Conversation In Isolation IX

Colleen Wagner
3 min readMar 15, 2022

I’m taking a pain killer that takes me down memory lane. I’m playing iTunes on my old iPad — albums I recorded from my collection several years ago. I select random shuffle and Nina Simone’s “I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl” roars to life; a song both personal and political. It makes me aware of my own personal and political struggles. Who hasn’t been there? Lovers that weren’t always good for us? Systemic misogyny and hard-won small victories.

She sings seductively to a man who has lost interest in her amidst rumors he is seeing someone else. It’s 1962 and she is singing openly about sexual desire. Very few women would publicly speak of female sexual desire without being branded a slut, immoral, loose; all those things the church abhors but men desired.

Her singing and the lyrics awaken the dramatist in me, and as she sings a cast of characters emerge like musical notes. Each is different, for how else can one create music if there is only one note? They are complex too, filled with contradictions, susceptible, and can be fooled, sometimes willingly, but the painful realizations must be experienced in order to undergo a necessary transformation.

It’s the Odyssey. The interior story, because what good is a story about a traveler, who sails into the unknown, encounters strange and wondrous creatures, falls into a dark night of the soul, if on her return she hasn’t been transformed by the experience? Why knowingly wade into the inevitable spiritual darkness if you do not want to be changed by it?

I just tag along for the ride. My characters teach me.

And so these melancholy songs lift me in surprising ways.

The music changes to instrumental music: strings, percussion. Al Dimeola plays his electric guitar. “Elegant Gypsy Suite.” I saw him perform in the 80s in a downtown basement venue. I saw many great acts there. Before it closed down. The building was sold to developers. It’s a condo now, with a pharmacy on the bottom floor.

I samba to the music while I’m cooking. More soups for the freezer. For the winter. In case. I’ve never felt more squirrel-like.

I remember I also saw Ian and Sylvia play there before it became known that he was a wife batterer. Before she finally left him.

Al Dimeola already had a reputation as one of the greatest guitar players. I loved his Spanish Flamingo roots.

The man I will later marry sits beside me, but we didn’t know each other well then. He bought the tickets and invited me. He listened to a lot of music. Mostly rock. Mostly big bands. He was introducing me to his musical aesthetic. Men of that generation were as into music as the youth of today are with video games. And he wanted me to share his aesthetic. It was an important part of his assessment of our compatibility. Mine too.

It makes me laugh and imagine the wonderous courting rituals of the Bird of Paradise.

The past mixed with imaginings plays out like an endless series of short films projected on a white screen. The endless story of my life. So far.

I turn the music off. To eat. Soup. Homemade. Vegetables from my garden. A baguette, slices of cheese, olives. I wish you were here to share it.

Silence. Each bite is a fresh moment. A sensation. A new memory forming. An elaborate chain, one loop linked to the next, ad infinitum, until death seizes memory, and disposes of it.

All else is fiction.

--

--

Colleen Wagner

Playwright, Screenwriter, Post & Prose Writer — Conversations in Isolation