The First spent the long years curating.
No matter how many choices presented themselves, he took each in his arms and into his house. When he didn’t know how something worked, he created the time to learn. He happily caressed the keys of pianos, saxophones and computer keyboards. One soundboard had been perfect except for a clicky feel under one finger, irritating when chasing art. He learned to take the board apart, to tune the gear, to reassemble and make perfect. He added it to his caretaker’s list, to be used and maintained until time. Time would come, both too soon and not fast enough, when the assemblage would be distributed into the intended hands.
Some necessities were harder. The library to fill with poets, historians, novelists, economists, socialists and theologians became an all consuming search for the missing book or monograph or doodle and the absent index to give it coherence. The mirrors for the reflector drove him to distraction, until he found help and more friends who would, in time, greet those who had not yet arrived.
The spaces and places he built within his vast Now grew and evolved. Their individual characters took on aspects of the First’s self, and of his memory of those who would follow, then his hopes of who they became. There came a day when he realized his memory had lost resolution, and curation had become his way of preserving the person he had been, and the people they had been. He grieved the loss of himself for the first time, and the days he had not seen, and the pain Time would cause in the transitions to come. Then he reclaimed the joy of construction, curation and creation.
They came slowly, old friends and friends to come. The lost and bewildered young blond man, and the one with the thing about germs and noses who made compositions to fry the senses like every drug turned up. The old men and the young women, who brought the blues and the punk, who skated and drank and played. Those chewed up by chemicals, and consumed by viruses and poisoned by tumors. The poets brought beat and rhyme, and all left violence and the world’s hatred behind. They all came, eventually, into the Now where the heavens rang with their joy of creation. They brought words and refreshed the First’s memory with their own.
But the curation remained the great work. Until the day the solitary bell rang. He hadn’t wanted specific warning when Time would again bring him hearts to share the Now, because warning meant tragedy, but Time insisted on continuing. The bell had been his compromise. It told him to go greet, to make welcome, but not who. Not how. Not when. Those no longer mattered.
He walked through fields of gold under a sky full of warmth and stars. The chalk path separated the sea from the Now and lead from one kind of magic to another, to the storyteller up the road and the painted jazz girl and the folkie who finally performed in Now without the fear of failure.
He always forgot that his friends would be older, thinner. They were always beautiful in their evidence of life lived and savored, etched on faces and remade into bone and flesh. But this friend he had not expected. Not yet. This one… Already?
Lean, as always. The gems and glam had gone even before the Now began, and the First last remembered him in flannel and worsted and the fine cotton shirts of Saville Row, in frock coats and high boots. His hair had always been pale, but now it was the silver of that glorious, magical film, and short as it had never been before Now. Life had loved him and kissed her possession across his face. She had been gentle in tattooing his lines, giving him a history of joy for all to see.
The words the First wanted — the words that created the Now — were gone. The piece they created together had come from anguish and bewilderment that the First had lost in Time and Now, to grief and bright, fervent joy. But he remembered the syllables, the scat, and he often scatted with the painted jazz girl and the old men. His Now existed to do what he had once sung with this new man, his old friend. This Now gave love and one more chance to the lost. It provided care for those on the edge of the night and one brilliant, glorious, endless last dance.
He opened his mouth and scatted, b-b-boom-ba, and let his voice soar.
The new man turned with a bemused smile. “I believe we should try another remix, don’t you?” Then it became a grin. “And so very much more. You see, there’s another wall I must bring down.”
In memory, Jan 12 2016