Reels of tape

He walked through the ivy covered gate, filled so high with anxiety that it nearly choked his voice to silence. He spluttered: “Here to see the Lady, err, errr (suddenly stands straighter, mops his brow and frowns a little. Kids himself that composure has been gained) Mr Lamb, Tom Lamb.”

The gate opened with a light hum from the machines reeling. It always opened at such a sombre pace.

His heart beat with the pounding of his steps. So loud. All his movements were clattering against the earth. He wanted to move with grace, swift as a fox and as alert as a rabbit, chest beaming like a lion walking before his pride. But of course really he was just a frightened puppy, ambling along in leaps and falls. Like everyone else. Only when he’s washing the porch and playing the guitar does time tick slower. Or when he’s woozily drunk on Tennssee’s finest, of course. Lamenting the problems of his relationship, his woman lost, woman yearned for, his blind old dog and the creaky floors – all through the mask of the world’s temperamental weather. A pathetic fallacy, his life, his good, old darn life. This game, this game. What was he doing?

He shook as he stood outside her door, with a camera in his hand and a dictaphone in his pocket. He was a hack, a journo. a tiger with meat between his jaws. A puppy. Everyone thought he was as hard as they came, had a spike by his desk and one next to the toaster in his home. Ready to crash his personal attachments through the point of no return, like that of a space wasting story on a cat returning after twenty days living in trailer park someplace east. But of course, he was as soft as butter on a sunny day.

Today the story was too much. Over the edge. But he had to do it. She’d done it, she’d killed herself. The movie star, the angel, the girl. She’d left this world for someplace he couldn’t imagine, yet if he was truly honest, would say he thought he glimpsed sometimes, when the night had that feel. Tingling, from every point. When just breathing in, makes the everything clearer. He imagines she is there.

But she has left her body here, for him to see, to report on, to tell the world. That silly book he was writing about her. When… ya know.

‘Private’ was its name. Because the ‘real’ her was gated, padlocked, with wild horses, zebras and ferocious dogs wildly patrolling. No one knew her. But there were lies. And an ‘image’. She wanted a writer to speak the truth and they’d found each other that night in that bar. His woman was lost, Tennessee water was his escape to memories and solace. She was sad. Terribly sad. And full of champagne. They’d met and discussed until the air became as clear as their heads, then ran in the storm.

It hadn’t been romantic until the end. Even then it wasn’t romance. The book was ending and he was interviewing her. His dictaphone on. She was more honest than ever before. Maybe because they’d got to the end. She went right from the start, when she was free, to the deep, unmoving sadness that consumed her. Then she looked him in the eye, her own eyes filled with water, and there was some kind of electrifying and true – love. From someplace so deep it hit his stomach and bounced up to his throat. But though his body was shouting louder than he had ever heard, he listened to its rhythm and was more relaxed than he’d ever been. Locked in a stare. Helpless but for this second.

The dictaphone rattled in his pocket, as heavy as the years that sat upon him. Weighted with a love lost, but not fully admitted to. He was 37, a hack, a tiger, a man and a walking breaking heart, about to see the shell of a woman, silenced. Only his dictaphone held the captured inner beauty of this being, but he knew he’d never be able to articulate it – and people only wanted to know the drama and her beauty. Not about the truth and the quiet love story that never happened, sat in the reel of his dictaphone.

When he got inside, he saw the Detective, whom he recognised, and puffing out his chest he coughed a little, “Oh hi Jack, so do we know what happened?”

“Tom, hello, very sad this, very sad. There’s something for you actually. Errr, I know you were close to her. We can keep it hush and all that.”

Jack passed him an enevelope.

Unsure how he felt about this paper in his hand, he went outside by the fountain that didn’t work and the swimming pool filled with leaves, and considered dropping it in. But of course, he opened it.

‘Thank You
x’

It said. That’s all.

He looked to the sky and smiled. Then sat there a little while. His heart beating. Alive.

Rewinding the tape, he recorded over her voice and his, the birds tweeting in the background, then progressing to the slow music and glasses chinking at the end. And talking into the dictaphone, he said: “I have decided to leave my job.”

The rest of the tape is filled with songs. And the tapes that folllow are also filled with songs. As the years gallop on, the songs are increasingly followed by loud cheers. To the heavens they must have gone, so loud were the cheers.

No one ever really knew him, old Jack. He said there was only one woman who ever did. But we could all relate to his songs. Yeh, we could.

NOTE: Charlie’s grandpa gave me this dictaphone last time we visited. It’s from one of their friends. Isn’t it a grand old thing? I don’t know about its background, what it’s heard and where its been. But I wrote this little story about where it could have travelled.

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