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Six Variations for a Female Vocalist

By Eva Caley



I think I choose to remember the wonder. I was entranced. “Charmed” was the word I think you would have used. I remember the nights of dancing, talking, secrets shared from whispered lips, and dripping crystal eyes that flickered, candle-like, in the darkness. I remember the silences covered by tin music flowing from a phone screen, a symphony to us as we sat on the frozen concrete floor ‘round your heater that you called a fire. I remember its push on my shoulder, warmth forcing through my leather jacket and pressing into my icy skin. You warned me not to burn.



I think I choose to remember the nights when music ran through me, no longer tin, but gold and hot steel. You’d wear your hair long, pony-tailed down your spine, your jewellery carefully chosen to match your smile glowing with chemical love. It was a song we both hated, but still we danced along. The room was full of people who danced like they cared too much, but you would spin and move like nothing I’d ever known, hypnotic, ephemeral, perfect. You were joy as I’d never seen it, purple lights and flashing silver, everything a joke to laugh with, every person a body to love.



I think I choose to remember a stranger’s lips on mine, her fingers pressing hieroglyphs into my gasping ribs and her body that fit my own as though she had always been there. She tasted sweet, of cigarettes and something else that turned her into candy. Her hands wove magic ‘round my neck and down my back, and nothing could have lifted me higher than her, than us crashing like icebergs in the night, moving together in the darkness. Later we curled together as feet kicked past us, our backs pressed to the wall in a room full of people, the only still things in a space packed with sound.



I think I choose to remember another stranger, another night – no lips or bodies this time, just words. I remember white wine and a wooden table, her brilliant eyes in a room full of chatter. Her shoulders were calm but her legs folded and stretched again and again, never seeming to find a position to accommodate their spirit. When she laughed, her life danced across her face. She told me the most wonderful story that night, a story of two lovers, of her lover. There was a chance meeting on a train, and more meetings since, all by accident. I’ve wondered since if that story was true.



I think I choose to remember the first snow of the year. You and I walked home together, dawdling our way in the dark and scrawling messages in the snow settled on parked cars. The cold seeped through my trousers to my skin, and you made me tea and toast, and I’d never, ever been happier. I have videos of that night, stolen from you, of Linda singing Bowie songs into naked lamps. He’d died just days before.


It’s all lost now. But I was so happy.



I think I choose to remember the living nights, the nights straining at their seams, because otherwise I’d have to remember the stillness of the days. I’d remember the silence, the agonising silence that filled my mind just hours before the nights would come alive. I choose not to remember the days spent alone (in parks, on buses, on trains, in my bed) as my head would spin and tug and cry, and all I could do was stay silent, nails pressing crescent moons, skin chewed off my fingers, eyes wide and terrified.


If I choose not to remember those hours, those days, if I erase them in my mind I can pretend that all I had was the warmth on my jacket and the ice on my cheeks. I can pretend that I was never, ever alone because being alone is something that swallows you whole and grinds on the back of your neck as you stand in a crowd of people you can’t touch. It presses your scalp and your chest and all you want to do is cry, but you cannot cry because nothing is wrong. You’re simply on your own.


All I want is to keep the lover’s hands and the words from the stranger with restless legs and stories. I want to keep your eyes and your tea and your smile, so that when people ask me I can tell them about the magic. So I choose to remember the wonder.