I would start in the middle of a book and read in both directions at once, from memory, without hesitation. This is where I heard music, music I could move to. The volume was low but still I worried my bashful toe tapping would wake the neighbors and i often though to lay carpet. It would be safer not to be heard, especially these days. The air is rarely filled with songs or the flailing of limbs. Nobody’s hips Presley swing and no head tilting shut eye choirs belt anthems with carelessly raised hands. I overheard two souls on smoky a street corner humming that jazz was dead but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to. I’m stubborn and stoic. I afford no exuberant liberties but there’s no liberty to be bought so I do just fine as a Book Keeper.
When we heard The Fog start descending we Book Keepers took it upon ourselves to scrounge, scavenged and store what we could of the less flamboyant arts. Manuscripts, stories, paintings, photographs, vinyl’s and tapes, and the endless amount of digital media that we are still taking count of. Looking at art is quiet so we get away with it behind our locked library doors. The Fog descended quickly and the silence it brought was the first clue. Only those really listening heard melodies start to fade and the breeze still. The singing and the wind were the first to go and soon after without songs the movers stopped too. The performing arts were a verb before they were a noun but The Fog was too thick and without the breeze to clear it there was no room to flap about. The Book Keeper collections were all perceivable in the privacy of a patient gaze, quiet containable inspiration. It was said that 'dance is the hidden language of our souls' but with our souls in a thick cloud, how could you expect us to find our feet let alone voice.
That was the state of things until I left the window open. We used to open one or two only an inch or so in the thick of the night just in case one day The Fog lifted or redemption breezed in. We had locked the doors when the white Fog had first touched down on the streets and since let only this late night sliver in the shutter be our consolation. I hadn’t woken from my slumber to correct the window before dawn rose which was out of character for me. In fact that kind of negligence and ill-discipline was out of character for any of us Book Keepers. Keeping account of these remnants of creativity had become a static free calling tuned to perfection. So when I took my first round of the library alongside the resident mice doing their own routine perimeter checks, I was vexed with panic when I saw the dawn lit fog curl over the windowsill. I rushed with a rare frenzy and lurched for the latch slamming the window closed. In all the hustle I had tripped and lunged, with full force, my right knee into an adjacent shelf while at the same time slamming the window down so hard the old wooden frame cracked in the wall and was now letting an inconsequential whisper of Fog into our haven. The Book Keepers all agreed to leave it be but I felt the weight of the whole ordeal more than others. The additional throbbing of my knee made for crippling cocktail of guilt. I was the untold leader of our commune like museum. No one had designated me or ceremoniously crowned me but it seemed I was the decisive voice on most matters. Maybe that befell me due to my particular knowledge of the catalogue and my unique ability to read and recite a text from any point in any direction. Sometimes I wished I could walk up to a work for the first time, having never seen or read it before but new works were a luxury The Fog had muted. It seemed my injury and embarrassment had muted my normal influence on matters and I let the crack in the wall alone.
It was later that day when we were all gathered in the reading room across from the treacherous window that the breeze was first seen. I say seen because it was so light it was not yet a feeling but rather a quiver on the brim of my hat. Confused at first I rolled my eyes up and strained to focus. As the quiver grew so did a pitchy whistling that tailed behind it until it became the fiery crack of a tongue abusing the stale silence. The sound came from the air rushing in through the damaged frame. Its splinters and the old sandstones curves were being conducted as a chorus of reeds in a woodwind ensemble. We sat there stunned and overwhelmed as our jackets swelled proud like capes and our breath shrunk cowardly beside the hurling wind, until as if by design our hats boldly danced from our heads to the floor then to the ceiling and effortlessly from wall to wall with not a single superfluous movement. Our chests swelled with the courageous breath of a prayer and we felt music in our bones. We had to dance. Being overcome with truth, the sacred and delicate strength of our bones began to speak as though we were athletes of God himself. It had been said that "music is the spiritual expression of what we are: our faith, our knowledge, our being" and here we were being reintroduced to ourselves. Rhythm had so long been denied by The Fog yet now we were a hoofing to a blissful back beat as prophets and jesters.
Startled to be alive I fled as though led by this Spirit in the room. The other Book Keepers followed and I came to the still locked door pausing for what felt like minutes but was barely seconds. I was straight, hidden, secluded and methodical. How was it that now this elementary wriggling and nodding was liberating me into The Fog that had so dutifully empowered my seclusion and consumption of the quieter arts? I had and heard music in every word I’d read and every image I had pored over had a dance in it but I had become an expert side stepper and a weak lead. My knee suddenly reminded me of the morning’s collision and buckled beneath me. Who were these tweed hung men and woman normally distilled in their reading that we could storm from our fort into a pestilent Fog with some amusing hip flicks as if our feet had a message that would not come up empty. That distracted second ended abruptly as the commotion of my Book Keepers drew my attention to a portion of ourselves that we do not discovered without an awakening. So with the confidence and ease of Astaire I removed the locks and we fell to The Fog. At first our insanity was a drunken ramble to those outside as they could not hear the music. So we stamped and clapped all the more and I sung with a conviction that surpassed any trend until they heard it. Until our madness became their madness, our spinning their spinning, our applause their applause. We had turned a notorious key to a glorious ballroom, sacred and lifted far from The Fog. Draped in class, flamboyant but not distasteful we danced till we reached every degree of this breathtaking but foggy world.
Let us read, let us sing and let us dance; these three amusements will never do any harm to the world.