Storytime: Wildfire

Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: a round of songs.

Parked in a car in the middle of an open field, mid-day, watching the rain pound down onto the dented hood. The commercials on the radio fly by at a low hum as his hand is brushing through my hair. We don’t talk about the rain that chased us here or the things we shouldn’t be doing. Instead, I stare straight ahead when he puts his hand over mine.

Out of the corner of my eye I see him frown. The commercials fade into a long ringtone. A drone. A monotone voice. A sigh.

I need your arms around me I need to feel your touch
I need your understanding, I need your love so much.

His voice is soft and breathy. Leaning into it. Leaning out of it. He squeezes my hand and I join in. Voices layered on voices layered on top of our harmonies together. And it skips. I miss the moment when his echo drops out the song and then it’s just me and my lone swallow shriek. Warbling on the edge, tears leaking out of my eyes. Out of his eyes. Note after note, back beat driving through my veins. Our hands fall apart and the breath catches in his throat as if I had stabbed him with a knife.

He clicks the radio off, gruff laughter rolling out of his mouth.

“You go somewhere.”

“I was just singing the song”

“No,” his voice nearly cracks with sharp insistence, “I was just singing the song.”

And there’s nothing to say to that so we sit in silence. He runs his hands through my hair. The rain falls all around but never touches us.

It’s a party in the bottom of a church, a basement ballroom. Not quite a ballroom blitz, loud but not wild. We’re standing nearly shoulder to shoulder surrounded by strangers. I can’t see her in the flash of the lights overhead but I can feel as she shifts next to me. I know she looks resplendent. Glitter and masks, sweat and teeth.

Her voice is sharp and clear as a bell. It feels like having a revelation. It feels like being turned on my side while someone pours liquid gold inside my ear. She’s no copy, no cover, she’s a bona fide original. I’m the imposter. I’m an echo of her, getting lost inside a labyrinth of trills and vibrations. Her voice and my voice mingle and collide. Break apart and reform endlessly.

We dance across the room together and there’s a sliver of a mirror where I see me. We transpose and I see her. Our images, our reflections, repeating ad infinitum. Cycling around each other just like our voices. She shouts across the changing tracks, “We sound like something new!”

I want for my love to be in every note that swells out of me. That they should fill like balloons as we move and sing to each other. Mouths dangerously close to each other while we dance like sharks, circling and never stopping. His voice, carrying love but so rough the notes literally burst on contact with the air. Exploding for me.

I’m not trying to sing a love song

I sing-song back to him as his arms are wrapping around my waist.

I’m trying to sing in tune

He warbles back to me. Piercing and dim voice that bends on the edges. Notes backfire like a beat up car. He sounds like smoke and breaking glass but his smile is bright like lightning. He leans in to my side to sing softly in my ear. I listen. I learn his notes. I sing them back, all wrong and off-key. I sing them back until starts to laugh, giving me more of his backfire and smoke.

Falling in love, catching fire, I want to be consumed.

“It’s amazing,” he whispers as he kisses my temple, “all I hear is you.”

She likes the sad songs and I hate to admit it but I like the sad songs too. We scramble up the branches of the short trees in the forest until we reach our post and then we sit. Overlooking the green floor we feel like queens of the jungle and she spreads her arms over the terrain below and asks me to sing out as if I’m a giant bird. Territorial and mean. Desperately signaling to others to stay away. I’ve already got mine!

‘Cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom
So keep warm my dear, keep dry

“How do you do it?” she asks me, blue eyes blazing. “It’s just singing, nothing special” I duck my head, pulling my chin to my shoulder. “No, it’s something for sure.”

She cocks her head to consider then leans so close to my ear that her long hair falls over my shoulder.

“It’s a wildfire, I hope you keep it burning.”

We’re sitting in the dark surrounded by strings of decorative lights. They roll out of focus when I stare at them for too long, waiting for them to reveal their secrets to me. Secrets hidden in the slow music winding out of the computer speakers. He is talking but I can’t hear anything he says. In the low light his eyes look like nothing but dark hollows, no spark of life under them. He starts to mutter along to the song softly. Voice never breaking into a cant. Less like singing, more like a slow, syrupy poem that has forced itself over his tongue. Syllables that got caught between his teeth.

I sing. I sing the song as if it were a lullaby and his face becomes a play of contrast in the dark. Neutrality fading to frowns and scowls which carve ever deeper shadows into his skin and when he’s had enough he puts his hand up and sighs, “You sound like someone else.”

Warm tears start to run down my face. He runs his hand across my cheek, thumb grazing over the wetness gathering under my eyes. He frowns.

“I wish I knew who.”

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