You would think David Threnody would have been happy after those first recordings, those first songs he put on vinyl, but he wasn’t.  This is the strange thing about art, with making art, and making music is the same as writing a book, creating a sculpture, adding colors to a canvas.  There comes a time when it ends.  Your life in the making of it ends, and what you made takes on its own life.  Like you’ve let go of a child learning to ride a bicycle, and you let them ride on their own.  You are left to watch them ride away, maybe once in a while they looking back at you, smiling, and you wait to see them make it to the next corner, you wait to run to them if they fall.  Something ends when you finish a work of art, only to live on after you—never changing.  And this can be a haunting joy, an unwanted attention.  Because the attention it gets is not the love you gave it, and then for better or worse it may get no attention at all.

David wasn’t sure how he should feel after he finished recording those first songs.  And his lack of surety turned into depression, and a void came into his life, a silence.  He sought distractions.  Distractions that enticed and taunted him at the same time.  Things he looked forward to, but that saddened him because he believed they were all he looked forward to.  He turned to his vices.  His alcohol and cigarettes, his marijuana.  And the music was there even when he didn’t want it.  Some songs he heard reviving him.  Others drowning him sorrow.  And he went through moments in the day with a sick, heavy feeling in his heart.  Even though his own songs still came to him.  He still strummed his guitar, thinking of new notes, new words to sing, but he held no illusions any longer now to the response he would have of it after—the aching silence.  The frustrated dreams.  But somehow he still knew.  He still looked forward to the simplest of things.  Reading books he’d already read.  Watching a show he’d already seen.  Hearing an old familiar song even if sometimes it made him sad.  He learned to breathe and enjoy his breath.  Enjoy the sun when it shined.  The good things in all weathers.  Each day there was something to hope for, even if it was just a little thing, a tiny pleasure, something new.  He still knew he would rather have that than nothing at all, and he began to make his peace in that strange world that is an artist’s.  That strange world that opens up to an artist where you’re not sure if you’re making the art or the art is making you, and that’s why he needed her, that’s when David Threnody needed Bethany Labeau, and as luck would have it she was there.  She was there when he went looking from his stage, his eyes restless so soon after the war.  She was there bathing in a pool of light reflected from where he sat in the spotlight with his guitar, strumming his songs.

First he bought her drink—an absinthe—for it was the Absinthe House, and it was as they were sitting together, talking after one of his sets, that an old woman came over, an old black woman that reminded Bethany Labeau of the mid-wife present when she was born, and the conversation she started with David sort of went like this: 

“I heard you on the radio…”

“Oh yeah?  I didn’t know I was being played…”

And the old woman sits down next to him, across the table from Bethany, resting her hands on a cane she carries.  She has a smile that’s not in her eyes.  They instead look wide open, not necessarily out of fear, but to instill fear, instill a sense of uneasiness when she looks David in the eye.

“Then you know.  You know about how your songs are heard all around you.  You’re very good, very talented.  Your songs have words in them that have a common thread in all the conversations you hear.  They speak of something so basic they have to be in every conversation—in the needs people have when they say things and why they say them…  But you already know that—don’t you? You’ve heard your words come back to you, and sometimes it makes you wonder if you sang them because you already heard them, or you hear them because of what you sang…”

The old woman senses the uneasiness she’s caused now.  She sees a lost look come into David’s eyes, as her words hit home, placating that self-absorbed folly of believing you have everyone’s attention.  That fear that everybody knows and plays as characters in your story, and it doesn’t matter if they’re friend or foe because everything they do or say irrevocably ties back to you, and you can’t escape—you can’t escape your mirror.

“Yes… you know what I’m sayin’—don’t you?  You know how your songs have come to life.  Not because you gave them life, but because you remembered them before they happened, and now they’re happening even after you try to forget them, because you sang them, and that will never change…”

That’s when David looks at Bethany.  He sees her again in the pool of light coming from the stage he just left, and her eyes respond to his naked look—they respond back naked, but she isn’t lost.  And she turns to the old woman to say these words.

“Isn’t that what you just told me?  When you came over here to buy me this drink?  You told me something your father used to say.  About how man is inherently evil, but you should have an unshakeable faith in God…”

And with these words David comes back.  He returns from where he was lost, and looks now at the old woman with eyes that know.  The trust that gave him fear replaced with objectivity.  He sees the old woman now as an object, and he stands outside himself looking at her.  No longer self-absorbed in her words, and he sees the subjective weakness she preyed upon.  The old woman sees the change.  No more words have to be said.

“Well, enjoy your drink with this pretty girl here.  Seems like she’s got a good head on her shoulders…  I look forward to hearing you play again.” 

The old woman rises with her cane and leaves their table.  David’s break is over, but he doesn’t return to the stage without smiling at Bethany.  A smile that makes her look lost for a moment, lost in some memory, but it lasts for only a moment and she smiles back.

“Want to sing a song with me?”

“Sure…” and she takes the hand he offers, following him to the stage.

And that’s how David Threnody and Bethany Labeau met.  Over absinthe and a song they sang together, an old Lead Belly song—“Goodnight Irene”.  And it was what David needed.  He needed a girl.  He needed Bethanyafter finishing those first songs, his first recordings.  And she needed him too, for they both had stories of a ride they remembered that they needed to tell each other.  The story of her stay in New Orleans over the last few years what comes next, in how David Threnody met her husband, and struck a deal…

 

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