"If You Need Help, Here is What I Can Offer" by John Gower
If you need help here is what I can offer. He thought he remembered her faintly saying just before reaching out to hold his hand as they walked; just before, her songs took over his head. But he didn’t mind that they took over his head, she offered a jaunty tune and he liked the way it made the clouds come alive as they walked.
He had been telling her about another woman, a woman he couldn’t get out of his head, a woman whose songs were once lively and funny and smart but years later had turned harsh and scolding. Though she had left him some time ago her demeaning melodies stayed with him. He felt cello like sounds much of the time when he was alone. He missed the songs he had heard when they met. He listened for them when he went out. He wanted them back.
It didn’t bother him that this new woman knew just what to do. He had hoped she might. She looked like she might. They held hands as they walked and between the squeezing of her hand and the flickering light through the trees her jaunty tune was slowly embedding in his step. It soothed him. He forgot himself. Colors began to shout out and clouds began to whistle.
They came to a secluded clearing. The grass was dry and warm and soft. As they lay side by side kissing she took off her clothes, but wouldn’t, let him take off his. They kissed, one breath, together, over and over again until they were dizzy. The sun had never felt so good. Could it be that the birds were tweeting just for them?
The next morning her song was still with him. When he looked at his face to shave he saw her eyes in his. When he walked she was in his step. Her hips were everywhere he turned. There was no where more important to go that morning, but, to her.
She was still in pajamas when he arrived at her door for breakfast. Her eye-lids were purple-pink, her iris green and brown. Her pupils were large, so large. Within minutes, they were naked in her bed. The cello was gone and the trill of a lively clarinet teased his ears.
Many days passed by. Her songs remained lively, funny and smart. She needed him, but for how long, he thought. He knew it was wrong but he wanted to be sure her songs would not change. He wanted to nail her spirit to a tree. The more he liked her songs the sadder he became. What was her plan he wondered. Would she become mean and leave him, too? The more he tried to hold things still the more her songs began to change. They became stilted with after-thought, with pause for what they might mean. He knew he was causing this but he couldn’t stop. Within a month she had stopped singing and wondered why she was with him at all.
He asked her to his house for dinner and when the conversation had become vacant and still, he brought out a hammer and nails that he wanted to show her. He was ashamed of himself and told her what he had been feeling. She looked surprised and sad and shied away from him. Though it was not a cold evening he lit a fire. Once it had peaked he asked her to place the hammer and nails in the fire. As they burned, he stood looking deep into the fire and with only the crackling of the fire to interrupt the silence, he began to sing, at first in a mumbling sort of way, as though he were speaking in tongues. He rarely sang out loud and didn’t really know how. He sang about the time they met, he sang about the heartache he once felt and the heartache he was beginning to feel again. His song brought tears to her eyes as she understood what had happened between them and why her songs had stopped. She stood close as he sang so she might make out the quiet words. When he sang of his love for her his voice became more secure and clear. She slid off her dress to the floor to inspire him as his voice became louder and louder. At her urging he stood on the chair, and then on the table, the song carried out of him without pause, without reflection; he was perfect in his frailty, perfect in his faults. He could do no wrong, he sang of what he knew to be true.
The next morning as she left for work she held him close and whispered, If you need help, here is what I can offer, and placed his hand on her bosom, kissed him on the cheek and left.
How could he possibly know which of the many songs will remain true?