They Seek Harmony In The Way Those Sounds Move Together

Q Pfeiffer

 

The thirteen year old child hears a beautiful song, coming from the place where tombstones saw fit to settle. They see the man strumming a harp, a large and ornate thing, in front of a grave marked with many flowers and sparkling with dewy mist, and before saying a word they duck behind a less-attended grave and peek through cracks in the moss that hangs. He sings a gentle song that moves through the fog with the placid pace of a cloud itself, seeping through rock and soil, into the essence of everything around it. The child feels that song gently rising in their skin, eyes growing wide as that melody sinks deep into their soul. He sings of a life gone before it had a chance to warm the hands of those who loved it; the grief from his loss burned into his voice like hot wax on skin.

 

The child runs out and holds the man in their arms, almost knocking over the harp, and he, startled, falls out of his chair. The sobbing child clutches at his chest and apologizes over and over. He recognizes the child, from proud parents who speak of them down the street, and adopts the same mask every adult does when they need to hide the fact that they feel from the people they’re supposed to be protecting.

 

“My baby’s name was supposed to be Dusk. ‘At her feet: I sleep till Dusk is dipped in gray.‘ It was meant to be for their mother,” he says, looking across the fields of damp green and watching the fog clear at the edges. “Her name was Beloved. ‘My soul ascends in prayer, to know myself Beloved at last.‘”

“My parents tried to give me a name,” the child says.

“What did they name you?”

“Sable. I consecrate this to you: and Sable curls, all silvered o’er with white; and colors spring from under.

The man purses his lips at the child next to them. “It’s a beautiful name.”

“But it’s not mine,” says the child, eyes downcast. Their shoulders slump, their chest sighs. “They said I could take all the time I needed to be happy with it. I told them I wanted to write my own name. I’m not sure if they heard me.”

“What are you going to write?”

The child stares at a dewdrop, hanging heavy from the tip of a grass blade. “I don’t know yet.”

The man looks with wet eyes at the small clump of hair at the top of the child’s head. “Have you practiced verse?”

“No. I do paintings.”

He looks back, above the fog this time. “It takes time and skill. There are some that have verse written before their children are even born, but also, some that won’t write any until they’re old enough to have a name in the first place.”

The child says nothing at this.

The man looks at the child again, this time taking the whole of their form. “I think having your own name is a good idea.”

The child looks up.

“You can be anything. Sable is a fine name, sure, but people have written great verse only after living their entire lives. What if your name changed with every verse you wrote, or read? What if you were different?”

The child looks back down. “I don’t know if I want to be different.”

The two sit for a while, small remnants of the clouds around them left behind by fog that has since traveled far away from the conversation they carried. 

“The verse my parents wrote for me was about their home, which we moved away from before I was born,” the singer says, crashing through the silence with bluster. “‘That I fostered in my youthful years: tall Chestnuts keep away the sun and moon.‘ I never got to see what they planted, but they said that was okay. It was like a piece of their home they could keep with me.”

After a moment, the child speaks up. “Do you think you would change your name if you could?”

The man sits in silence for a while, looking towards the light of the sun, fettered by the heavy cloud cover that kept its full brilliance from melting over the buildings that dotted the ‘scape in the distance. He took a deep, hesitant breath. “My family is long gone at this point. Maybe I’m a new person because of it, but I have no verse to follow me here. When I wrote, I wrote for my child and for my wife,” he says, shuddering at a breeze that cast mist in his direction. “Now, it just feels like nothing.”

The child doesn’t move, looking at the grass in front of them, that word pressing down on their shoulders, slumping them down as they cross their arms to bear that new weight.

Then, the man stands up next to them, and places his hands in his pockets. “I have to grieve. Those souls that were buried here will not leave my side. Maybe, I can offer them some peace by being something with no name.” He looks at the child. “Maybe you can offer yourself some peace the same way.”

 

The child watches him walk away through the damp grass and cold stones around him. When he is gone, they turn to the harp next to the grave, and try plucking a string; the sound that emerges feels like significance alive. Important. They pick two more notes, high and low together. They cast fingers across strings like gentle paintbrushes running over canvas unpainted. Important. They seek harmony in the way those sounds move together, and glide with grace in an improvised tune, grating to the outsider who passes through the cemetery that day, but beautiful only to them. Their harmony. Important.