There I stood, stifling any would-be helpful contribution in the throws of bedlam. I was in the kitchen of a single family home. My lady was viciously constructing a cake and I knew better than to get in her way. Bowls filled with dark mixtures danced on the counters like a spinning top coming to rest. Things ticked time away and boiling pots spit liquid over their rims like furious volcanos and it hissed and sizzled in the roaring blaze of a gas-powered stovetop burner. The oven baked all sorts of things that occupied every shelf in there and through the resonated looking glass of the oven door, a stove light created the appearance of what I imagine hell looks like. To complete one of her potions, my lady needed another grade-A organic egg. There were no more eggs available in the kitchen. Being the most obvious candidate as an errand boy, I elected myself the procurer of brown shell chicken embryos.
We live at the top of a very big San Francisco hill and I did not feel inclined to hoist an armful of bags back up it [I rarely come back from this sort of trip with just the thing I set out to get]. I needed access to someone’s car. My lady said, “Fine. Take mine.” As I skipped gleefully toward the front door, she screamed out, “Treat her as if she were your own!” This is a trick my close acquaintances like to play. You see, I am neurotic and likely suffer from a myriad of unfortunate conditions such as tactile defensiveness disorder and the commonly self-diagnosed ailment; you guessed it, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though my behavior may suggest a similarity to the clinical diagnosis of such things, I’ve never been seen or treated by a professional. I’m terrified to visit a psychiatrist. I am certain he or she will validate, conclusively, that my ENFP [Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving] Myers-Briggs personality type and accompanying behaviors are simply beyond the help of therapy or medication. I do things like, shift uncomfortably if my jeans are too stiff. If my tee shirt collar is stretched and my outer flannel touches my neck where the tee shirt collar should be, I tug at them both and become immersed in sifting out a solution during which time I cannot sit still. I have to line everything up in a meticulous parallel or 90 degree fashion. I don’t like things to be strewn about. I abhor dishes that sit idle in the sink and all of these things sort of define me so when someone tells me to treat one of their belongings as if it were my own, I am doomed and cannot do the things I fantasize about. For example, I cannot drive over curbs at 36 MPH to ram trashcans with the front grill and watch baby diapers and scavenging raccoons drape the hood of the car like the tap water of an exploding water balloon paints a sidewalk at the feet of an angry couple strolling beneath your juvenile fifth floor window in spring. When someone commands me to, “Treat the car as if she were mine,” the car seemingly becomes mine and I would never dishonor the function of something I owned. Only something you owned. So, in my car, I obey stop signs and grant cyclists at least three feet of passing room. I turn on the radio and flick the tuning knob unapologetically and without interest, as I do not expect much out of the mediocrity traversing the airwaves of today. Only this time, I happened to land on the only radio station with clear reception. It was 90.3 FM, a classical station. Some haunting, stringed instrument rounded out a morbid piece composed by what I imagined was a tortured artist vexed by an everlasting curse [more on this later]. It sounded like a stringed-from-the-course-hair-of-Satan sort of instrument. The instrument opened its mouth and roared at me like a cruise liner slowly breaking in half as heard through the muffled current of salt water. It sounded as if Tom Waits had just cleared his throat after devouring a hornet’s nest and the nest’s live, angry inhabitants. Then, like a siren dipping over the horizon, the piece faded. The announcer’s low growl of a voice rumbled its way through the car’s factory speakers and I swear I felt it all the way through my body to the squall line of my flesh. Like the creaky wooden door of an ancient barn pried open by thieves, he said, “It’s going to get stormy now as we transition into this next piece.” I looked around outside expecting to see a dark tornadic cell swirling above me. I thought, “Going to get stormy? That last piece was not stormy?” The announcer answered with, “When the Greek God, Zeus, discovered that Prometheus had [allegedly] given fire to man, he was so enraged that he chained Prometheus to a jagged cliffside at the base of a treacherous shore where waves echoed the cries of tortured slaves and pelted the cliffside with crushing blows. He ripped Prometheus’ liver from his inner cavity and let it hang, still attached, exposed to the sea salt air. An eagle appeared. This was no ordinary eagle. This was a demonic eagle the size of a wild stallion, its eyes as menacing as the talking serpent who convinced Eve to gnaw on that forbidden Granny Smith. The eagle swooped down and began to devour the exposed liver of Prometheus.” I conjured that image in my head. I thought of an old shirtless man with a white linen towel wrapped around his waist standing on a cliffside in a pair of sandals with leather straps that wrapped around his leg to the knee like a candy stripe. He wore a commanding expression that when looked upon, tells you he is running this show. Beneath him, a defenseless, naked old man is chained to the cliffside with shackles around his wrists and ankles. I honed in on the thought of old Prometheus hunkered over and defeated with the remains of a critical organ exposed from his body. The lighting in my head was similar to the grainy reproduction of my most favorite film ever created, the original CLASH OF THE TITANS. The announcer continued, “The curse that Zeus placed on Prometheus stated the now consumed liver would grow back the next day. As before, the sinister eagle would appear to eat the exposed, mysteriously reappearing liver of Prometheus. This procedure was to be repeated daily for all of eternity.”
As calmly as a smooth pebble at the base of miniscule waterfall redirects the stream of clear mountain water to a new path along a picturesque brook, he said, “Here’s Beethoven’s interpretation of the mythological tale, ‘The Creatures of Prometheus.’”
I pulled my car over to listen to the piece in its entirety. I was sufficiently creeped out and moved. When the announcer returned, he said, “That was just lovely. We will now hear from an Irishman whose musical career came to an abrupt end when he took his own life on a rain battered day in Dublin.”
I cannot tell you that Irishman’s name. It sounded familiar, like, “Seamus,” but I don’t recall his exact name. What I can tell you is that classical music is built upon a foundation of utter tragedy.
Finally, I have discovered the musical portrayal of heartbreak and loss my own tired soul has yearned for all these years.
Benjamin Green © 2012