The Dull Ache of Dormancy

Excerpt From A Work-In-Progress

Shopping-cart vibration of ancient gurney wheels. Slap-back, metallic echoes off linoleum and old cinderblock. Rustle of swarming emergency techs and fragments of bad news: pressure-dropping tumbles through probable-pneumothorax. This is how she reenters your life: In a pool of unstaunchable blood, as patient-to-three and move-it-people collide and intertwine. She’s fading right in front of you; back, yet slipping away. And you want to sayHold on, but the irony stops you dead . . . .

“Ready, then, to tidy up?” The voice seems to come from everywhere. And though you’d like to answer No, the car-wreck curiosity is irresistible. Turning away is useless because you’re already rubbernecking–even though this freakish accident happens to be your own.

In a swivel chair on an oriental rug, you’re waiting for playback and remembering Steppenwolf: Well, you don’t know what we can find / Why don’t you come with me little girl? But on a different kind of magic carpet ride–one that’s the opposite of escape. The dimmed halogens at the edges of the studio spill a tarnished light down the walls, yellowing the acoustic panels before smudging into shadow. This, even as the fixture above your chair blazes at maximum setting, containing you and the ivory-handled cane in a cone of glacial light . . . .

In the hotel, at the window, you stare at the inlet and then past it, to the mountains, ice and sky beyond. At True North and unfettered possibilities. Standing here, now that she’s behind you; staring, even as she makes her oblique way south, toward the narrow selection of unacceptable futures that put everyone at risk but her. Aside from a wrung-out bitch or whispered lover, what more is there left to say? . . . .

“Standing by for ‘Post-Modern Pop Song;’ digital transfer of original mix, yes?” The Engineer makes this question an announcement, his voice omnipresent between the monitors. Squinting through the Arctic light and beyond its glare on the control booth window, you see him silhouetted against the halogen-glint on all that gear for re-polishing your past: Business-brisk, in service to the entertainment industry and bathed in the glow of his professional tools. Apart from a terse Let’s do it, then, what more is there left to say?

And now you want a cigarette–for the first time in many years. Recording studio. Engineer. Hidden dread before playback. Making music means chain smoking–or at least it did. It’s Proust’s madeleine-and-limeflower tea, but turned inside out: Circumstances have conjured up a sacred object from the past. And though you try, you can’t shake the desire because in addiction there is no gone. Absence there becomes abstinence; the dull ache of dormancy. Lou Reed materializes then, fading up with some mid-chorus advice: You’re still doing things I gave up years ago–which are true words in a truer song . . . .

“Ducky, there’s no irony in being a doctor who smokes. We all do things that just aren’t good for us; quite indefensible stuff, really.” Julia shrugs and glances at the Silk Cut, her own indefensible thing. “Someof these behaviors are as blatant as this, but the less obvious ones areno less damaging.” Cigarette glow at her lips again, and more blue-gray smoke as she contemplates you. Then, after a long moment’s hesitation: “Well, Darling, just look at yourself . . . .”

You’re beginning to adjust to the disconnectedness at the heart of Studio World: A perpetual twilight between the centuries that might be anywhere. And yes, the time frame could be narrowed a little by identifying the modules and racked MIDI units. But the spartan trend in component design makes everything an echo of Jonathan Ive. Which is why the concept of Where is useless: The hardware’s international minimalism has eliminated any sense of “here.”

But all of this is academic because you don’t know the tech–at least not like you did: Well, after all, just look at yourself. And so you lean back in the chair: Surrounded by speakers, wanting nicotine and free-floating in a cloudy pool of maybe 10 years. It occurs to you that your resurrection fantasy had always been much more specific than this–even as the details of how you came to be here begin to soften and smudge.

You’d written the hit song for a successful film. Except in reality you hadn’t . . . .