Death and the Symphony
– Nonfiction by Ann Fischer –
Honourable Mention in the 2021 Dreamers Flash Fiction & Nonfiction Contest.
The first psychic said something about your friend arriving at your door in a Halloween costume and that while the two of you were talking or fighting or whatever you were doing … the gun went off. The second psychic also mentioned costumes.
A costume seemed bizarre to me, as strange as the idea of a psychic was. And the idea of you having a gun in your hand was not something I could see either. You were always such a pacifist.
You’d been calling Zee a lot, more than you ever had as she was growing up without you, and she was feeling like your therapist. Sometimes you’d call two or three times a day, saying you’d remembered a detail of the story you’d told her hours before. She said you sounded desperate and depressed, repeating the same things over and over again, telling her about the psychiatrist that wouldn’t see you anymore, the boss who didn’t want you to go back to work after you’d waffled for months about it, the bugs in your plants and the fact that you weren’t eating or showering or even getting out of bed some days. We should have realized that things were serious. Instead, I told her she didn’t have to answer the phone every time it rang. I feel guilty about that now.
Looking at what we’d been told, Zee and I thought maybe you had died that Sunday we went to the symphony. It was hard to know, because according to the coroner you’d been there for a while before you were found.
On our way to the concert that hot day in October we were running late. My thighs were sticking to the seat on the streetcar that was taking too many detours, and I was rattled because I hate being late and I pictured the two of us climbing over seats disturbing everyone in our row.
Maybe on some level I knew there was something happening in another country in another city that was much more serious than bothering a few music lovers. I was anxious out of all proportion to what the situation warranted. Edgy and off.
A few days later I was packing for a move when Zee called. I went blank for a moment, taking a silent breath and straightening my spine, waiting for the right words to come to me. In my silence I noticed that the wall clock still hadn’t been packed and I could hear its measured ticking.
Your friend had called her to say you were dead, the police were there, and then hung up. No kind words of explanation. We chalked it up to men being unable to express emotion. It didn’t make any sense until much later when Zee had to cross the border to arrange your funeral and sell your house. What a story you must have been telling people about Zee and also about me all those years, especially in the days and years after your second wife died, to make your daughter feel so unwelcome in your city and your circles.
On the way to Zee’s in the taxi I was having flashbacks of my life with you. I wonder if you had them too, as people say we do as we are dying. I remembered you on stage in Montreal with your guitar, long legs in faded jeans and suede boots. Teaching me to play the guitar. Taking me out for dinner to the revolving restaurant overlooking the city. Buying me high heels so I could walk next to you without seeming so short next to your 6’5”. Telling me I was perfect and beautiful. Then your anger and rage at being confined in a marriage you didn’t want with a baby you didn’t plan on and the years of pessimism, sadness and failure before I left you. All to a bossa nova soundtrack because that was the music you loved and played when we were together. You were the musician. I was the muse.
What were you thinking before the bullet exploded in your brain? What did you see or hear? It was probably a beautiful fall day. I picture the sun shining, the garden a little bedraggled but with the odd flower still blooming and maybe even a bird singing in a tree that was losing its leaves.
I wonder about those kinds of things but always stop my imagining at the gun in your hand behind your head. How could you have picked up that gun?
The police said if your arms hadn’t been so long it couldn’t have happened that way. Like an execution, I mean. You, holding a gun to the back of your own head. Executing yourself. When I think of your beautiful hands playing a guitar as though you were making love to it, holding a loaded gun to your head… my heart breaks.
The coroner Zee talked to used the word self-murder and ever since I’ve tried to find nicer words for it. In French the words seem softer to the English-speaker’s ear. ‘Mettre fin a ses jours,’ ‘se suicide.’ French was, after all, your first language.
The police also said there was a chance it might have been a murder. That was a relief. Let them find the killer. So much easier to think about that than to believe it was you.
Because I can’t believe you thought you were really going to pull that trigger. I can’t think about it too much. I can’t. I have to think it was something else. And maybe it was.
I don’t believe in psychics unless they say something I want to hear. Perhaps the next one will say it was your friend in a Halloween costume holding a gun that he didn’t realize was loaded going off with a bang.
And then placing it in your hand, before walking out the door.
About the Author – Ann Fischer
Ann Fischer is a photographer and a writer living in an Artscape community in Toronto Ontario Canada. Her short stories and non-fiction pieces have been included in several anthologies and published in literary magazines (e.g., the July issue of The Writers and Readers’ magazine out of the UK) and online. Some of her photographs have recently been exhibited at the Bayside Gallery in Toronto and published in Burningword Literary Magazine. Ann Fischer is a former English and ESL teacher.
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