Saturday, January 20, 2007

"The Conductor," Conclusion

By Jennifer Wilson

He, like most, had for some time entertained the possibility that having a
family might bring him some satisfaction. The people around him had
families, and they all appeared to live happily enough. And so he had
pursued this course carrying the knowledge of it that he had gained on
television commercials and by watching other people proceed in kind. She had
always wanted children and when he showed signs of feeling similarly she was
thrilled, envisioning her life stretching out to old age with family photos
lining bookshelves and a fireplace to sit by late at night.

When they made love it was always pleasant, but afterward his mind would
fold in on itself, leaving his body vacant and unresponsive. He would
apologize with an exaggerated innocence she often thought charming when she
questioned him. She attributed, out loud as she calmed herself to sleep,
this distance of his to the advancement of his intellect, or the ineptitude
of his emotional awareness. He gratefully accepted any theory as he turned
over again to sleep.

She worked as the curator of a respected museum and mingled with many people
of fortune and fame. They attended more glamorous functions than he was
accustomed to, and she assisted him in choosing appropriate dress.The
glitter of it all entertained him and kept his moods at bay. She encouraged
him to relax and would bring champagne to bed and play music in the
afternoons. They seemed the perfect couple. She distracted him from his
doubts and diverted his attention.

Sometimes, alone in his office or just as he was drifting off to sleep, he would get the strangest feeling that there was something that he urgently had to do. It was the disquieting sense that there was something that he had to find.

He tried to think back, to remember what it was that could be
haunting him. But all that came was a single memory: the feeling of the
current charging through his limbs and smashing his two front baby teeth
into his tongue. He could almost smell the white sizzling dots that
surrounded his head and dazzled his senses. He considered possibly finding a
proper prescription.

His wife loved him. She encouraged him to remember his dreams with the hope
that he might become more emotionally present. She sensed that he was a
deeply passionate man and she continuously attempted to draw him out. She
held off having children, waiting for him to become more at ease with
himself, to become more comfortable. While his capacity for the rational had
potential to awe her, she wondered if it was not also a barrier to her. One
day on the phone with a friend, she likened his sequestered aloofness to the
bed of another woman. As soon as the words left her mouth, she saw clearly
the faithlessness of her position.

As the years passed, she accepted his preference for logic and they became
gradually more estranged. It was unnerving to her, the way in which he
coveted his core, the way he spoke of love with words that sounded scripted
and turned his back each time they finished making love. A month before
their seventh anniversary, she purchased a convertible Mustang and drove it
across the country to open up her own gallery in the fertile soil of

It wasn't the silence in the house that bothered him so much. It was the
echo of a voice that called to him continuously. He heard her in the walls.
He saw her in his sleep. Even when he went out walking she was there. She
was everywhere and yet she was out of his reach.

He slept, draped over his keyboard with the monitor glowing and dreamt that
he was happy. The hours of his waking were fewer and fewer and he succumbed
to the desire for absolute solitude. Dust settled on his window ledge, and
take-out food containers cluttered the floor at his feet. One evening he
awoke and the dream stayed with him. After shutting off the power strip, he
put on his coat and walked outside.

He headed west up along the canal. The cars on the street nearby were
rushing and stopping and rushing and stopping. And then, there it was, just
up ahead, a doorway made of metal, a gate grand enough for heaven. He walked
across the street barely noticing a driver who was forced to hit the brakes
to let him pass.

He walked right up to the chain link and smelled its wet steel in the air.
He could hear the loud hum of his siren's call with rapture growing in his
heart. Take me, he thought. He climbed over the fence, and approached the
snarl of metal and wire in front of him. It shed no light, but he could feel
each hair on his neck rising in answer, he could feel her whispering touch
on his skin at last.

His spread his arms to embrace the steel. His lips stretched out and the
electricity sprang forth to meet them before they reached the pole. It blew
his head back and entwined his body in an instant. His legs rattled and his
jaw sprung apart. His eyes melted open in a fury of white ecstasy. The
charge grabbed onto his own in a stranglehold and sucked the life from his
veins in one thundering boom. His heart burst with love and the wave
descended, devouring his flesh and withering his frame until there was
nothing left of it but the charred remains scattered about on the blackened

And so Andrew kissed his one true love goodnight.

Jennifer Wilson has worked for the BBC, Seal Press, and several independent record labels. She has also made a living as a landscaper, a legal assistant, a janitor, a waitress, and a traveling festival vendor. She is the author of one novel, Witch, an account of the life story of the first woman executed for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. More of her work is available on her website:

1 comment:

Carol said...

Powerful, wonderfully written.

Thank you Jennifer.