As a child, scared, in the night, alone in your too-big bed with your stuffed seal and staring up into the curious dark, wondering about the finality of your own mortality, and whether or not you can bear to lose him (coal black eyes, whiskers long-deformed by household pets but reassuring anyway), and whether or not something like a Mother or a Father could really be so unfairly impermanent, and what the hell you're supposed to think about it all, you whimper until it's clear that no one will be coming to comfort you, and you venture out into the hallway: the bright light is on, though it's very late, and you can hear the dull sounds of adults socializing downstairs. Clad only in the dad-sized button-shirt nightgown that reaches to your ankles, clutching the seal in your arm, you venture, very slowly, hunkered along the wall, seeking a space somewhere between the air and the molding that meets the ragged wood floor. First the light switch that doesn't work, then the radiator, then that mark in the paint where someone entombed a small fly... closer to the parents' door which, dreamlike, seems so far away. You're clutching harder (the seal almost squeaking out a complaint), shaking slightly, and not needing to know why your bed was suddenly not enough, or what this gathering tension might be. Suddenly, a deep, booming voice from every part of the air, the walls, your own body, in your head: impossibly loud; naked fear made audible, laughing a movie-villain laugh, buckling your legs, erasing your resolve with each cackling rise and fall. A menacing, cruel laugh, and it's gone again with only the faint echo skittering through the far corners of the house. You make your helpless retreat, barely able to walk, and lie awake until you sleep and wake again, and then emerge in the day, affirmed, relaxed, young, and happy, but with a new shadow in your mind, who will visit you in many forms, for many reasons, for many years. ------ Dim images sketched on onionskin drift in the air, slow dirigibles bearing memories: howling at the top of your lungs on the requisite 100-year-old piano; scales deciphered and repeated more out of obsessive compulsion than passion; numerous family members, classmates, co-workers, roommates, and lovers driven to madness by the incessant tapping; griping when the beatles were played on the stereo but listening anyway; a determined obsession with early-90s easy-listening radio love songs; supplication at the feet of many masters big and small, animate and otherwise; calling home to have mom hide your stuffed animals before having a friend from school over; your first kiss, your last kiss, and all the waiting in between; holding a microphone up to anything that vibrates (or should); the first harrowing time you hear your own recorded voice; tracing the fine line between a true calling and misguided obstinacy; losing yourself and losing the hope of finding yourself and then finding both and then losing them again; learning how music makes love to it's ecosystem the same way everything else does; having your soul indelibly branded by the ecstasy of musical communion, and forever feeding the desperation for that psychic needle. 'Yeah, he was my roommate in undergrad school--just about drove me nuts teachin' himself to play all kinds of instruments. Good guy tho, pretty witty, good roommate - good heart, used to rescue roaches from the kitchen drain. Only ate baked spaghetti. Surprised he lived thru that as malnourished as he probably was.' - Stacy.