ACT I – AKSARA
SCENE I. An Apartment, San Francisco.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
-Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
There we sat, not in the kingdom by the sea, but in his own room, the clock on the far wall was clicking unrelentingly thus making such eerie sound reverberating to each nook and cranny; it was rather a peculiar night: still, dissolved like diluted ink, almost disquieting in its serenity.
I was a child and he was a child, though people would address us as mere teens with our blissful and joyous adolescence days, but here we were, not in the kingdom by the sea, with I reading this poem to him. I did not have to make him to listen to my regular reading because he had always been conveniently fascinated by it, maybe it was my voice or somewhere between the verse. I would never know. I liked it when he would be completely captured in my reading, tilting his head to one side without uttering a word, his careful eyes bored into mine, we barely broke the staring-contest just because I had memorized each word by the heart.
When I reminisce to this memory, it was vivid and bright, perfectly clear. Just like a pictureperfect memory, there was only he and I, with the limitations reaching infinity, crystallized in this moment forever. I restored it in the secret box at the back of my head.
I think I have always been romantic, I respectfully refuse to be called as hopeless. Somewhere between the intervals, on one season, when we were in high school, he would tease me that I was hopelessly romantic. Sometimes, probably I was. But that was one of my precious talents, I told him that he would never be over me, and he must had had always adored that part of me. And my poetry reading. I mean, I think I am the best in it and it was him who was lucky to hear me out. Though I had keen interest in language and literature since I-don’t-know-when, I took no pleasure in writing poem and prose. I could not fathom my nebulous mind into proper words—I was not good in making rhyme but my brain was made of scrupulous and rapturous matter, therefore I expressed myself better in performing.
I had the mind and soul as an enchanter not a wordsmith.
We both agreed to Poe’s famous line: ‘the death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world. ‘ I saw the struck of admiration in his face when it came to this certain theme, I did not blame him though, most of people were bound to extricate their own pain from one’s calamity; the tragedy itself somehow awoken something within that absolved us from guilt, unraveling the unquenchable spirit. I myself did not fancy tragedy albeit it never ceased to amaze me that the power of such could acclaim the world’s attention.
I declared my thoughts to him, “I think it is the death of a woman that is loved by one is the most poetical topic in the whole world. “
Of course, said he, smiling, why would Poe mourn had he not loved Annabel Lee? Then he qualified that beauty itself was reasonably a suitable embellishment to every tragedy. “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. “1
I mirrored his smile with my lopsided one. I always knew that the influence which bestowed upon him was anything good to his abrupt and accelerated mind. I think the eloquence of word never disappointed him. And I was more than glad when he stated that Annabel Lee was probably his favorite poem thus far, then I asked him why—I had read for him countless number of poems since that faithful day when we were mere child with very lack of emotional affection regarding the world. Hitherto, when I rewind and rethink about those moments we had, I do not hold on to believing that, perhaps, I considerably was who should take the responsibility for shaping and molding a child’s faith and emotional state; we built some certain accord regarding each other. I am not saying that we are bound to be forever, it is pathetically absurd at this moment: but I was a child and he was a child, and what we shared is more than what we shared together, we were not just the juxtaposition in world’s axis and its symmetry, we would never hesitate in to be or not to be ².
“Well, maybe it’s because I don’t have any difficulty to understand the meaning of it. See, I don’t have to ask you to decipher the message behind it. “
We finally broke that staring-contest as he took my journal containing numerous of famous poetry I had carefully selected for our reading session. He went to every page, scrutinizing each sentence like a pro artist, giving dramatic cringe upon seeing those Shakespearian sonnets which I could definitely comprehend (‘Shall I compare thee to summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate’, there he went, ‘O, I shall compare thou to this another hopelessly romantic human-being.’). He had some certain preferences, so far he had only formed a modest amount of liking in contemporary literature works. Although he was a bright and intelligent person since a child, it was likely for him for taking the benefit of reading such works to chase away the boredom, or rather only to occupy his mind. He was a kind of person that does ‘important’ stuff, counting on such as: school stuff, most recent news and global issues, or maybe I would call them: serious matters. Goodness gracious, that kid did really need a break. I had told him this.
