Macy moved forward, down along the dark tunnel. Feeling his presence behind her, hearing his shuffling rubber-soled shoes dragging, his breathing laboured and yet deep with occasional muffled grunts and sighs. And his scent preceded him, drifting into her nostrils—musty, sweet and fermented from immeasurably long hours of undergrounding.
She moved along without knowing — without awareness of the wheres or the whens or the whys. Stumbling forward without purpose or an end. And as she did, the damp stone walls seemed to breathe in and out as she traveled, pressing in towards her, opening up and then pressing in on her again.
Her eyes struggled to find focus, something that might be a beacon to blunder towards and yet there was nothing but darkness and the sounds and the smells of the cool damp underground surroundings. And so they went on. . . down and down . . . into the ground, blood, stone and bone. . . alone.
As they moved forward into the darkness, the air became even more damp and cool. He began to sing the words to a tune that she seemed to know from long ago.
“Steady woman won’t you come on down? I need you right here on the ground.”
He was so close behind her that she could feel his breath on the back of her neck and was electrified by the occasional light touch of his hand on her shoulder and lower back. Eventually the incline of the tunnel leveled and she began to perceive the glimmer of a cool white light in the blackness ahead.
“I’ve walked the outskirts of this town. Been terrorized by what I’ve found.”
Slowly they approached the light and as they drew closer, it flickered and sputtered off and then on again several times and she realized that it was set in the wall above a dark wooden doorway. The tunnel widened at that point and he moved past her, fumbling with a set of keys. She could see that he was nervous and distracted and realized that perhaps this was a moment where she could make a run for it and dash back through the long tunnel into the sunlight above. But she didn’t.
Eventually he found the key he needed and the door creaked as it opened inward into the room. He stepped into the dark room ahead of her and then turned to face her from within. He grinned as she stood straight and still outside the door, his face etched by the harsh white light from above the doorway.
She knew that by following him into the room she would provide her tacit consent to enter his world.
She remained frozen. Her brain screamed, “run!” and yet every muscle in her body quietly vibrated and she was drawn towards this murky muddy man. He cocked his head like a dog, smiled and then turned his back to her, walking over to a long wooden table that ran along the length of the wall to the right of the entrance. He struck a match, lit a dusty lantern and spoke again.
“I saw a standing virgin bride where holy Dionysus died. She tore the heart out from his side and laid it there and there she cried.”
She was mesmerized.
“Whoa,” he muttered and sat down slowly on a worn wooden desk chair that swiveled as he turned. His gaze took in her entire body and he slowly licked his lips.
As he passed his tongue along his upper lip Macy took several slow steps forward and entered the room. To her left she could see rumpled sheets on a cot along the wall to her left. She walked over and sat down on the edge of the thin mattress and faced him in the chair. She raised her hand and clutched her blouse together at the neck. He leaned forward and she whispered,
“Hello. I’m a monster too. What poisons me is what poisons you. Into these animals we grew. But when we were young our eyes were blue.”
He continued to gaze at her intently. Then he sighed and closed his eyes.
“I take my medicine on my knee, twice a day but lately three. It keeps the devil from my door and it makes me rich and it makes me poor.”
Eyes still closed, he pulled his chair closer to her.
“I’m a beggar in the morning, I’m a king at night. My belt is loose, but my trigger is tight.”
And it came without warning at the speed of light. He opened his eyes and she looked into his soul. She could see and feel the depths of his pain but she flew past it and found herself in a place where the earth began and his love was the beginning and the end of all that was true and all that she knew.
He whispered so softly that she could barely hear him,
“Make it shine so pretty, make it shine so bright.”
His shoulders slumped, his head fell forward and his long brown hair covered his face. Then he lifted his head, shook his hair out of his eyes and looked directly into hers.
“I think I’ve come a long, long way to sit before you here today. They’re yours alone, the songs I play, to take with you or throw away.”
Swaying for a moment, he dropped to his knees in front of her and sobbed,
“Oh, I want an angel to wipe my tears, Know my dreams, my hopes, desires and fears.”
She reached forward, brushed his hair back from his face with both her hands and touched his lips with hers,
“We may capsize, but we won’t drown,” she replied
And they held each other as the sun went down.
Jac and Macy’s words to each other are the lyrics to the gorgeous and haunting song Beggar in the Morning by The Barr Brothers.
Image source: Image credit Josef Koudelka