When she walked through the empty house, ghosts walked with her and whispered to her of happy days and perseverance and that subtle untouchable quality of moments only imagined. You could never know whether the lives within these old walls were good ones. Did they love each other? Was there music? And who picked out this linoleum and said: This is what I want my children’s feet to walk across. Because she knew there had been children. There, in a dusty corner, a forgotten shoe lay like an abandoned daydream. The child who had fumbled to tie the sodden laces was long gone. He might be all grown up by now, with a home and a child and linoleum of his own. Perhaps his memories of life in this house were nothing but faded blurs, like photographs left in the sun. Or perhaps he chose not to remember because sometimes the past hurts too much. She was here now in his place, and although the rooms were empty and echoing, she felt like an intruder. The sounds of her progress through these forgotten spaces were loud in the stillness, making her intrusion as harsh and unnatural as a barrage from invading cannons. It felt wrong to be here, but this place was hers. She could either claim it and erase the dim echoes with curtains and carpets, or she could surrender it to the hours and years, this place would molder and rot and crumble until, forgotten by the world – even forgotten by its ghosts – it was erased from the world entirely. Maudlin thoughts on such a day. A stranger had died, and now she stood in a home that was not hers. The ghosts within this space were not her own. She left the child’s shoe on the ground. (14 June 2013)
#2) "Smile like you mean it" - The Killers
“You don’t have to buy it. You just have to sell it,” the director reminded us.
It should have been so simple to imbue a feeling of heartache and remorse to the piece he’d selected. It was a requiem – a general gnashing of teeth before a divine entity that I neither believed in nor wanted to envision. Wasn’t death enough heartache without comforting the bereaved with assurances of heavenly judgment and retribution? I just couldn’t understand the appeal.
Still, there was something attractive about the wild despair of the music. I couldn’t deny it. It was appealing in a disturbing way, that self-indulgent breast-beating and keening spectacle. A requiem. Such power, and such helplessness. The staggering fear that accompanies our inevitable ends and the unknown chasm that awaits us. That was not a difficult emotion to capture or communicate.
The faith was the problem. That trembling, fervent belief that Jehovah would ride a flaming chariot over the souls of the departed and somehow cast them down even more. Eternal damnation and eternal salvation were too strange for me to grasp. Did fear of death translate automatically to fear of all that was unknown about the afterwards? Could any choir sing of salvation in such terrible octaves of joy and terror and somehow mean it?
The requiem ended with a benevolent whisper – a promise of release from care and pain. This was the hardest part. More than kettle drum booming and trembling soprano cries, it was the message of forgiveness and love that tripped me up most. This was where faith was hardest. Could I believe that death brought such ecstatic bliss? Could I bring that quiet assurance to an audience with any real feeling?
“Smile like you mean it,” the director commanded. So I did.(30 June 2013)