Working title - THE CLARINETTIST
I had been in love with Jaime since the first moment I set eyes on him. Hearing him play the clarinet (my own instrument) so beautifully and so much better than I either could or ever would, only made me love him more. I admit that a minute pang of jealousy ran through my veins for a brief moment too. It was so effortless for him where I had to work so hard to be the reasonably professional clarinettist that I am.
I'm lying " the jealousy ran through me until the moment I killed him.
I found out about his affair with Peter two weeks before I killed Jaime, I later found out it had been going on almost from the moment we became 'an item' as it were. I hate that expression and only use it now because it was the way everybody thought of us. Sometimes you simply have to accept the inevitable.
The clarinet in the window of the tiny second hand shop was a Buffet & Crampon French-made 'Sweetest-Sounding' model circa 1935. I was sure of it before I even went in to ask to look at it. I trembled as I leant my head forward to rest, so gently, on the window of the shop. A sudden sweat had broken out on my forehead and I felt it mix with the grime of the shop window but dismissed it with the unbidden thought that I would leave a clean patch on the glass and a comical grey smudge on my head for everyone to see. All the usual junk shop items were in the window, dressed on red crushed velvet with strategically placed wooden boxes underneath to display the many tempting wares; various video gaming consoles and assorted games, jewellery pawned for the price of a weekend on the booze, an ice hockey stick and skates (size nine), a few small home keyboards, Casio, Yamaha and the like. And my clarinet.
I had begun to think of it as mine then; without the means to pay for it or having even held it or played it. I didn't need to. I knew how it was going to sound. It would be warm, syrupy, and mellow. With caressing, soothing lows and tantalising sweet highs, full in the middle register with the promise of musical beauty in the right hands; that's when I knew I had to buy it.
And give it to Jaime.
Oh, I could have played it and, to the ears of most people, it would have sounded wonderful. And I wanted it so badly. But with Jaime's perfectly formed embouchure around the reed and his slender, tactile fingers caressing the keys...I could hear the sound already, sublime, transcendent, inspirational. I held an instant of pure, distilled hatred then; if not pure hatred then certainly it was hatred born of soul-deep jealousy. I had worked so hard to be a good musician, practicing until my face ached so much I could barely talk and my fingertips were red from pressing the keys. And to Jaime it was a throwaway talent. He played effortlessly, with the natural, sickening skill of a born musical prodigy. But his real talent was light years beyond the superlative skill he displayed, the true magic of his art was the emotion he could implicate in his solos. I always felt tears forming as the phrasing, vibrato and intonation wrung every last drop of pathos from the composer's scribblings. It was almost as if Jaime had been there, many years ago, sat Mozart, Bach and Handel on his analyst's couch and understood all of their collective angst and personal dialogues with God, there and then as they were writing their music so that he, Jaime, could personally relay it to us in the twenty-first century as bone fide as it could be.
I turned the moulded door-knob of the shop and was not surprised when the door opened to the tinkling of an old brass bell suspended on a piece of sprung steel above it. I heard the sound of my heels, self-consciously, as I walked towards the old wooden counter, dust lifting low to the floor along the lines of the floorboards with every step, cast alight by the sunbeams breeching the semi-frosted glass of the door. A man stepped out from behind a pile of books on the counter.
"Good afternoon," he said.
"Er, hi," I replied, slightly startled.
"You want to look at it?" he said. He must have seen the blank look on my face because he went on:
"The clarinet, I noticed you admiring it..."
I almost took a step back and stifled a gasp in my throat.
"I... how did you know?" I managed.
"Oh, don't be alarmed. This isn't a Stephen King novel," he laughed.
"I've been doing this for over forty years and I think I've learned to weigh people up pretty well in that time."
He paused, just long enough.
"That, and the CCTV over there," he pointed. "And outside; and in the window."
"It's a sad sign of the times but I like gadgets anyway so..." he trailed off.
I relaxed and laughed along with him.
