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|Athens (standard:other, 1049 words)|
|Author: Rask Balavoine||Added: Jul 12 2002||Views/Reads: 2289/1||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Saved by Jazz|
ATHENS Jazz draws in through the open window from a bar across the narrow street as the day‘s light begins to disappear; it slices cleanly through the dense, fume-filled, end-of-summer atmosphere. The wooden partition beside the bed muffles the sound of retching from down the hall; a quietness settles in the air followed by the weak, hopeless flush of a toilet and the halting, sporadic trickle of a slowly filling cistern. On the ceiling far above the bed an old, ineffective fan clicks and whirrs and in Enzo's squalid little room the mysteries of suffering and madness begin to mix and curdle one more time. For almost a month Enzo has been lying in the rented room, held tight in the noise and grime of the city. He arrived in a bad way from Corinth on a military bus, all guns and elbows as he remembers it, in the early hours of an October morning, 1974, and sat shivering and cold on a concrete slab near the parliament until things began to bustle up a bit. It was way too early to look for a room at that time of the morning and the bus had been a bad idea - he should have stayed on in Hazy's flat in Corinth, and he might have done that if the idea to leave hadn't come to him in the middle of a fever when he wasn't thinking straight. And he'd had a row with Hazy. On the way to Athens the only way he had of keeping from passing out was to fix on the vague shapes that floated by at odd angles in the dark, and on the flames that shot into the night from distant oil refineries; as he stared and stared someone up near the front of the bus put their head out of the window and puked and it splattered over the window Enzo was sitting beside. He sat and thought about this for a while, concentrating on the open death-mouth of the gun the soldier on his other side was holding loosely across his knees. The gun was pointing straight at him and the soldier's head was thrown back, asleep, with his mouth hanging open just like his gun's. Eventually the sleeping warrior keeled over and slumped himself on Enzo's shoulder giving the only heat he had felt for a long while so he just let the soldier lie on. In the midst of all the foul-smelling taste of mounting fever and disorientation Enzo eventually gave into delirium and came out of it some time later with the vague impression of having been on a boat. By then he was so cold and the bus had stopped and was empty. Even the warm soldier was gone but Enzo was reluctant to move because he knew that moving was going to release all the staleness that had gathered in his mouth. But the driver kept pulling at him and so he got out, all cold and sick and even emptier than the bus. That's where he found the cold concrete slab, and Corinth and Athens and the bus all melted into one terrible nightmare with shivers. So by the end of the day he was in a room in John's Place near the square and John fed him on Aspirin and coffee for a few days and then lost interest, so there's no exact record for him of all that was going on around him or inside. No witnesses. But he still holds tight to impressions which might easily be memories, but on the other hand might just as easily not be. People put blankets over him when he shivered and took them off when he sweated. Water arrived, and pastries filled with spinach. The sheets on the bed were mysteriously dry and clean and fresh after each night of fever. Two nurses - Canadian. Leonard Cohen songs. It was after a week or so of tormented nights and vaguely remembered afternoons that a hand, cool like a touch from heaven, came to him and lifted him just as he was beginning to re-enter the disturbance of dreams and temperatures after a reasonably calm and lucid afternoon. It was a sweetness, real and sublime, and it transported him far from illness and away from the brown of the walls and from the sickness into some other place where logic was warm and a different lucidity held sway. It was like floating, but not on clouds or water. Just floating. Every night since then, as the fever begins to rise and Enzo's senses are sharpened to pain and he becomes newly aware of his troubled body, a time arrives when the pain no longer hurts. That's when Jazz from across the street begins its first trial runs, loose and trailing off and falling apart. Disconnected false starts. The first blind attempts to locate the seat of the pain; looking for nerve endings exposed by disappointment and betrayal and lying ragged and bleeding at street corners. Then the music begins to come together bit by bit. The instruments, the souls and the night correspond ever more closely to each other in preparation for something that promises to be awesome. Anticipation is kept alive but on a low light till later when the master arrives and adds a few practice blasts on the saxophone. He takes a while trying to get into the rhythm ad the mood that the band has been laying down. Sometimes the master sits back a while and lets the band go on alone before stepping up again to declare himself to all creation in a blast which matches exactly the anxiety welling up deep within Enzo's soul. In the tortured night the music wraps itself around Enzo's pain and draws out the poison and sick like a dentist draining an abscess from the base of a long-rotting tooth. Somewhere deep underneath the Jazz the twanging of bouzoukis in the tavernas strackles around the square here tourists come for something traditional, but Enzo is laid beside cool waters. He is plucked from the dark, menacing valley and carried up over hills, up and out of the sick of the city to where the air is clean and easy to breathe, then sleep. Perfect, untormented repose Tweet
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