The Young Lovers
Cruelty, deviancy, debauchery and depravity, that’s what lies at the heart of every man, at least that’s what I’ve always been inclined to believe especially after all that’s happened. It’s hard not to when you see what’s going on in the world today, but I don’t think I’m like that. Cruelty breeds bastards, deviancy breeds rebels with no respect for authority, debauchery breeds cheats and with depravity they’re guaranteed to end up as psychos. Give me all four and you’ve got the makeup of a killer or at least something not too far off. Then again, I’ve never met one so who am I to say?
So I’ll begin where it all happened and this is strictly off the record as well by the way. It was a Saturday night, which always means an edition of “Saturday Night Live At The Belfry”. I should tell you, the “Belfry” is where I live and it’s not a church tower in the traditional sense or anything. It’s my watchtower over the whole city alright, a haven safe from intruding eyes. I rarely see the landlord old man Melo or any of the other tenants which suits me fine, besides, the guy downstairs is a nutcase. The Belfry is at the top of a tall century old building downtown next to the old rabbi’s place, about halfway up the street of one of the tree-lined boulevards that make the Annex such a heady place to walk in, especially in the summer. This was back in December though and it was the night of the winter solstice.
Returning home from the market that day I climbed the orange stairs to my apartment and unpacked my supplies in the kitchen. Some good red wine, some smokes, some imported beers. I was bearing down for a long night and let’s face it, a good host is a drunken host.
I prepared as I always did, giving the hardwood turquoise floors a good sweep, opening up the bay window to let in some air, re-aligning some of the masks and pictures on the terra-cotta painted walls.
I wiped down my guitars and tuned them. I love to play music so bringing people together in this setting is the essence of what nights here are all about.
I lay down for a short rest and after getting up and unlocking the front door downstairs, I came back up, laid the lights low and waited for my guests to arrive.
Tomasz arrived first, not long after nightfall. Tomasz: crazed, yogic bluesman, no instrument of his own and a keen impish look, which at times betrayed perhaps darker intentions. We embraced warmly in the French manner, as was our custom.
‘Wine?’ I asked. ‘That, dear brother would be beautiful” his sullen lips breaking into a warm grin. I broke the seal and poured. We dutifully chin-chinned, downing our glasses. He took up his usual place on the second-hand settee. His brown hair was growing longer and a stubbly beard was starting to appear.
Not unlike myself, Tomasz was a young man who considered himself ahead of his time. Over the years, copious amounts of psychedelics had provided just the appropriate level of twinkle to his eyes to draw you into his realm when he so desired and indeed many were.
By the time my friend Les arrived, Tomasz and I had already begun warming-up on the guitars. Slim, with a prematurely receding hairline, Les’s wide eyes bore the intensity of a man always on the cusp of some great awakening. He was grinning manically.
‘Have you seen the moon man? It’s fuckin’ huge!’. Before I could go out to look though, I could hear more footsteps coming on up the stairs. He nodded at me with a reassuring glint in his eyes.
Cooing with delight as she strolled in, Zoey introduced a feeling of total beauty to the increasingly smoky room. A sharp aquatic scent and the aroma of something like nasturtiums swept through the air. There was the sound of someone else coming into the kitchen behind her. Zoey and I hugged and as I helped to remove her jacket, her auburn hair spilled out onto the cream shoulders of her top like cherry cola.
‘Oh my God you’ve got it framed!’ she exclaimed as she moved closer to my print of Bosch’s “Garden Of Earthly Delights”. I secretly hung onto the notes of her perfume as she did so. She pointed at one of the painted figures with a rose protruding from its rear. She clasped her hand in mock horror and uttered a delightful little gasp. She had a good sense of fun. Zoey had come back to the city from California one summer urgently needing somewhere to stay and had gratefully accepted my invitation to make use of my settee. There was nothing ulterior about this, besides, I’m not the type of guy to take advantage of a girl and anyhow, I was technically with Shazza at that time. It was tough however, turning out the light to what I sensed was a subdued air of dejection each night as I went to my own bed. Zoey was used to guys wanting her and I wasn’t obliging. There was no doubt that I had plans for her though: Shazza had dumped me and now I was free.
‘Guys, this is my friend Dan’ said Zoey. He’d been standing at the kitchen doorway for what seemed like an eternity…
‘Hey man!’ I reached out to shake his outstretched hand. He seemed nice and harmless enough but with the labels of his winter gear prominently displayed, he was like a walking sandwich board, a pretty boy from the ‘burbs and apparently he played guitar too!
‘Hey, I brought my guitar as well.’ He unpacked the instrument from it’s case. It sparkled with the shine of a seldom-used instrument.
‘Welcome to the Belfry!’ I said. ‘Les, Tom’ I motioned towards them, ‘This is Dan’. Les had already been trying to find a groove on a goat-hide drum trying to make sense of Tomasz’s scales. They nodded courteously. Dan flashed his pearly whites.
‘I’m sorry Dan, we, uh, don’t do pitchers of beer here,’ I was mocking the poor guy now. ‘But I can offer you some nice Chilean merlot?’
‘He’s been looking forward to tonight for awhile’ said Zoey, sidling cosily in alongside Tomasz onto the settee with a chipmunk smile. She was eying up a small brick of Lebanese blonde he had placed on the coffee table before him. Her presence and attention hadn’t gone entirely unnoticed by Tomasz.