"You're quite correct though," I said. "Yes, the clarinet, could I have a look at it please?"
He was already opening the window to reach for it.
Jaime was playing a solo from a Mozart clarinet concerto. He often played after we made love. There was something about music and watching him play that always made me want him more, if that was possible. Tonight would be different though.
I walked up behind him, naked as he. He was sitting in the dining area chair facing the glass conservatory. We were the top floor so there were no prying eyes, possibly the most compelling selling point of the apartment to us, before we had found THE SPOT, as we called it after much experimentation playing solo clarinet all over the flat.
It was the perfect tiny area with wonderful harmonics, the sound waves bounced perfectly from the walls and ceiling so that it was as if the solo instrument was playing from every infinite part of the room and completely filling your head with music. It felt, sometimes eerily, as if the room had been created solely for that small space to exist simply for our pleasure, for a musician's pleasure. We had even painted a blue spot on the boards. Sometimes we pushed the chair away and lay a blanket and duvet down on the cool wooden floor and made love there, to be surrounded by the sounds of our collective ecstasies as we lost ourselves in each other. We had done that tonight.
I reached around Jaime's shoulders, sliding my hands down his arms, feeling the muscles and sinews sliding over each other in perfect synchronicity with the cadences and movement of the music. He stopped.
"No, keep playing, I want to feel your fingers," I whispered in his ear.
"Ok, but I will need to finish this if you want me again," he said lasciviously. "I'll need the time to recover, I'm getting older, you know, and this piece is just long enough...for now." he laughed. I chuckled seductively in his ear.
"It can wait," I said. "I need to hear you play this one more time."
He started over and I placed my hands, with infinite delicacy, enough to feel but not restrict, over his fingers; his lithe, sensuous, perfectly lined fingers that could play me almost as well as my clarinet so that I could feel the movements, somehow steal the muscle memories for my own. The solo flowed. Uplifting one moment, ponderingly delicate the next, majestic and pompous, then finally waning to a diminuendo as the ending rang out and Jaime held the last note, wavering high, trailing away in a musical representation of the last jewel of sun disappearing below the horizon.
As it fell away and Jaime began to lift his fingers from the keys I squeezed my hands around his and felt him lean his head back onto my chest. Then I pulled, suddenly and with a violence nurtured in envy, jealousy and unbridled passion. Jaime jerked and squealed; the sound almost immediately filled with the gurgling of blood being breathed both in and out. I thought he might pull at my hair but his arms reached up and tried to pull the reed block out from where it was embedded deep in his throat almost to his spine. I heard teeth break against metal and another choked scream from Jaime. His hands were now at his face so I could pull up vertically, using the leverage of the long instrument to force his head back. I reached up high above his head and maniacally thought of a sword swallowing act and then of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone and drove down with all my strength to force the clarinet into Jaime's now upturned gullet. A sound I shall never forget; the tearing of flesh and cartilage as the keys ripped along his oesophagus, down into his stomach. And then I pushed again. Hard. His voice choked off suddenly, nowhere for the air to go, his beautiful fingers staining now with saliva and blood, the capillary action making the grotesque mixture run along the exquisite lines on his knuckles. His marvellous hands scrabbled weakly at his chest, then to my horror, reached behind one last time for me.
But they never made it. He slumped down into the chair and I let go.
So now I languish here until they say I am sane again. Years ago I would have been hanged. I should be guilt-ridden and anguished, but I feel kind of serene and dreamy every single day. (I assume the drugs may have a part in that, but not that big a part, I know that). I remember how much I loved Jaime, of course, but I also remember the rage and jealousy that another man's flesh had touched him, and that he had touched that other man's flesh when he was supposed to be mine. But I do not feel the rage. That left me the moment he died. A settling of the churning in my stomach and in my mind and a tranquil satisfaction overwhelmed me; that the last person to touch him ever in this world was me and could never be anyone else, ever again.
I wonder if I will be allowed to have my clarinet back.
(Word count: 1765)