It was, I should say, a night of dignified boredom; that meaning that these lustrous men in black suits quaffing their scotch and their soda had a suppressed look of discontent in their ruddy eyes; and I had only yet begun to feel the vodka hit my temple and send my consciousness into a sensation akin to the plink plink plink of piano keys when the hoary-headed bartender slapped a soiled rag in his hand and enunciated, smirking "what's it going to be then, eh?" Now, mind you, there was just me at the bar: thirty-five, lavishly garmented in the height of fashion which consisted of a pair of these knee-high galoshes and a black suit from the bottom up, save for a tongue of white tie that slipped from the neck to the belt, and reeking of incense and alcohol like a dipsomaniac nobleman, which, profit of treacherous accord, I suppose I was. So not wanting to offend this hoary gentleman I mumbled a faint "Scotch;" though I was unaware that I had said much of anything in that preamble to inebriation which gave each letter a sort of glissando into the next so that the whole thing pretty much sounded like one garbled breath. But the barman was giving a chortle of amusement and so I looked up from my sticky chalice and he was saying: "Scot? Damn right you're a Scot! You've said nothing but that the whole night!" And I was even making an effort to listen, I really was, but the voice seemed to suddenly grow faint and the whole room of delighted eyes sort of melted into a world of spinning light until there was just me, laughing myself away into a drunken motif as delight and dipsomania sort of just faded away and I was descending, descending amongst those tinkling keys which were now going down with me, base clef and treble: down, down, down.
Where I came down to, was Memory. It was She (indeed, She, for who else could occupy that most sacred of yesterdays but woman?) who met me flippantly, her coral lips stretched in a jaunty smile as she swayed towards me with impish green eyes speckled with gold. It was, at this present state and time, just Memory and myself, alone in a haze of misty gray like a solemn Purgatory separating a drunken Reality from a distant Past. No, do forget the solemnity, for even that was broken as she took her measured steps forward with a deliberate swagger, and each separate footfall was like a clap of such sweet thunder humming into quivering vibrato. It was now that my heart was pulsating in shivering spasmodic fits as the passion mounted higher and higher and my Lady Memory came to me redolent with ambergris or musk or Haneen. Then Purgatory was gone again, the second descent like an impetuous intrusion going still Down Down Down amidst the sweet thunder and the ambergris and my emerald-speckled-eyed Lady who was going Down and Down with me.
We were swaying and swinging into this far deeper and more vacuous sub-reality like two mirthful contraltos pitched into a wind and forced along the breezy ride. Dense misty haze melted into a golden autumn melted into a brazen summer melted into those golden speckles of the sunny eyes of my sweet Lady Memory. So it was that the fog of that heavy Purgatory still damp on my tongue of white tie became nothing more than a cloud of vapor drifting lazily down with us. And all the while there was this sort of chime in the air that'd hum in a feminine sort of singsong: "Desire! Desire!" and there'd be a shrill choir of trumpets and trombones roaring back a clamorous reply. Now Lady Memory turned to me and said "Look! Can you not see the souls?!" And as I turned to look suddenly they appeared to me: angel trumpets and devil trombones all wailing to my Lady as that tinkling piano went thun-der-ing, thun-der-ing in their strident wake. It was but a brief moment before that wake recoiled back into a rising blue maw that towered before us now gurgling and foaming. Up and up that blue wave of boisterous brass came, growing louder and thicker and stronger until finally we were swept up and swallowed whole and drifted down and down into foamy currents.
The streams were not swift, yet brisk. We fled through the water like two threads weaving a great subterranean tapestry. My radiant Lady glimmered in those depths with all the silver evanescence of the moon itself: she was pure, tantalizing, and achingly desirous like a stream of succulent music borne from the Forbidden fruit itself. "Oh, sweet Desire!" I cried as we passed through that aqueous realm and ascended singing to the surface in a great beacon of pearly light. The waves had subsided and were calm and gentle green, like the eyes of my Lady Desire.
Over us there hung a resplendent night. For a time that I could not count there was only the pressing of the waters to my back carrying me, gently, gently out into seas made silver by the pallid eye of the suspended moon. The feeling was one of wondrous buoyancy, like a white cloud surmounting an ocean impossibly dense, or a singular lustrous note hovering over a conglomeration of thick chorded sound. On and on those lethargic waves rocked me. I dreamt in full wonderful wakefulness. "Can you not see the souls?" my Lady's voice echoed back to me. I shook my head for I am blind to all but her radiance. Yet the dreams of men are not occupied by the souls of angels or demons, but by the soul of my Lady Desire. "Be bright and jovial!" she cried as I gazed upon her, and behold! For her soul was opened and there came forth music; music of all sorts gushing into my sleepless dream. There were us: two mirthful contraltos flung to the wind, the shrill choirs of trumpets and trombones, the thundering piano and the plinking piano, the ragtime rhythms of my Lady's jaunty stride.
"Music! The soul is music!" I vociferated loudly. I leapt from my dreaming at this sudden epiphany, into a world of stark brightness. There were no silver seas, no pallid moon, no Lady Desire: only me borne into the air by an accelerated crescendo of sound. Faster, faster we rose: louder, louder roared the sounds. This was no wave of instruments but a clash of forces fighting its way to the atmosphere. We blazed our way through the seas. We screamed through the sub-reality. We bellowed past Purgatory…
…and thundered into existence. Terrible, tremendous, triumphant: we were an expression exploding through the membrane of the world. There was no sweet Lady Desire, no fair Lady Memory. There was only the soul, one soul expressing its freedom in the only way freedom can be expressed. The sound was ecstasy. This was Desire. From my vantage atop the rising sounds I was helpless to its awesome power as the clamorous vibrations shot through my body. My insides ricocheted with the force. One final rising of sound, one last charge of glorious music: and then the rapture is gone. Plink plink plink says the piano.
Sallow yellow lights grab me and I'm torn back into the cacophonous reality of pale smoke and vodka. The lustrous black suited men still laugh in their corners. The scotch and soda is still sipped with a look of suppressed discontent. The hoary-headed bartender sees me staring and slaps a soiled rag in his hand, enunciating, "What's it going to be then, eh?" I smile wide at his smirking face and lift my vodka. The rapture is still in my head, ascending from reality to super-reality, to Paradise and beyond. I think of the rapture even as I draw the pistol from my jacket. "Music," I whisper. He frowns, confused, and holds his rag in one hand. I expect this and nod. How could he see what I had seen when I had ascended the mountain of music? I had been borne from the inferno of discord to the heavens of clamoring harmony. This reality I had fallen to was no feat of triumph: it was the submission of the sound. It was the soul fading with a dying decrescendo. It was defeat.
The pistol tastes slightly more metallic than the alcohol but I'm hardly thinking of that. I think only that the strike of the hammer sounds like a kettledrum.