She moves soft as moonlight, pouring across the concrete. She follows the sound of the music as it reaches out into the quiet streets. She’s been following the sound for eons and still it pulls her forward, on and on through the dark.
She lingers for a moment at the door of the bar with the scent of stale cigarettes and beer. She remembers a time when music smelled different; of pomegranate and hemlock, of old stone and manna. She slips inside and takes a table at the back. It doesn’t matter where she sits though, she’s a magnet and they’re drawn by more than just sight.
He shambles onto the stage and perches on a tall stool. He’s not a beautiful man with his cragged rock face and wild grass hair, but once she’s done with him he will shine. Man or woman, pretty or plain, all that matters is the potential and the sound. Before he strums, he squints into the darkness. He sees nothing but light and something about that makes him smile. The first note travels off the stage and along the exposed lines of her body. The sound ignites her, but not like it used to.
“Nothing’s ever like it used to be,” he sings.
She closes her eyes and thinks of things that are old and recalls a time when song was just beginning.
“Leo,” he says.
She peers into the crags of his face and finds two gleaming gems. “Dee.”
“Dee…like Delight?” he says.
“Dee dee dum, dee dee.”
“Yeah,” she says again.
“Did’ya like my set?”
They sit in silence, swimming in the riffs that stream from the stage, but the other musicians don’t matter tonight. Tonight Leo is the focus of her all attention. She takes his hand and feels the calluses, thick as hide. They sit until the last note has been played, the last cigarette smoked, the last beer imbibed. They sit in eternity, in her cycle that never stops repeating.
By the time they leave she’s already forgotten his name but it doesn’t matter anymore. She moves as moonlight and he follows in her shadow. They cross the concrete to his car. They turn the top down and the music up and sail on waves of sound towards the edge of the city.
They approach her territory at a slow crawl, entering hallowed ground. Although he wouldn’t have guessed it, this is where he becomes richer than kings, taller than mountains. The park is long with endless rows of trailers crawling like caterpillars into the desert. Hers is the one on the right. The stereo is off now that they’re parked but somehow the music is everywhere, it lives in this place; the hum of the generators, the creak of the dry wind through decrepit lawn ornaments. He has a brief thought that this might be the first place music ever lived but the idea is quickly swept away by the dry Santa Ana winds. He carries his guitar and his heart in his hands as they ascend the small steps to her temple.
He worships her amongst the pots and pans, the hanging silks and the memories. Her clothes shed like a second skin and her body shines in the candlelight. She bathes his feet and kisses his mouth. He strums her and sings into her and they move together to the music of the land and their bodies and something ancient that he will never care enough to grasp. They eat apples and ice cubes and talk of nothing but moonlight and shadow. He takes everything she has to offer and his head fills with melody and grace. He falls into his dreams as the sun rises. She watches his breath, a slow motion that speaks of ten thousand years. She blesses him with a kiss, then dresses in cotton and moves outside to stare at the sun.
Marvel Oaks stirs early and hobbles around the trailer park leaning heavily on her cane. Dee is stretched like a guitar string across the picnic table as the old woman passes.
“Gotcherself another one in there darlin’?” Marvel says.
“Always,” Dee replies.
“You sure know how to pick’em don’t ya gorgeous?”
“Well maybe you should ask this one of them to take y’away from here when they shoot up, up, up like a shining star right to the top of the charts. They owe ya that much, don’t they now?”
Dee looks around the park. She listens to the singing sun as it climbs, the birds as they chime, the woodwind voice of Marvel as she repeats her age-old query.
“I love it here,” Dee replies.
“Of course y’do beautiful, what’s not to love?” Marvel laughs like the world has ended and this is the only place left.
“Why don’t you give’em up sweetheart? Those ingrates always leave ya behind anyway.”
“Because without them I don’t exist,” Dee whispers.
“I’ve heard that one before. But I bet ya got some life of yer own behind them pretty eyes,” Marvel says before moving on, as always, shuffling and shifting like the sands.
Dee sneaks inside and lays her hands on the guitar, rosewood and glory with strings of coiled steel. He turns over in her bed and she wishes he would wake but dreams are the only things that matter to him now.
Dee doesn’t dream anymore; her eyes won’t close, her heart won’t open, her mouth won’t sing. She cradles the smooth surface of the guitar and it feels better than skin. She brings it to her lips and whispers to it, tales of ancient days when she might have plucked up the courage and the strings herself. Now she’s far too old. Marvel says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks and she’s probably right. Probably. He wakes then, his limbs long and thin, and pulls her to him, touching her with those calloused hands. She wails and moans and her sounds come ever so close to music.
“I can’t stay,” he says.
They drink dark coffee in the daylight together and stare into forever.
“I know,” Dee replies.
“Maybe you could come with me, I’m going places.” He looks over at her, follows the line of her shining face in the sunlight. She’s so bright it’s almost as if she’s not there at all. He looks away.
“Maybe I could,” she says.
“Nothing lasts forever.”
“I’ll fade without you.”
“You’ll shine alone.”
He doesn’t say any more. He knows she’s right, he knows it in his blood. He knows it like everyone who has come before. The moment he leaves she’ll linger as a memory and nothing more. She’ll languish in obscurity as he rises to greet fame. He’ll change her name in his next song so she’ll be unknown, except to those who know the way her body shines in candlelight.
He leaves, his guitar behind. They all do. There comes a time when specific instruments cease to matter. The bent steel barrel beside her trailer will eat it, as it always does, all splinters and strings and fading dreams. She’ll light the fire and it will blaze, as the dusk horizon, crumbling everything into ash and metal. She holds the guitar like a lover, recalling all the times she refused its touch, refused to play it for herself, refused to inspire her own melody. She hears its song in her heart but knows it will never grace her lips. She knows every lyric, every tune, every chord, but none of them are hers to sing. An eternal torment. A Sisyphus of sound. Always the moon, never the sun. She holds the guitar tight until the sun sinks in the west, then she feeds it to the fire. It bubbles and breaks with her heart as the moonlight rises and she’s drawn to the sound of music streaming out into the quiet streets from the bar somewhere in the distance.