“Don’t you think that we’re having a break time now?” replied he, once I rolled my eyes after he scoffed after Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.
“I am terribly sorry to tell you that,”—please, take this in my most ghastly sarcastic voice—“I do not have my break since this one is my favorite and you cannot mess with it. “
Somehow, it caught my mind when he barely had anything to share with. We attended the same music school and we both played piano though I could see that he never had any interest in learning any instrument but all the children around his age in his family could pull, to the least, some tunes in piano. I joined earlier than him, taking jazz course for a year before moving to learn classical piano. And he always managed to improve himself, he followed the course with great attention though his skill was one degree above mediocrity. Excellency had become an eventual habit rather than a rigorous act for him. Then, I deduced, it was evident that he did not have any passion for art or anything similar.
And I would see him to take time twice longer when being asked by grown-up people around us about what he would like to be, in the end he never gave the same answer each time. For one precious second I simultaneously could see the vibrant longing in his eyes.
However, I was everything he was not, and vice versa. The juxtaposition and all. But if given the chance to mention anything we were and we had, playing piano was one of common similarity we could share to take a rest from the exhaustingly demanding life, if not similar in liking . He was fond of my playing rather than my reading even though I was definitely a prodigy for both. Of course we could not have each day in a week to play some kind of sonata, just like our reading session, we would sneak some time out of those intervals to secure that symmetry between us. Most of on any occasion he refused to play when he saw that I was fit to employ a tune or two, he said that his play would jeopardise everything. And at some other time, in those most tranquil moment the time could offer to us, we would sit shoulder to shoulder, the pair hands of mine became his left and pair of his ones became mine, and words could never really decipher any adequate verb what the synchronicity had become within us. This one thing especially never ceased to baffle me, we were just ordinary yet we had been granted extraordinary things in our life.
I could just spend the day and night pacing back and forth from adagio then going all the way up to andante thus moving even further to allegro, hands dancing according to the rhythm, tunes were caressing the carcasses of stardust in his eyes; we could never make any other perfect harmony than this. We danced, we danced, ‘twill it proved a giddy world. This was what we called the choreography of music, I could hear the notes, he could see the melody. We were tempestuous, we were the unlacking, we were perfect.
All we could see was the black and white of the notes filling up our vision then shortly the vicinity was just a blurry line of monochromaticity. We were moving with grace to one pieces to another, up and down, left to right, back and forth, playing the tempo rather carelessly yet you managed to fathom it in its own accord. It started with modest amount of beauty and a beat, we were always the Petite Suite for the first movements for it was the very first piece we managed to accomplish as one.
One, two, three. One, two, three.
En bateau: Andantino. I could come up from number one to seventeen sonnets of Shakespeare; the Fair Youth lived just two blocks away from my door, I would had had stumbled around him just because I could and he had let me in. Cortége: Moderato. I did not fail to memorise each stanza which depicted just exactly how my Fair Youth was. Menuet: Moderato. I conjured more rhymes and lines, at eighteen I vowed I shall not compare him to summer’s day and it was not the sonnet that preserved his eternal summer, at twenty I recounted as him the master-mistress of my desires that stole men’s eyes and women’s souls as well as he did to mine. Ballet: Allegro giusto. I had dreamt of him during sleepless nights in colors that did not exist, tomorrow was yesterday, we had been reborn to count our way, and I shall breathe his air into my lungs, deep, long.
Four, five, six, seven.
Almost simultaneously we broke the chain of melody, four hands were hung in the air for ultimate two and quarter seconds. I subsequently pressed the note for the first movement of Fantasia. The tempestuous absence of his part made me turn to him. Something troubled him, at the moment I was wondering whether it was okay if I would thumb off the wrinkle between his brows.
