The Background Hum of Love

The sun is full in my face, warm, and the twin breezes are blowing down the street, chill. To my left, a stall sells a clear kind of juice with too many leaves crowning it, mint and the such. Presently, a child and her grandfather hold two of the glasses, both laughing with the prospect of having to navigate the prickly jungle which screens the sweet drinks themselves. Sweat is on every one's brow but only a light coat; summer has not begun in earnest and the Orange Market's aromas and smokes have not yet stifled the southern parts of the City completely. I smile and laugh along with them, and so does a woman leaning on a pillar, watching the familial comedy as it unfolds alongside me. I smile at her as well and she smiles back and something passes between us and for a moment, I am filled with the very direct manifestation of the love that I constantly feel for my City. Love, for me, is like a background noise; it's constantly there, humming along, but whether triggered by my emotional cycles or by a circumstance such as seeing a pretty woman smile in mirth (let's say) my mind from time to time dives into the hum. There, it snags upon some crescendo or other and my love (for the City, for my friends, for eating a good dessert, for having a good drink) surges to the fore, all triumphant and yet strangely and endearingly small and intimate.

I squint in the way that only I can squint and metaphor breaks down. Swimming inside the fog between realities, signifier and signified dance a lurid, beguiling dance, and who can tell the dancer from it? The rays of sun become solid, molten gold as they fall from a heaven literally and figuratively populated with many armed angels singing a divine choir. The girl sinks into her own alcove, a space left in reality by her laughter and love, sending thin, purple-tinged tendrils towards her grandfather. He in turn, the glass in his hand exuding its cool in undulating waves of deep sable, painting the street/vein with its exuberance, sends his own waves of stewardship towards her. The woman, still smiling at me, pulsates with her own rhythm, crimson waves hinting to me that she might be just as interested in me as I in her. And, I'm sure, I present my own vibrant visage, my own stained glass window which flickers in the realms of what could have been and what might yet be, a place which, to my knowledge, only I can trade in. There is a scent on the wind which draws my attention, the background hum of love increasing slightly in tempo as my nostrils catch it. Ah, Herr Sacher is here with me and with him the ludicrous, alluring scent of sachertorte. In this moment, awash in the intersection between love, desire, attraction, gluttony, reality, meaning, syntax, possibility and, finally and always, will, I am happier than I can recall myself being. My stained glass window, unavailable to me forever, or at least I had not yet found a mirror that would reflect it, must be vividly glowing or strangely at peace. Such is the duality of man's happiness.

As I think this, however, a discordant note is strung from everywhere and I fumble slightly. The waves of noise spread through the afternoon and, try as I might to fumble after them and somehow undo them like so many escaped cats into a large bag, they go on, permeating everything. The woman's gaze at me turns voracious, something of the predator tainting her brown eyes. The grandfather takes a step towards his granddaughter, suddenly leering at anyone who passes by, overprotective. The granddaughter, in kind, draws deeper into her alcove, clothing herself in the secrets of childhood which her very flesh exudes. For that briefest moment I can feel love surging within me and twisting, reaching an unhealthy height, grabbing onto my heart and squeezing, setting it ablaze within my chest. And then, just like that, just as it rang out on the street and churned everything, the discordant note disappears. But not entirely. Something of it is left behind, even as the laughter of the child returns to do battle with it, it remains. My eyes are inexorably drawn towards the other side of the street and a figure which stands there, clothed in a tan trench coat, even though the heat of summer already has at least one finger around the day. I'd swear the man was not there a moment ago but there he stands: cigarette lit and held between pasty, elongated fingers, hat drawn low over a sharp face, darkness roiling off of him as though he were his own air conditioned unit, its engine turning violently against the ease and mirth of the day. He takes a long draw from the cigarette and, too precise to be a coincidence, crosses the street towards me just as I try to break my gaze from him. As if it is, it is too late; suddenly, he is in front of me and I can look into his eyes, shaded as they are by his broad hat. The eyes pierce right through me, ringing here in the space between letters, in the space created by an unfinished line, radiating with the cold heat of the stars themselves.

He smiles. "Edmund Doublebreeze, I presume?" He asks, his voice as smooth and slow as molasses, some foreign accent on his tongue, an accent so indescribably from elsewherethat it might as well have been from nowhere. "Don't answer" he continues, before I can even form a sound in my throat "I don't have timefor your inane chicanery". He spits that word, "time", as it is a curse taught to him by an ancestor long gone, as if it was a word he both uses regularly and utterly despises, a word which can only be translated by the gut, by the visceral part in us that reacts to manifestations of death or rot. "Mr. Doublebreeze, I am here on behalf of certain parties" this word uttered here with a sleek amount of elegance, the oil to the above's fire "to send you a message. You might consider it a warning, if you are so inclined. Mr. Doublebreeze, I have been paid by said parties" here uttered with the sly admiration one has for a rich man offering to purchase your very soul "to be frank and so, as I am a professional, I shall be. Your galavanting across town has become excessive. For ocean's sake man, you've given an interview to a journalist!" This word spat with utmost derision, hot and messy. "Did you think no one would notice? Did you think you were the only one who was..." a slight pause as the man, here in this space beyond syntax and vocabulary, considered his words "sensitive to these peculiarities? My word, you did! Don't be an idiot, Mr. Doublebreeze". He paused again, taking another draw of his cigarette. This time, one of the fingers holding it had a golden ring inscribed with an image of a lighthouse on it. Before I could speak, struck numb as I was by his speech and its revelations, he went on "I really do hate idiots. In any case, back to the point: limit yourself, will you Mr. Doublebreeze? Have some decorum, for crying out loud. That's all my employers" delicately phrased as to make them sound more like partners or acquaintances, certainly no one with any real authority over him "ask of you. Lower your profile. Or they will lower it for you, yes?"

The dangling question mark alighted in his eyes, the stars therein dancing with anticipation of the sidereal atrocities they might commit on my person should I refuse to lower said profile. Just like that, the promise of the threat was gone and the man seemed diminished, his countenance and aspect much reduced. As was the street around me, now hunkering back to the simple plane of existence where words meant clear things and semantics and syntax were still in the early stages of their marriage, happy and cooperating with ease. I realized with shock that he had taken us back. I had not felt the breeze shift; I had not stepped back and yet, without even so much as the slightest push, this man had sent us both back to stable reality. After a brief moment of silence, where I was sure he read my surprise and chuckled internally at it, he concluded: "Well then. That is all I have been paid for now to say or do. Next time we meet, I'm sure our mutual...friends" here pronounced as one would pronounce wolves or hunters "will dig deeper into their slush funds and we would have to have a more extended conversation. Oh, I nearly forgot" he exclaimed and withdrew a note book and elegant pen from some side pocket "I have also been tasked with carrying back your response. They did not pay the premium however so please, keep it short. What have you to say, Mr. Doublebreeze?" I took a deep breath and surveyed the street around me, which seemed none the wiser to this rather alarming conversation. The woman had gone and I cursed inwardly; a night of pleasure wasted. The child and grandfather had moved on, sipping on their finally-accessible drinks. The winds had calmed down some what, moving from a beat akin to a friend newly-visiting to that of one sitting in their usual seat. The background hum of love was there, of course, but distant, muted underneath the veil of shock that the past few moments had delivered. I breathed in again, because I could tell my delay was annoying him and I wanted nothing more in that moment than to annoy him, and said:

"I need a fucking drink".

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