My Condolences

My Condolences

November 17, 2020 1 Comment

The girl, whose name I never learned, didn’t die before the song was over, and we never saw her again. When they told me, the fall last night killed her, I could no longer remember anything but having talked about her music that never was and now never will be. It wasn’t the first time ever that something happened in this way.


I asked a friend how the rest of the night was. He said, some girl fell down the stairs, but hadn’t caught her name.

He said, most of us left before she did. She stayed all night.

My friends told me the girl refused to go to the hospital. She told them she was okay and when they insisted, she pleaded, but I love this song.

The girl died in the night.

They said her name was Abby or Annie. Amy? Maybe Allie.

The girl was still there in the morning when the others woke up and thought she was sleeping. They called an ambulance, when she could no longer ask them not to.

Someone else said they didn’t know. They said, I don’t remember last night.

I once read a story about a girl who tries to stop a party when someone down the street dies, but her mother tells her no, if you’re going to stop a band playing every time someone has an accident, you’ll lead a very strenuous life. I remember everyone agreeing with the girl, who felt it was no time for a celebration. I didn’t believe any of them. I believed the mother.

Another friend told me, I don’t remember last night.

One said that they woke up in the morning to sirens. The girl had been found in the living room, where they left her, in a weakly-woven wicker chair, right next to where the band had played.

What was it she said to convince them to let her stay? 

I love this song.

When I asked the band what song they were playing, they couldn’t say. I decided the song she loved was called Every Time.  It’s a very long song—a lot can happen during it.

The bassist told me he didn’t want to know what they were playing when the girl fell. It was the reason she stayed. I don’t know how the Stones could play “Sympathy for the Devil” after the death at Altamont.

On the screen, a young man looks up at a dancing Jagger and shakes his head, no, no. Shakes his head in shock. Shakes his head and mouths why? Shakes his head, cut the song, man!

The mother said no, if you’re going to stop a band playing every time someone has an accident, you’ll lead a very strenuous life.

The singer said she hadn’t seen the girl in the front until the end of the set but remembered her watching the band pack up. She told me, she was smiling but when I smiled back her expression didn’t change. She seemed drunk.

Another friend told me, I don’t remember last night. I don’t know.

I wasn’t there when it happened—though, had I been, I would have been one more witness who neither asked her name nor called an ambulance. One more who felt most sympathetic when I heard that she loved the song.

Every Time is a very strange song that the band closes every set with. It’s sedate in an unsettling way, sinister in its less-than-mid tempo, like everything is in slow motion but nothing is happening—you want anything to happen. It feels like ketamine. The thrill is in the danger of what emanates from the music—an allure so steady that it seems less an intimate embrace than a constriction eradicating the life of the held.

I am starting to visualize it: 

I had stopped on the stairs to talk to a girl. The band had just started to play Every Time. The way I see it, the girl fell the next moment.

At the bottom of the stairs, she curled herself into a seated position and we surrounded her to ask questions. 

The girl responded yes to everything.

Are you okay? Can you move? Do you know what day it is? How many fingers am I holding up?

Yes.

I imagine that we asked her to go to the hospital but she told us no. We pressed and used statements instead of questions: You need to go to the emergency room. 

But I love this song. Let me stay.

We asked her if she needed anything—water or fresh air, a drink and she asked to be moved closer to the music so she could see. The song hadn’t begun to spin. 

The girl screamed before she laughed when we lifted her up in her loose seat over the crowd, wicker-worn like a fireman’s net that would catch her if falling. We paraded her to the front row. 

Our hands would be the net if she fell again.

PLAY ON! Someone screamed, and they did. We couldn’t hear how hard we dropped her chair down over all the noise.

The song spun on and on and the girl looked on and on with grin loose and arms hanging at her sides.

All the band could sense was a change in the crowd. We moved around more, seemed loose and friendly, like a special occasion had begun.

They didn’t sense chaos, but exultation and inflation and wanted attention and credit for the ecstasy they felt. Each note lengthened and intensified the song more, as if the tune would sustain jubilation. 

What if the band knew what happened? They would have rushed to the end of a song that usually sprawled so her excuse would expire, wouldn’t they? Or would they play even longer, to appease her wish and make the evening that much more cherishable?

The song would last for the rest of her life.

It happened to be the latter. People gradually left and they kept playing. Most of them left before she did.

The song went on even as the drummer packed up his kit; he dropped off when the tune had decrescendoed to a droning meditation of the blues.

The guitar player fell asleep next to his instrument, dropped in the place where he had been playing all night. 

In the morning, I was the one who found her and did not think to check her pulse. There were many people who were asleep and not in beds. The morning lasted a long time. Some woke up and some did not.



________

Kylie Gellatly is a poet living in Western Massachusetts and a Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke College. Her chapbook The Fever Poems is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2021. Her poetry has appeared in Malasaña Magazine, SWWIM, and Tupelo Press’ 30/30 Project, with book reviews in The Rumpus, Adroit Journal, Green Mountains Review, and Pleiades. She is the Book Reviews Editor for Green Mountains Review and is a reader for Pleiades and Anhinga Press. Kylie has been awarded the Factory Hollow Press Scholarship to the Juniper Writing Institute and has received two fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center. For more, visit
 www.kyliegellatly.com

Photo by 
Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash


1 Response

Lynnie
Lynnie

November 24, 2020

Bothersome, captivating, demanding my attention as I am trying to let it go.

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