The thinker’s debut

I’ve been wandering lately, in my dreams, into busy landscapes, discontinuous scenes, performing stream-of-unconscious travel. A recent excursion was atop a high-rise in an urban setting, amidst a modest gathering of partygoers. The setting might have been futurist, post-Covid, around about dusk beneath a mauve sky with a tawny glow upon a horizon. A crowd of about fifty people are tentatively assembled on this rooftop garden and plaza, milling about rows of empty seats, holding tall glasses of wine or champagne and waiting for either a performance or a presentation—no difference, I suppose. As I stride in, feeling like an interloper, I guess that the first description is more accurate. There are clues to an impending musical entertainment: an electronic drum set, absent a drummer, plus several microphones set up some feet apart as if prepared for a group; a couple of technicians on their knees, scrutinizing equipment or rolling up troublesome cables. Behind an electric piano or synthesizer, a lone figure is tinkling upon keys, rapt in concentration. He or she—the figure is androgynous—is familiar to me but altered, though despite the physical differences, the demeanor is unmistakable: beyond introverted, hunched and prickly like a vole, the figure plays their instrument as if no one is there.

There are plenty there, all dressed in black—sexy, sophisticated, death-like evening wear black. Even the technicians are dressed in black, which in itself doesn’t seem unusual. In fact, the ephemera matches my associations of concert-going experiences half-forgotten, only the atmosphere betrays an unsaid influence. In my dreamy thought I am surprised, still thinking that gatherings like this are forbidden, which might explain the air of reticence and sepulchral gloom. Just feet away from the piano-playing figure, a pair of onlookers consult with each other, appearing officious, responsible, and smooth. They are managers, perhaps, or hosts of the event that seems about to begin. Regardless, the performer, still alone on stage despite evidence that others will join (her?), persists in self-absorption, and as I move towards this figure I invisibly helicopter, fascinated and envious. Why envious? I am now gazing at the person, at last deciding it is the she I thought it was, and wanting to intrude, and query. How do you do it? I want to ask. How did you do it? How did you manage to stay this silent, this removed, this seemingly disdainful of the pack, the norm, the orthodoxy, the everything-that-is-normal, and yet curry this seeming interest?

Is it just your talent that got you into this trendy post-modernist milieu? You’ve made some effort to fit in, having dressed alike, almost. Although, I think that is silver glittering trim upon your performance costume, which sets you apart, if only just. Also, there is a hint of stylizing gel in your spiked hair, which is fashionably disheveled yet revealing of effort—at least a modicum of worry before a bathroom mirror, I think. This surprises me. Maybe it disappoints, for I have projected onto you nothing less than separatist cool and lack of pretension. Perhaps it’s merely a glimpse into your effortless knowing, this well-dressed gesture; this ambient presence of yours. I am asking you questions now, only you’re not answering. I know. You do not owe me anything, including explanations or help, but I am curious, and I am hoping that is enough to pry your mind open so you can tell me your deal, and then help me with my desire.

See, I’m not sure but I think you might be in danger. I think this because I am in danger, and I further think that the you in this scene is really me, preparing to go public with something that I have kept to myself for some time and now it is getting its opening night. I wish I could be as poised, as confident and self-contained as you seem. Wait…what happened? You seemed to start something, say something, and then share a thought, not music, with the crowd. There was a misunderstanding, it seemed, about music and words. A different expectation. The gathering of the ordinarily cool and winning: they misunderstood, thinking you plainly earnest when—I know—what you were going for was ironic detachment which would then be mirrored, in further irony, by a resonant intelligence. This was supposed to be a club, a secret society introducing a novel medium. Now you’ve walked away with a frown on your face, a tiny streak of sweat streaming away from a gelled curl of hair, because some idea you had has let you down. And you looked at me, I think—just a fleeting glimpse, perhaps thinking I was someone who might help you get away, escape with me, for this is now our shared, infuriating problem.

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