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It used to be one way: she using me another time, and I putting my feelings on delay. Like an un-scored song of anger, I'd store the instance in my mind, a screaming note, sharp, sustained long, until another scar is in the memory. It's like a weight on me, this talent I'm given-by music to make a cry unreal, yet hurting.

But now there might be another meter--another measure--in my life. This one, a rhythm of abeyance.

It always opens with the driving, between engagements she has arranged. She and my violin, and I, in a car I'm cramped to sit in. She's smaller and better fits the driver's seat, but gets me nervous when she bullets by all else on wheels. One night she raced us under an eighteen-wheeler. That's when I lost my front tooth to the porcelain cap I now wear-her safety-belt protected her from all but minor bruises. And although that was bad, worse is how I've died through maybe a million misses. Then after, felt her eyes on me, amused as she undressed my fear with asking, "Were you scared, Roberto?"

So I must drive in cramps, or ride in terror.

Then it's the hotels that we sleep in. She chooses them. I have no class! she tells me, when I plead for a brand-name motel's commonplace efficiency. She advises me to stay with my talent: my violin, my gift to her world of high culture. For though as a man I bore her, she loves the art in me. Like a pearl within a crusty, vulgar clam, she nurtures it despite me.

I am an artist, she says. I must be seen in the proper places. And as my manager, she decides these. So we sleep in these facades of past glamour the money affords: ugly houses with cracking, baroque columns and hallway mirrors with blackened sore-like spots spoiling their every reflection. This is where she nightly rests my art, within these shells of tawdry glory gone. Used now for failing managers, and nondescript menials to make ends meet.

Dressed in her broad-rimmed hats and swirling skirts, she flares into these antique places like a match flame in a cemetery. "We have reservations!" she announces to the man at the desk.

A man whose suit betrays buffed stain-spots and odd-thread mendings. But he is the manager. He'll smile and say, "But of course, Madame..." a glance in a register with one reservation (ours), then "Yes, yes, Miz (always this neuter) Miz Miara Donwah, and her, er, violinist husband."

As they always are, he is taken by her fine looks. So he is very gracious while exploring her availability. "We are honored to have you stay here. We are at your complete disposal...."

Between eyes for her, his glances at me are stereotyping: tall, frail man with abstracted eyes. Big hands, big head. The striving musician carried by the beautiful and strong woman. He with all his emotions in his head. She getting none at all in bed.

All of a sudden, under her spell, this guy feels debonair and dashing. Him, a faded manager of a faded hotel-a last chance man trying.

Her routine hardly ever changes. Unpacks her overnighter, checks the next day's schedules, then takes her liquor to her bath. Liquid warmth within and without. It relaxes her, she says, more than I could ever do.

I play something now that she's safely in her bath. Something soothing. Maybe a special riff I reached tonight. Or I might practice a difficult progression. Or repeat a single thrilling note. Sometimes, I even waste the time and review the morrow's music. For the moment is as peaceful as forgetfulness.

Before, I used to put the clothes in drawers and hide away the empty bags to borrow homey feelings from their absence. Then came a night when it was raining and the concert audience was cold, and the music never thawed them. Their applause was a drizzle; the whole program a flop. I fled from the stage door like farceur, as she sped me to hide-out in her grand hotel.

With her in her waters, I had roamed the rooms in a fidget. I stroked some chords out my violin, but smoothed just the sharpest edges of my strain. So seeking further comfort, I thought to put the clothes away. And opening the dresser drawer, I exposed a crawling nest of roaches.

They formed a milling circle in the corner: tiny-legged, dark and swirling like a rippling sore. Baby vermin freshly hatched, so small that I saw them entering me as I slept-my ears, my nose, my mouth-- tiny and crawling down in my retching lungs, stifling me. I screamed, filled with fear and disgust. And out of her bath she dashed, naked in dirty, soapy froth, alarmed. "What is it, Roberto? What frightened you?"

"Nothing!" I gasped as my sweat chilled a tremble out me. "Nothing..." I repeated guiltily, slinking away from the dreadful drawer I dared not push shut. She noticed my aversion and looked in it and saw. "A tiny cockroach!" she accused, annoyed, "You let a baby cockroach scare you!"

"There was a lot of..." I blurted out too quickly, trying to defend, to explain. But my words were shamed to silence by the wine-flushed look she threw me. For as if I were suddenly covered with rotting sores, she was drenching me with scorn, and ugly pity.

Since then I leave the drawers alone and await her with my music.

If she gets drunk she gets to loving me. She might decide to go down there, closer to it than I can. Worrying it soft, and toothing it when it gorges stupidly stiff. I wonder then if the wine has made her tease a risk. Will she forget to only nibble, with her teeth so hard-white pretty, and her eyes up-gazing emptily at me, devoid of everything I recognize? What might she be thinking of, she who despises me so? The threat of danger makes it come alive. It thrills and surges in its own pleasured interest, dragging me along, the terrible stimulation seeping into me. It is unendurable that I am slipping so. Then, like a guarded accident, a fire shoots out of me. And she is greedy as she sucks and steals my vitals, conquering me once more.

It was the night when I played the prize my way. Not so long ago it was, a month or so maybe. I had been masterful. Forced by my spell, they cheered my craft, the sweet sound of my talent. Miara was relieved. It'd let us eat a half-year more she said. To celebrate, she gave me some of her champagne. And I was weak (could I say No?) and took it. So when I laid me down to sleep, the wine fed my dream the strength to form and ooze into me. And I was lost again in the tree-dark valley between the mountains.

No ray of sunshine meets this forest's bed. Here the fecund green stifles all light into gloom, blankets all day into nightmare. And in here I am lost, a little boy not twelve years old, bemused with fear. Afraid to stand, I creep about, attacked by tall, cutting grasses. I blunder into big hard things that bruise and scrape and chafe. And through it all my throat is straining, bulging with a shivering held-in scream. For if I cry out, I may be found. A slobbering thing may hear me, and come and pinch, and draw me into the cave more black than the emptiness wherein it dwells, just waiting to contain me.

Then I awoke to feel her on me, flaccid as I was. Kneeling over me, gently rocking, barely touching, fucking me. And as I gasped, she came a-sudden and fell on me and cried, "Ohh, Roberto, you did me proud." And in my impotence, I felt so foolish.

Then one night a few concerts ago, she returned pleasured-high from her bath while I was still playing my violin. I was rapt in something tranquil: a piece that weakened time and bent it lazy peaceful. From the bed, she interrupted and bade me come to her. But added as after-thought, "Play on till you're done". Such a sweet piece it was.

So I went into the piece again, from just the part that's softest, feather-touching the bars that sang the sultry balms of tropic oceans. A music to beguile and mingle with the deepest private dreams, I played. Mustered my best to weight her eyelids, win her sleep. And across my dancing bow, I saw the effort working. Her breaths began a drifting rhythm, ebbing breakers on a dreamland shore. On and on I played, enticing her to sleepwalk into her languorous ocean bed, and dream forever there.

Inspired so, I played success. Then when she was safely dreaming and I had crawled between the bedclothes, I found myself a-sweat, alive, an erection demanding of my sly excitement. So in lieu of other lullaby, I handled the turgid tension away. One erotic spasm of self-applause, then off to peaceful sleeping.

A pattern set, my violin and I, we find more pleasure in my talent now.