‘Go right ahead‘ he motioned. She was clearly chomping at the bit
‘I thought you’d never ask’ she replied. He leaned the guitar down against the wall behind them
‘In fact’, continued Tomasz gazing at her deeply, ‘I’ll join in!’
I took up my usual spot on a stool strategically placed closest to the kitchen entry, my guitar in its stand alongside me. Tomasz and Zoey were in front of me on the settee, the coffee table between us. Les to my left had sunk back into a beanbag and was drumming away while Dan to my right was trying to negotiate a semblance of tuning to his guitar. The small bay window was left slightly ajar, but even so, the room slowly began to fill anew with the pungent aromas of darkly spiced melody and rhythms which smouldered away. The sparse lighting, enough to emit sufficient glow to capture our expressions as we feasted on the songs, moved us all to periodically raise our glasses in unison to another fine Belfry soiree and the wine continued to pour.
The evening built to a crescendo until gradually and inevitably as the evening wore on, chords became clumsier, a fog began to pervade and faces grew dimmer in the low-light haze of the Belfry.
I don’t know what time it was when I first noticed that they were missing. It was pretty smoky in there but I’d lost track of my place in a song. A cool breeze coming into the room had roused me. My calloused fingertips were black with cadmium from the strings. Les and Dan were playing away relentlessly but I couldn’t see either of Tomasz or Zoey. I stood up from my chair and staggered into the kitchen and washed my metallic hands. I could see the back door leading out onto the roof was open and it looked bright outside. I ventured out and stepped onto the rubber membrane of the roof and that’s where I found them.
They were perched precariously high up on the ledge of the balcony. The winter air was fresh, the night was starry and the moon…
The moon, like a bronze plate was a great golden sphere of antiquity and with the stars placed startlingly high, it shared the ambience of the cloudless sky.
There below, teeter-tottering on the brink of the narrow precipice between the houses, Zoey’s legs were parted, one on the ledge and the other overlapping Tomasz’s who sat there cradling her waist with one free hand all below the scintillating glow of the full Solstice moon. Freed as if from the near suffocation of her tight-fitting jeans, Zoey’s breathing was slow and heavy in the silence of the winter night. Her vulva was exposed and glistened like a diamond in the moonlight. Tomasz’s fingers were gently rubbing its folds. Zoey’s pretty pout was trembling and it was hard to tell at once whether her body was shuddering out of sheer pleasure or from the shock of the fresh night air
I stood there secretly, transfixed by the strange, precariousness of the scene before me moving like a canvas of living, breathing, percolating oils.
Deeper feelings began to rise as I watched them and I inched slowly forwards. As they continued to writhe, Zoey arched her back. Her panting was hitting the air like plumes of smoke from some fire-breathing beast and as Tomasz worked his way around her she hoisted herself higher up on the ledge. Zoey looked like she was about to erupt. As I edged closer they saw me as my shadow suddenly and carelessly loomed over them. Tomasz’ wine-stained lips now sported a sinister smile and there was an uneasy glint in his eye as his gaze caught mine.
‘Oh, Stu’, whispered Zoey sultrily. It wasn’t an invitation to join. I’d interrupted. She laughed indifferently. Tomasz seemed to gulp, but I also think he knew.
I’m not sure what happened next but I may have reached out to touch her, brush her cheek maybe, but all I know is that it all happened in slow motion and that somehow they must have slipped.
They hurtled down into the void of the abyss between the two houses. I looked down as they did so. There was no sound, no panic, in fact, he seemed to hold onto her ever tighter as they fell down. Tomasz like some Promethean thief of fire, tumbling into the blank blackness of an inkwell, a vast pit of deafening silence.
There was then nothing but the moon and the faint brush of frozen trees drawing closer together in the night chill as if to see what was happening far below and that’s the last I remember of it…
It was old man Melo who found them a couple of days later. I just woke up as I do after every night in the Belfry: slowly, Les still asleep, a collection of dregs in empty bottles on the coffee table. Anyways old man Melo with his green thumb must have come to check to see that the squirrels and blackbirds hadn’t disturbed the ground sheets protecting his bulbs hibernating in their earthen winter beds.
The cops asked me what happened and I told them only what I knew for certain. They were here one minute and gone the next. I told them it’s not like I’ve anything to hide. They showed me photographs which in the cold light of sobriety were pretty tough to look at.
They lay there between the houses, still locked in an embrace, like the figures from those ruins at Pompeii, victims of Vesuvius, young lovers entwined, walking for infinity in the valley of death. Somehow I think Tomasz would have liked that. It’s been hard to get those images out of my head and I doubt that I ever will but life has to go on.
They found traces of cocaine in both Zoey and Tomasz’s blood stream. I recall now that I did find an empty baggie on the kitchen table the following morning. When that came out, the press were all over it and there were Chinese whispers that the cause of death was a drug overdose, hypothermia and at one stage even murder… Well, eventually they ruled out all three and called it death by misadventure. Les even said to me just the other day not to rule out the power of the moon. That dusky jewel has been playing tricks with people’s heads for centuries, besides, it’s well documented and I’m inclined to agree.
Maybe I have been a bit cruel, even if they are for me etched somewhere in that strange realm of fantasy, they’re both dead now, that’s the reality.
Anyhow, this wasn’t meant to be a paean for the dead or anything but I’ve had a lot to come to terms with so I’ll be on my way here. Besides, it’s my favourite day of the week, I’m expecting guests and you never know what might happen “Saturday Night Live At The Belfry”!