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01.29.03 11:47 a.m.

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

 -Anais Nin  

Previously in Xenology: Elza was.

Don't Give Up Freedom
Emily and I had heard that Elza was giving a concert relatively nearby. I immediately reserved tickets, out of the sheer faith that Elza is captivating enough that the venue would be filled to capacity if I did otherwise. One must have faith.
If you will note, the turtle has his face.
However, I did lack the faith or self-esteem that Elza would actually remember me. It had been at least a year since last she and I laid eyes on one another and that was ample time to forget a longhaired fan boy with a penchant for smiling like an excited schoolgirl. I'm not precisely certain that I am memorable, save that people tend to know me. Coincidence, I'm sure.
Emily and I arrived a trifle late to the concert, having been sidetracked by my older brother's second party. This one was actually in his apartment and featured a great deal of very unhealthy yet overwhelmingly delicious foodstuffs and an ice cream cake featuring a Dan-faced turtle. They are almost extinct in North America and can only thrive by resting of the shoulders of North American Dans, of which there are several.
As we disembarked Plabo, Emily inquired if the brightly lit lass glowing a raspberry hue on-stage was Elza. Last time I saw Elza, she was more blueberry toned but otherwise I could confirm it was none other than the songstress.
We entered the cafe, far more interested in mellifluous surfer girls and warmth than the night that was nippy in the same sense that piranhas are. The owner seemed baffled and a little frenzied so I soothed him with a quick, "I have reservations," and found a table.
Elza was quite a bit better than last I saw her. This is not to say that she was anything approaching the ever pejorative and concise "bad" when last I saw her. Merely that what I had considered a very fuzzy and cute caterpillar to whom I felt warmly had, while I had my back turned, metamorphoses into one of those fiendishly spectacular butterflies with the wings of fire opal.
I did my best to keep my overfond whispers to a minimum, as I wished to keep my darling girlfriend who would drive me home. Emily is well aware that the singing of folk singers weaves a spell over me that can turn me into a puddle of peach goop. Luckily, I was still cold enough that I retained my shape, though I was soft and jiggly, a bit like gelatin. Slightly less transparent, I should hope.
Elza, glowing grape
Elza, glowing cranberry
When Elza is singing, she luminescence the energy of the rapt audience as they sit with eyes like mirrors. I know that, owing to the colored lights pouring from above, the audience is little more than faceless shadows to her, but she exudes the warmth of singing to an old friend. Her music is deeply personal, not only that she writes and sings of her life and struggles, but that her songs are that rare kind that seem to be sung to the audience not for it. When she sang I'll Carry You, she seemed on the edge of tears and the audience was wholly silent. She returned from the piano and launched into a cheerful song, yet it was the same essence of music. Neither song epitomized Elza's style, yet both her distinctly her. Also, she is a young Joni Mitchell before the latter went crazy and decided folk songs required elaborate orchestration.
I find it jarring to realize that my relationship with Elza, my very knowledge of her existence, is anchored by the tiny event of Katie, Stevehen, and I deciding to go to the Cubbyhole one night rather than sit of Katie's sofa and watch "The Powerpuff Girls" as had become our habit. We had no knowledge that the Cubbyhole contained anything other than surprisingly good, though overpriced, chai tea. I was caught surprised upon hearing the wafting strains of a folk version of a song from Peter Pan. I grabbed Katie by the sleeve and pulled her to find the source of this sound and was greeted with a passionate woman on the Cubbyhole's four-foot stage, paying for tips. I was instantly captivated by her, though I couldn't place precisely was made her so special. She sang beautifully, of course. As I later found out, she had won awards as an opera singer in her youth. As much of a literary cop-out this may seem, she bore energy about her that was both intoxicating and invigorating. After her set that first night, I blushingly approached her and bought a CD that she signed to "Zen." I didn't mind in the least. We ended up talking for a bit, though my brain was too violently happy to remember the actual words. I knew when she hugged me in parting that we were friends of sorts.
After precious few songs, Elza left the stage. People approached her, though I hung shyly back for fear that I would find I had been forgotten. Emily goaded me on and assured me I was nothing vaguely like forgettable. I walked up to where Elza was standing and vibrated to one of those pleasant dimensions with the friendly, primary colored animals as I heard Elza exclaim, "ZEN! ZEN! ZEN!" (The "Z" was very explicit.)
Elza and I  
Elza and I
"Elza! How are you? You were... so good." I stuttered out. You'll note that my vocabulary erodes when I am nervous.
"Thanks! Did you hear? I dedicated a song to you on the radio! The song you liked so much?" she enthused.
"You did?!" I blushed, "I... I didn't hear it. But I am so flattered! So flattered." I really was flabbergasted. I was expecting to have to jog her memory as to how I knew her and she performs such a gesture. I don't think I breathed for the duration of our conversation. Nor did I remember to introduce Emily properly though I felt like I had her sleeve in a vice grip.
Elza seemed disappointed that I had not heard her dedication to me, as was I, and asked how I had been. Elza doesn't really know much about my life, I fear. I told her at a show once years ago that her CD was the music to which I felt better after my break-up with Kate. I'm not wholly sure this was the appropriate thing to have said at that time. This night, I merely confided that I had been writing a lot. This was both true and vague enough that it seemed like a comfortable area.
"Did you know? I am going to move to California," she stated. She seemed a bit nervous about the subject.
"Oh." Now was my time to be a bit disappointed. I suppose I had somewhat taken for granted that Elza was relatively a regional phenomena, despite the fact that she is going to have her song featured on an ABC television show and has played at Kevin Costner's parties. But L.A. is where she can find her destiny. "Besides," she confessed, "I am a surfer girl and I have been too long from the waves."
I got over my selfishness and wished her well, though I did state that I would miss seeing her shows.
We returned to our seats for the next group. I was initially biased against them, because I had seen what I had come to see and wanted the experience to stand on its own. They were twins who sang in harmony. I acknowledge that this could be an interesting effect, or it could be quite horrendous.
There music was a trifle like Pagan music. For those of you not so blessed as to have heard the majority of Pagan music, is tends to be resonant, with abuse of woodwinds and bongo drums, and about shrubbery. It is often, though with exceptions, so truly vapid as to inspire me to destroy all evidence that I had ever possessed it. This music was not bad, though it was initially hard to adjust my ear from Elza's folk guitar to identical women playing different instruments (a flute and bongo drums, incidentally). However, they broke into a song about Pablo Neruda, of whom I have been fond for years, so I decided that they were not like Pagan music for they had expressed knowledge and content. Emily quite liked them immediately, as this music struck a chord within her.
However, what made them most interesting to me was when, in deciding their final song and how it should be sung, they began to chitter and melodically purr to one another. It was quite clearly a language. It was the ever fascinating Twin Language, which I have always envied.
I wish I had a separate language that sounded like a songbird's call.

Soon in Xenology: Stevehen. Kate.

last watched: Ginger Snaps
reading: The Salmon of Doubt
listening: Elza
wanting: magick.
interesting thought: I hug people in whom I feel the pulse of fate.
moment of zen: feeling how small Elza is.
someday I must: feel my own pulse.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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