“I’ve missed a lot of keys. “
“Have you?” I did not catch his failure during our play and even if I did that was the last thing that mattered at the moment. Well, I probably had made some mistakes too, we are all perpetual learners demanded to be thorough and frequent in exhaustive and extensive course. Anyway, anyone would agree with me that he was one of gifted people. Maybe it was just how the way he was taught, in the family that have sky-scrapping expectation on him even since early age. He barely made any mistakes, and if he did, I was sure he had that certain skill to fix them.
I felt the need to chase away the dark cloud which looming his perpetual stoic countenance. So I told him, “Would you want to hear what I’ve been recently working on?” He was radiant with enthusiasm which scarcely adorning that face, adding a degree of tone to cheer those cheeks and eyebrows. “It’s just a simple melody—a piece of piano solo. “
It was something entirely new for him, definitely not that kind of my familiar reading nor even anything similar to our reading session. I could comprehend his tenacity to get through his tedious and demanding days, I had determined to be part of those days, to be somebody that cover the bitterness with white fog and sugar so the grayish air would disperse into something a tad bit sweet, to be something like dreams to catch him unawares so for seconds, when he thought he could not imagine his life differently than this, at the next moment he would thinking about chasing something else and maybe he was equally as happy—even happier. I never lost that feeling of reminiscing that resonating moment; it occurred to me when such thoughts crossed my mind simply of passerby-like, sleazy and blurry, even in my adolescent physical being it rooted into the very base of the cerebrum, staining deep. I blink for quite number of times—each time the memory is getting clearer, vivid and bright.
I guess those lives I had to share with him, in every form and shape, down to the smallest part, had never been ordinary. This was only one of many ways to depict certain moments so it would be crystallised in the middle of sentence, fossilised within the sand of time; it was the ink and papers, the hues of color tinting the blank canvas, which we could hear perfectly in the rhythm and the blues.
So I put my hands on the black and white of the notes and I remembered Van Gogh’s Midnight, recalling how it resembled the color of that night, of that particular melody, of the shades of his wallpaper, of that Fair Youth in his pajamas.
One, two, three. Adagio.
Four, five, and six. Allegro.
“So, when are you going back?”
“I don’t think that I want to go back. I’m already home. “
SCENE II. Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard Theatre, San Francisco.
Commedia de’llarte. The modern adaption yet still fulfilling in terms of laughing.
That character was named Arlecchino—arlek ’ ki-no, better known as Harlequinn. Not that Harley Quinn, but a man wearing a mask, colourful shirt, fit-to-body troussers, slicked-back hair, and sly smile permanently plastering his full lips.
The Arlecchino is characterized by his chequered costume. His role is that of a light-hearted, nimble and astute servant, often acting to thwart the plans of his master, and pursuing his own love interest, Columbina, with wit and resourcefulness, often competing with the sterner and melancholic Pierrot.
And this Arlecchino had particular light baritone voice upon given lines for audience—he used to had portion of pantomime. But perhaps he just considered this night was already drizzled with stardust.
As he was already moonstruck.
At one occasion, nearly the end of the show, the mask fell off his face—whether it was written in the script, he did not know. But he could conclude that he was just a good actor who get astray from the scripts to make a better show.
The mask was reavealing the identity that had been so artfully put behind the curtain. In the end, what was underneath that was that all mattered. It is what is, so he thought.
As he was already moonstruck.
This was the immaculate scenario written down by God’s hand, getting him all flippant as faith had led him astray. Did anyone notice that it was a little quiet in here?
It was many and many a year ago,
In a stage by the limelight,
That he enchanted and manipulated me,
For whom O you may know
By the name of the soul!
And this young man lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me
SCENE III. At the bar, a few streets away.
To be honest, he did not really know what to say now that he had come face to face with this particular not-so-stranger.
He had poor skills in removing his make-up. There were traces of glitters looming over his alluring eyes. The irises were hues of green. He did not realize that he had been staring for the last few hours while the rest were talking—childhood friends, colleagues; celebration, it was a success, the audience was fascinated, you can say that.
