A conductor tenses his baton. A cellist draws her bow.
In an opera box, the man doomed to love checks his breath.
The initial thrum only shocks the spine, but there is a next—and a next—and a next—all plucking at and plundering the white nerves within. He seizes, his knees splay, the clean line of him shredding underneath her assault. Leads sweat, and spark. Vision blurs. An aging body slathers itself with the heat of Pavlovian memory.
The Elgar. Their concerto. Of some twenty, muted years.
He twists the leather glove to restrain his hands from conducting her, from molding her, from beseeching her for that final encore. The fierce abstinence bulges and quivers his neck like the slim reed between her fingers. Those instruments of torment, slashing across his back and chest. How she had bruised and bludgeoned him.
In her pretty dress.
With her pretty, pretty song.
Scars split their seams, and the liquid adagio of a sluggish heart courses into his autumnal skin. Blood surging faster than notes. Sweet delusions, the speed of light.
Their first concert.
Applause like firecrackers.
Her hot kiss on his ear.
The dressing room after.
A crashing of cymbals.
The long reverberation.
An orchestra throbs its gorgeous agony.
He is on point. Vibrato.
Her writhing stokes a golden frenzy about her shoulders as she rocks and inflames the wood between her thighs. A house of longing straddles her strings. She opens her worldly eyes. And smiles at her maestro.
The man doomed to love bites hard on the leather.
And tastes her skin.
Crying out, he lurches to his feet. The cancer of his need wrests him back, back. Back past his wife with her chorus of tears, back past his friends with their requiem faces, back past the velvet shroud . . . back . . . back . . .
Back to somewhere before.
When he was his instrument.
And she was his song.
Find the Second Movement here.
[Cello: Jacqueline du Pré; Conductor and husband: Daniel Barenboim; video courtesy of markvogue]