The lights are always dim in the club basement, only for them it’s not a basement at all, they like to call it a theatre, but in their hearts they feel it is home. Many of the clumsy, gangly, insecure teens forget all their worries and doubts and anger once they descend the wooden stairs that lead to the basement, because he awaits them there. And he tells them they’re young and beautiful, life is beautiful, love is beautiful and they have nothing to fear. He’s probably as old as their parents, but he speaks to them as equals, fellow passengers in the great adventure called life. He’s not there to rebuke or preach or warn. Or maybe he does warn, he warns of a fate worse than death, a fate reserved to all those who are blind to the beauty that surrounds them or too weak to claim what is rightfully theirs.
No one is alone once they make their way downstairs, the others try to make room for the latecomers and they huddle together on the wooden benches surrounding the improvised scene. If not, they can sit on the scene itself, trying to take up as little space as they can. He doesn’t mind to share the limelight with them, he doesn’t need much space after all, for all he needs is his microphone. All his magic is in his voice and his words. And the music, of course. That goes without saying. That’s how most of them got there in the first place - the club where there’s this cool music. The words and the feelings came after. That was long ago, most of them are now regulars, they know each other if not by name at least by fame - the girl with the green eyes, the hippie with the mane of a rockstar, the guy with the bluest eyes every girl dreams of or the dude in fatigues, always drunk, but so very quiet.
All the hushed conversations die down the moment the lights go out and the throbbing rhythms fill the room.
‘Come together’ - heads start banging, hands are clasped in the dark - ‘Right now’ - shoulders encircled by timid arms, kisses stolen quickly before he arrives - ‘Over Me’ - a single light draws a circle right in the middle of the stage and there he is. Just a guy in faded jeans, long hair streaked with grey and dark eyes with a hint of mischief.
He’s not just another actor, he is the only actor, their actor. He could play any part, any theater would have him, but he chose to be theirs, slowly dripping poetry into their lives and beauty in their souls. The kids love him because he’s never boring or pompous or pedantic. He’s sometimes ironic or sarcastic and they laugh at his little jokes an outsider would never get. But that’s not often. After all, he’s there to talk about love and his voice gets dreamy, speaking not to their ears, but their souls - and that’s where they hear him, the knot at the top of the stomach getting tighter. Maybe because his poems are so beautiful that it hurts, maybe because they understand love hurts, even though most of them are too young to have felt real love. But they squeeze the hand of their beloved a bit tighter, just in case. Not for long, though, for he is not there to fill their ears with sweet nothings - and his voice grows deeper, he’s serious now, it’s let’s talk about real shit time. Truth, justice, hard work and days of slumber, war and peace, the beauty in the complex workings of the human brain just as magnificent as the beauty of the leaves of grass. They breathe in each and every word, knowing that when the lights come back they will walk out transformed and wherever the road will take them they’ll never walk alone, for the actor has vowed he’ll always walk with them.
‘You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you’.
This is not really a piece of fiction, but a poor attempt at writing about my youth, for I had the privilege of being there in that theater, many many nights. For the record, I must say that to my ears ‘Song of Myself’ will always sound better in Romanian.
Story written for @mariannewest's freewrite challenge, today's prompt was: come together! Check out her blog and join our freewrite community.
Thanks for reading!