Denzel is in my kitchen.

My bass is there too; on the floor,
sitting in its thousand dollar hard case.
I don’t remember leaving it there.

The instrument is out of tune. If you were to ask me,
when was the last time I played it, I wouldn’t know what
to tell you. I squint, and sight down the length of the neck.
I spot-clean ‘the filthy frets with a wet paper towel.


* * *


“Nice day, right?” Denzel says.

“Holy freaking Moses… How’d you get here?”

“Same way you did.”

“Garage door?”

“No, the Holy Spirit.”

“Oh.”

I don’t know what else to say.

So I say,

“I love your work in the film Fallen …”

“Thanks.”


* * *


I sit on a stool next to the Formica, and tune my bass.
I try to play the bass line to that old classic rock song
called Whipping Post.

Denzel says. “My, that’s fine.”

“Rhythm’s off,” I say. “Do you play?”

“not much anymore.”

I play an “A” harmonic at the twelfth fret.

I try the famous Berry Oakley bass line again.

“Sure enough,” Denzel says.


* * *

My bass feels foreign and unwieldy, as if I’d never
been a player.

Many months have flown, since I last touched it.

Or is it years?

I can’t remember. I’ve been having problems.
Standing up.

Differentiating memory from dream.

I want to sleep all the time.

Everything bleeds together.

It’s so hard to remember anything specific.

Except that I was in the bathroom not five minutes
before, studying on the act of slashing my neck.

Standing over the toilet, that Slough of Despond,
I clutched a razor blade in one hand, probing for
the carotid, the jugular, with the other. My finger tips
found the spots. My mind flew to a vision of
bullfrogs’ bellies swelling.


* * *

In the mirror above the sink, I stared at my reflection:
a child wizened by pain, ensconced in his fugue state,
who waits for a cure out of all proportion to the affliction.
I strayed so deep into that mirror: my cheeks whiskered
as winter wheat. My eyes pulsing like eddies in a pool.
The pupils, those windmills turning, turning.

Backing out of that mirror, I wondered. Is this really the face
of a stranger? Of an enemy? The face, Big as life.
That hates?

So much blood, the mind cannot maintain, reduced to
the jerky fast flux shutter speed of Crime Photo montage,
to the demarcation between all we forget and everything seen;

blood flooding the floor. Someone pounding on a door.

Slushy steps of those poor unfortunates. The loved ones,
the clean-up crew; people who’ve forgotten.
People who never knew.


* * *

I couldn’t hold on to that razor blade; it slipped
from my fingers and clattered on the tiles.

I retrieved the blade, and wrapped it in a wet paper towel.


* * *

I’m in my kitchen, with a nascent desire.

to live.

To play my bass.

My life comes rushing back, whenever I pick up my bass.


* * *

I hear footsteps.

Look up; it’s Denzel.

“Don’t let me interrupt,” Denzel says.

Wnoa … this cannot be my imagination…
… right?”

“A minute ago you were imagining your own murder…”

“that’s over now.”

“But I’m still here.”

I turn again, to my bass.


* * *


“Ever been to Los Angeles?” Denzel asks.

The artist is munching a chunk of smoked salmon he
found in my fridge. He grips what’s left of the fish
like a grizzly bear standing over a stream.

Denzel chews, and swallows. He’s making the “nom nom”
sounds of the famished-becoming-satiated.

“I passed through L.A. once, on a Greyhound,” I say.

“My dog,” Denzel says. “I’ve ridden it.”

“Really?”

“Damn Skippy. New York to New
Mexico, one stretch.”

* * *

Denzel raises a cup of ice-cold coffee.

He blows on it.

Smiles that Denzel Smile.

“So what was in New Mexico?”

“A movie set in Roswell.”


* * *

I try to play In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,
the melody and bass line simultaneously.

It’s tricky. My fingers tremble, and stumble,
my musical reach exceeding grasp.

Denzel studies me.

“I don’t want you to see this. I don’t want you
to hear,” I tell Denzel.

“Go easy,” Denzel says, swallowing the last
of his salmon snack. “Just breathe, and go
easy on yourself. Tap the strings. Let part of
your mind forget what the other is doing.”

“I thought you don’t play anymore...”

Denzel sighs a little. “It seems weird,” he says, “but you
can do it. Close your eyes. Like prayer. Now you’re praying.
You got it, player.”


* * *

I see Denzel in profile, guzzling the cup
of cold coffee, like one of those old Coke
commercials, his Adam’s Apple rippling
rhythmically.

“How about some Life cereal?”

“I’m good,” Denzel says. “Please ...
keep playing.”

“you mean praying?”

“Ha. Good one, son.”

Denzel’s face, a few feet from mine.

Studying.

Smiling.

Such warmth, in that smile.

* * *

I nail the Elizabeth Reed middle section,
all the way to Duane Allman’s solo.

I can’t play Duane’s part; there’s no way.

“It just gets weird from here,” I tell Denzel.

“Lord, Jesus, I do remember,” Denzel says.

I recall my fingers toward the Coda, which only
repeats the Intro.

I look up, as Denzel is turning.

“Keep on praying,” Denzel says. “It’s good
to be seen by you.”


* * *

I can’t see Denzel anymore.

I place my Gretsch acoustic bass back
in its plush purple case on the floor.

I click shut the latches; and leave everything.


* * *

The hallway is empty.

The doorbell rings.
Then it rings some more.

I pull open the door.

“Hello?” I say.

Can’t be sure, but I fear I may be
the Spirit here. It seems weird, I’m
sorry, sorry I knew the instant
Denzel appeared.


“WAIT!” …

Denzel.

My man.

I want to follow; yet there’s no entering
that quarter, that sphere. Even for the dead
there are demarcations. There are borders.


It’s not right I used to be a fan.

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