The First Minute Of Olympia

What does it mean to love someone who refuses to be loved?
I stare into the mirror now and ask myself that question with eyebrows raised, forehead creased like screwed up paper. A story written and re-written. In blood mostly.

Yet not so long ago I dwelled in darkness – but that was before she stole into my loft and shone her beautiful beams into the corners. There she made a fire – burning still.

And of my silence she made a song.
And of my years she forged an instant.
All of this I allowed.
Weirdly chose.

So why do I have the feeling I was placed here, plucked from the crowd by a storytelling God and elbowed into a preordained tango with the star of the show? Was it really so that I might learn to dance alone and love it at last?

Just like mama always said I should.

For back when I was a boy, a slight little wisp learning the drill, I was trained by degrees to dance with ghosts. I learnt to move with them in practised swirls, sombre and divine – like longing itself. My card was forever marked with the faint scratches of phantoms; pencilled promises from the unlikeliest of creatures. And out on the floor, guided by music, I stepped out the geometry over and over and found in those countless allowable embraces the gentle contours of a most glamorous melancholy. A sorrow that loved me.

Just like the kind my mother once sang out loud in our servant’s quarters.
The having and the not having, locked together, crooning their aching chorus in dolorous duet.

It was narcotic, like horses running in the blood. Like a tune you just can’t get out of your head.

I was past fifty – blind – and still those lovely fraying apron strings tied me to the mast.

It was always going to take a miracle.

Because all my life I have lived inside the songs, in the keening, beautiful dreams that came from Ma’s crackling transistor. Romance and ruin with a hook sticking in your heart, like a hypnotic melody on repeat – until the fractured but irresistible music of Olympia Grazia Gallo finally drowned out the classic hits.

This story, therefore, is not mine. I share it with an angel noir, the one for whom it should have been too late – the impossible number four.
God’s arithmetic was simple and absolute. Not two without three.
That’s what Ma always used to say, trinity loving Catholic that she was. About fours she said nothing, so I had no warning.

I was complacent; living like it was all over, settling into the soft gossamer of inevitable solitude, accepting without question my mathematically legislated exile. My allotted trio of great loves had been and gone, my three wishes used up, the genie departed. And yet Olympia was through my defences before I could properly draw breath.

Only beauty knows its way around the numbers.

{This letter is an extract from a novel called Three Visions of Olympia. See the OLYMPIA PROJECT page for download links.}

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