Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's Your Name?

“The party begins at ten, after the reading”, said Yagel on the phone. “Come in a costume, in the spirit of the holiday”.
The host then explained how to get to the venue. He described an atypical building on Imber Street. The sand beneath its foundation was apparently shifting, due to the subterranean action of the river. The tenement was collapsing. It had been evacuated and slated by the local authorities for demoli­tion.
“When you see it”, Yagel said, “listen out for the music and follow your ears to number 18. Apartment 7. Third floor. No elevator”.
Elsa heard Yagel go on to list the names of other friends whom he’d invited, planned to invite or was in two minds about inviting: Irena, Jasmine, Roy and Sabina, Tom, Tom’s cousin Caryn “out here from Toronto for the festival”, Rona, Reeva, Guy. But Elsa had stopped listening. Distracted, she lay in a supine position on her bed in her apartment on Aggripas Street, scrutinizing the moons under her manicured fingernails in the light of the bedlamp, reflecting on what costume she’d go to the party dressed up in.
Elsa arrived outside the door to the apartment after ten, late. The glasses of wine she’d drunk at the reading had taken effect. The Persian narrative had compounded her state. Each time they’d read the name of the malevolent anti-hero, a deafening cacophony erupted from all present, blotting it out. Breathless after climbing three flights of stairs to get to apartment 7 on the third floor, she’d been puzzling over why no music could be heard. Had her sense of hearing been dulled? Her host had said on the phone last week that the music would be loud. Shrugging, she pressed the buzzer. Nothing happened. Her hearing was dull. She tried again. Just then, the stairwell light timed out, plunging the landing into darkness.
“Ya-gel”, singsonged Elsa, bringing her flushed face close to the door. “The horn blower arriveth to awaken ye all from slumber so that ye may rediscover your true identities and crack your false dress code.”
No answer.
Elsa reached toward the landing light switch glowing in the dark and then raised a curved ram’s horn slung around the white gown she was wearing. “Here cometh a prolonged blast to usher in your liberation from falsehoods”, declared the host’s friend.
She took a deep breath, hoisted the instrument to her lips, and closed her eyes. A lugubrious wailing tone resonated for an eternity on Imber Street.
Elsa expelled the last air from her lungs, successfully reaching a high note as a flourish. Suddenly, lightheadedness overcame her. Phosphanes swam in her vision. She pulled her bluish lips away from the horn and gasped for breath. The landing swung out from under her feet. Was she collapsing? In anguish, the partygoer felt herself plunging from a terrific height. Had the building collapsed? That was it! She’d gone into the wrong building! She was inside the building slated for demolition that Yagel had referred to when giving directions! She’d confused it with Imber Street 18! She’d drunk too much to differentiate. How careless! Didn’t she see the danger signs? Why doesn’t she ever listen?!

Sounds of African-American gospel-jazz rushed in to fill the vacuum.

Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho
And the walls came tumbling down

Had the blast of her horn brought down the building? Hip hop now usurps the gospel-jazz; rap, hip hop; house, rap; trance, house. A strobe flashes. An oil lamp rotates. Projectors shine red, green and yellow beams of light into the void, fleetingly illuminating the face of a master horn blower falling out of the sky, a ram’s horn trailing behind her on a sling. The door to apartment 7 suddenly yields and the young woman falls forward, sprawling onto a parquet floor festooned with tinsel.
“Here, grab a hand”, shouts someone above the reggae, extending a hand from the crutches supporting him. Elsa sees two legs swathed in thick layers of plaster. Names are inked all over: Irena. Jasmine. Roy. Sabina. Caryn. Rona. Reeva. Guy. Elsa grabs the hand.
“I’m Tom,” says her champion, introducing himself and pulling her up, “but tonight I’m Love on the Rocks. And this here is my cousin Caryn who is Toronto’s best dancer. I’m always completely objective. What’s your name?”



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