping of the other’s heart eventually ends with credits and then a dark screen.
I think there’s a pocket universe buried deep beneath your ribs.
Somewhere between your heart and lungs.
I wonder if there’s a place for me there too, in the space between your bones. Perhaps, the oxygen in your blood could carry me from your heart to your head and back again.
Eventually you drift away from me. Or I float away from you. Only our fingers remain interlocked, interlaced, and for a moment I see you skeletal, this frame taken for granted. We are but bones set in motion by some law of momentum, thermodynamics, or another: compelled always forward through time, until we die and the cells that clothe us freeze in death, degrade, and fall away from each other—and eventually away from us—as they are consumed or changed or removed in some intimate manner. We, two ancient Mesopotamian beings, brimming once with the potential of discovery, will lay bare bones one day, maybe in suits, maybe in dresses, probably in rags, burned up by this primordial fire traversing the space between us.
But now your fingers tear away from mine. And I am becoming distant, like an astral projection, bound in motion away from my body that clings so desperately to your physical form. I am grasping and reaching, frantic and emphatic. I feel as though the abstract is raging against me, pounding mallets against my skull. Memories of your nose and cheek and hands and hair, the rough skin of your knuckles, they are fighting for a place in my head, as you are drawn farther from me. Every moment we spent together, every thought bubbles in my cauldron mind and the witchdoctor at the brim is spinning that grand mixing spoon clockwise…clockwise…and then counter, watching it all spill forward and down from me.
The violins coalesce in a riot against the air, un-tune their strings, rip themselves from the hands of their players. I know they are coming for me. Alone, vulnerable, here in the impregnable darkness between light, they sense the weak nature of my fingers, my inability to hold any single thing close enough for long enough.
I don’t want the half-wit poetry of my sinking, broken spirit.
I want you on an infinite loop.
The violins tie their strings tight around me and pull me down, drag me to the café, lead me to the register.
They hold me close. The musicians all take a seat at a table by the door, looking over and staring through their dark circle sunglasses. The barista kisses every bean of coffee before feeding them to the grinder’s blades. The barista kisses the counter and brings me a cappuccino. The barista kisses the violins, kisses me, kisses the floor. I lean my head against the counter and sing soft tunes to myself, and, as the violins wrap around me tighter, I am reminded of our separation. Here, I am on my own. And, here in this moment, my astral self aligns once more with my wretched, wanting flesh. My mind and soul, all chemistry and religion—bound by physics and some spinning imperceptiblities at my center, the farthest reaches of every extremity, and everywhere and everywhen in-between—interlace fingers. And me becoming myself, finally again, feels a lot like falling in love, like a resurrected warrior coming home to kiss mother and father on the forehead, like birds floating skyward in a perfectly crooked line. Endless are the slim chances I exist by; are the seconds I spent with you; are the breaths I will need to take tomorrow, tonight, the minute arriving and the next.
The violin players finish sipping their coffee, set down their cups, pick up their instruments, and leave. The barista is back behind the counter cleaning forks and knives. And I am sitting at the table closest to the window, contemplating the thin layer of dust that lay between it and my fingers.
Charles L. Crowley lives in Pasadena, California. His work has previously appeared in the West Wind literary journal, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, and Unbroken Journal. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s watching Hesei era Godzilla films or playing shows with his band in dive bars and clubs.
Image: flickr / Maria Panayiotou