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Comes Love April 3, 2000
A song for every heart-condition
Comes love, nothing can be done. I don't care how it arrives - fast and fervent like a spark on a fuse, or urgent and desperate like the ringing of a telephone ignored - it's inevitable. Sometimes it comes on slow but lethal, on a sea of red lava. Other times (my favorites) love drifts in on a balmy August breeze, like a lost melody returning from a distant past. And even as it sinks in, as it takes over, I start hearing the love songs inside me.
I feel the rumbling of a trombone pulsating up my neck. The vigorous chords of a base vibrate low, in my center, in the same place where a void is forming, where the panic and anticipation of infatuation begin to burn. I hear the music, intertwined with the emotions, and I hum and sway to their jumbled rhythm. The songs are as familiar as the feelings, adopted over years of ins and outs, played and replayed until they became inseparable from the actual experiences and as irrefutable as love itself.
The love songs follow the moods I'm in and say the words I can't say and whisper the lies I want to believe. One song follows another in the pattern of love, in a perfect cycle; there's one for every scene in the story. One for the day when everything seems right, one for the night with the tragic ending, and one to help me recover when I'm capsized on my sloppy couch, watching bad television, my heart hooked up to an EKG with faint hope dripping into it from a gnarly IV line. Yes, a song that revives the patient, that stirs the embers, that cries out
I want a little sugar in my bowl.
I even begin to hear it now. I listen to those lovely sounds, starting up with a steady drum beat, slow like an early rain. Then a piano, with a spicy tune that tingles like a bushy squirrel on my spine - and a saxophone, yes, a sax that wails the way it must when it has the cold and lonely shine to it. I ain't foolin'. I'm a bit under-nurtured here. I'm lacking. I want to feel that murmur - oh, yeah - a deep throbbing of ardor in my guts. I want to feel the acid despondency of those high-pitched guitar strings seeping out through my toes and itching like tiny electric shocks at every nerve ending.
I'm dying for a little light in my gloomy room. I mean, a little sweetness down in my soul, a taste o' warm to chase out the drafts, a sip of brandy to scare away the old spooks tangled in my head. I could stand some loving, oh so bad. I say, give me the raspy voice, not too coarse, not too syrupy, and I'll let it wrap itself around me, let it linger on my skin, shaking in every pore, sighing in long exhalations until I start believing there's love standing outside my door.
One minute I'm pining for love, love, love; the next I'm wondering if there's anything in the world besides it. One moment it's seduction of the broken man, the next I'm drowning in ecstatic passion. It's part of the love pattern. I know it because the good love songs never leave me, they simply make way for others even as they line up in a circle, awaiting their next turn. There's so many, I have to straighten them out. I keep them in order: the sad ones together, and the happy ones, the jealous ones, the saucy ones. I separate them into neat piles of discrete emotions, like a love song curator.
All this is good, because the songs don't mix too well, just like the emotions. Mellow pining doesn't go with sickly-sweet loss of common sense - which is the next unavoidable phase: corny, fall-in-love yuckiness. The borderline insanity that allows me to joyfully tell a million souls I've never met that
You're just too good to be true.
At long last, love has arrived. Everything looks fuzzy and bright; street lamps are dripping golden syrup and, baby, great pink peaches are sprouting from the telephone poles! All the gorgeous women look like her, but she floats above them on a silver cloud. Her face glows and I think she'd be like heaven to touch.
I feel foolish and drunk, and I thank God for it. I sing it over and again, because I'm talking straight to her, through the song. The music is within me, mixed in with the love. And no matter how embarrassing this might seem in retrospect, or when other people do it, this song is the one I'd sing over any other, stupid with glee, because it reminds me the most of the best possible high in the world.
If love gets ridiculous for a while, the silliness eventually boils over as infatuation mutates into true passion. Steamier desires eventually drown out the lunatic declarations of endless devotion. There's a different tempo to the melodies - more sensual, more deliberate - that echoes the intense hunger, that signals the time for
The song teases. It speeds up, it slows down. The voice seduces, first high, then low. The door crashes open, bodies grope bed-wards, just killing, so willing, to take-off, to make a cosmic commotion. Now, I become her space cowboy. Her love cadet. We blast off together and I take her where no body has gone before. Every day is another Sunday honeymoon, and every season another reason, and so on until the nights become mornings, until the cravings simmer down, until the last notes fade out...
Then come the endless, sunny afternoons; the languorous stretches of preludes and overtures mixed in with protracted kisses and dreamy glances. Now, love has taken center stage; love is north, and south, and
East of the sun, and west of the moon.
Love will not die, we'll keep it that way. It is perfect as a memory, a harmony of life. It's time to map our futures, to bring our daydreams together. I know, it makes no sense, but does it ever? Anyway, I'm just along for the ride, floating above the soulful breath of a trumpet and holding hands with the great ladies. I know that this song is at once the reflection of the love I have, and the romantic ideal of the love I wish I had. I know that even as I dance to the soothing tune, as I draw inspiration from it, I have to remain vigilant for what must always come, for that moment when I remember that the words in our mouths are never as true as the words in these songs. That day when promises expire, caught up in the breeze,
Gone with the wind.
Just like a leaf, my romance flies away. Now the pain arrives, inescapable. It hurts to analyze the hours that passed, the things I neglected to say, the signs I was too confident to see. It stings to remember yesterday's kisses, still on my lips - a lifetime of heaven, at my fingertips. I'm filled with disbelief, a dark, dark mood that passes only when the dejection sets in; the blue resignation.
It feels like an eternity, though it was more like a day. I am shocked, even if I knew this would happen: the end of a cycle, the beginning of a new one. Love vanishes as inevitably as it arrives - nothing can be done. It disappears like the sweet essence of a dream snuffed out by a harsh awakening, like a beautiful aria suddenly cut off, leaving in its place only a silent hiss and bittersweet memories...the scent of smoldering leaves, the wail of steamers, two lovers on the street, who walk like dreamers...
These foolish things remind me of you.
These songs are the mementos: the music and the mood aligned, the recollections and realities fused. A two-line verse, a single note, bring me happiness or pain like no souvenir could. Those musical fragments, those lyric poems, are as intimate - and as personal - as the feelings of completeness, or emptiness, to which they have become indelibly pinned.
So while I wait for the next August breeze, I put the CD on permanent repeat, and I close my eyes and sing along, thinking of her. Can't you see, the ties that bound us are still around us? Because what, in the end, is a good love song, if it doesn't make me believe that she'll feel the same way about me, that I do about her?
Inspiration and lyrics respectfully borrowed from the following:
Comes Love (Tobias/Brown/Stept), performed by Billie Holiday, off 'Billie's Best,' Verve Group, 1992.
I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl (Simone), performed by Nena Simone, off 'The Best of Nena Simone,' RCA, 1989.
Can't Take my Eyes Off of You (Crewe/Gaudio), performed by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, off 'Four Seasons Anthology,' WEA, 1988.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Bowman), performed by Billie Holiday, off 'Billie's Best,' Verve Group, 1992.
Makin' Whoopee (Donaldson/Kahn), performed by Michelle Pfeiffer, off the movie soundtrack 'The Fabulous Baker Boys,' GRP Records, 1989.
Gone with the Wind (Wrubbel/Magidson), performed by Billie Holiday, off 'Billie's Best,' Verve Group, 1992.
These Foolish Things (Maschwitz/Strachey), performed by Brain Ferry, off 'These Foolish Things,' WEA, 1973.
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