Those Unheard Are Sweeter

By on Oct 18, 2020 in Fiction

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Colorful dream over restaurant table

“Let me double-check the bill,” Barbara demands because in her world everything must tally.

“Relax,” Geoff says, “Let’s finish our coffee.”

“Yes,” Alison agrees. “I ate so much, I’m not ready to move.”

“We haven’t talked about the upcoming election,” Geoff shifts the conversation.

“Must we?” Alison asks.

“It’s discouraging.”

Barbara joins in: “The years go by, politicians come and go, and nothing changes.”

“If anything, it gets worse.”

“When we were young, every issue was vital,” Barbara says and sets the check down. “Now that I’m older, everything seems beyond my reach.”

“The issues are vital, but the politicians have changed,” Geoff says decisively. “At the risk of sounding cynical, they live in a world of wealth, privilege, and pleasure.”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree. In a way, that’s what I have decreed, too. It’s like following a river through measureless caverns and finding my reality. If I surrender my senses and le the outer world cease, if I let soft pipes play on, if I fly away, not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, but on viewless wings, and though my dull brain perplexes and retards, I can reach the place where I truly live.

 “Too bad we live so far,” Alison says and looks to her husband, “but we should be leaving soon.”

“Yes,” Geoff checks his watch, “it’s near time to go.”

Where do you go?

I leave this world unseen and enter a world of cloudless climes. There, it is forever twilight—that soft, luxurious hour when light and dark meld; and it is always the autumnal shift —that tender turning between summer and fall, life and death. I am not afraid. In fact, it is comforting. I walk through woods along a wide path that is clear of tangles and brambles. Rich colors cloak the trees. The deepening shadows, though dark, are not gloomy. A sharp smell like burning leaves pervades the air. Along the path and around a bend, an ancient stone bridge appears. It slants over a clear stream. I cross it. Only ten paces farther and a house stands. It is the perfect house. It is the house only you could imagine.

Circling the house is a low fence with a garden gate that is never locked. With a gentle touch, it opens. Final summer flowers bud, swell, and fill with fragrance as they border the flagstone walkway. Without knocking, I open the large front door, which is painted a rich Dublin color. There to greet me is a handsome woman both old and young. This woman belongs to every age. She is beautiful without wanting to be attractive. Her appearance alters between years and youth, but her eyes are eternally clear and loving. Soundlessly, she guides me to my room, unlocks the door, nods discreetly, and steals away. It is the perfect room. It is the room only you could imagine.

I sit on a pillowy, upholstered chair and behind me, through a great window, amber afternoon light enters and washes against white walls. The light never dies. By my feet, I reach for a leather case, unsnap it, open it, and then cradle a gorgeous guitar. It smells of wood, sweat, strings, and time. My fingers fit between the frets; my right hand grasps a pick and strums. My form is flawles; the sound is sweet. I am fully present; in fact, I am lost in the moment and in being lost, I find myself. I play passionately and tenderly. I never tire. The songs are forever new.

The house contains many rooms. If you could peel back all the exterior walls and if you could open all the interior doors, you would see numberless rooms filled individually with pensive people, each engaged in an intimate activity. One person plays a cello, one person paints portraits, one person performs sleight-of-hand illusions, one person sings, one person write poems—on and on—each room holds a secret life. It is the perfect life. It is the life only you could imagine. It is as real as the nightingale’s song—a music heard, a source unseen.

“James, honestly, you haven’t said two words tonight. We’ve been talking about important things.” Like an alarm clock, Barbara’s voice jolts me. “Can’t you think of anything to say? Do you completely lack imagination?”

Fled is that music. Do I wake or sleep?


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Thomas DeConna spent the first half of his life in New Jersey and the second half in Colorado. He taught English for thirty-nine years. He and his wife look forward to traveling through fair weather or foul, whatever life’s journey presents.