He did not realize that he had been staring for the last few hours, getting all lost and immersed, admiring and devouring everything he had let himself to. Seize, take them, all of it.
That young man was staring back, in return, for the last few hours. At him.
“Care to share anything in your head?” He offered a lopsided grin. At first glance, he thought that there were stains from rouge painting his lips—no, though they were in the colour of roses with hint of peach and—he was snapped back to where he had been sitting, ultimately embarrassed had been caught red-handed.
“Well, uh, “ If there was a gap on earth underneath, he would be glad to jump into and be gone forever. Gone baby gone into those mercilessly mesmerizing eyes—Goddamit, “Are you a student?”
“Yes. I go to RSID. “ He did not want to deduce anything from now nor why he was keeping that smile on while it had taken him some effort to maintain a straight face. “Architecture. And you?”
“Oh, I just graduated last February. Economics. “ What was it next? Should he ask whether acting and theatre had been his passion, why he did not enroll in art college to study acting…
The young man leaned over the table, eliminating the distance between them. Now, being close, he thought that he could count every single lash on his eyes, how his face twitched everytime he pondered on grin, very distinct features that you could always point out even among the crowd, the well-chiseled jaw, prominent high cheekbone, that he had asymmetrical pair of lips though finely curved.
If only he could touch the sun-kissed skin, only to make sure if they were as silky as it looked like…
“Really? Enjoying your vacation, eh?” He fished out a pack of Marlboro, placing one between those rosy flesh with his long, slender fingers, a little deft at one side, with all the grace the world had bestowed upon this creature. He offered the other man, but no, he did not smoke.
There was low growling sound coming from his chest that he recognized as rueful chuckle. He thought perhaps he was just imagining things but it was clear as the fair youth, carefully hidden like they shy ripples at the bottom of the lake, the young man was more like a ghost of entity.
Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.
“What do you do for a living then?” He asked, did not seem so curious. Maybe he was just trying to be polite.
The other man thought how it had been unnecessary torments that would haunt him for the rest of his life—how he bit those lips each time he put out a grin, eyes flickering in blatant amusement, jerking his head to loosen the muscles under.
“I sing. “
“Well, I see. Would you be so kind to sing a song for me?”
He could not take it. If he chose to stay any longer then there would not be any other way to escape this. “It’s getting late, need to go back—“
“Wait. “ Palm on the palm, engulfing one another. He wondered if there was anything could be so perfectly fitting each other? Just like pregnant silence engulfing them.
A piece of paper was slid, scribbled with letters and numbers. “Call me if you have the time. “
The truth was he might never had the time. But he made it. Although it required him a week full of calculating and thinking, hard and slow, like boiling water on its phase changing state. To get gone by the heat, the rush of moments, to get into miry wilds whence there is no extrication.
Thus, he entered the number. No answer. Should he try again? Would it take, like, three time’s charms even to begin with?
What was worse was that he did not even ask his name. He remembered the young man as ‘Arlecchino guy’. What would he remember of him, then?
So, he typed in a simple text.
Hey, I called you but u seemd busy. I’m the singer guy at the theatre, remember?
Really, the singer guy? You could have done better than that…He slightly cursed under his breath.
It required half a day to get a single reply.
Oh, hey! Been waiting here finally. Wanna grab a drink tonite?
It was obviously on the paper. His name, tiny little word mimicking the tiny little hope which began blossoming in his chest.
Aksara. The word was overflowing him, an overwhelming burst of butterflies knocking their way out through his throat.
It was said that the first time was an accident. When the clown mask went down and made his heartbeat turned all erratic, eyes blinking one two times to make sure that the vicinity was not just blurry lines between black and white. The second time was an experiment, like when they traveled downtown to get coffee—no, I don’t drink. They were given the chance to know each other, to share the laughter, perhaps seemed more like superficial façade, tender gaze, and suppressed snickers. It was like a golden ticket into the maze, a miry wilds whence there was no extrication.
Because, the third time was an addiction.