A singer on a TV talk show is sharing a story about her voice and how it’s changed. She wonders if longtime fans hear her new songs and realize she’s the one singing them.
“I get it if they don’t,” the singer says. “I mean, whose voice is this?”
“Maybe you could find it again, this voice you’ve lost,” the talk show host says. “You could go for walks with it, ask it ‘How are you really feeling?’, massage it like an open heart, take it to the movies, sing it some of the old songs.”
“I don’t know if it’s that kind of thing,” the singer says.
I change the channel and see Tarzan cradling a baby antelope. Tarzan, the Info button on the remote tells me, is being chased by poachers. He’s also lost his hearing.
“Easy now,” Tarzan says to the trembling calf. “I only want to borrow your ears.”
Tarzan studies the antelope’s eyes, watches her ears, feels her lungs heave. The antelope twitches, turns, stops. Freezes. Tarzan looks behind him and sees a motionless zebra. A wooden orangutan. A toucan statue. Something’s happening. The animals hear something. They’re transfixed. It’s Florence Henderson. She’s singing a soaring song about change as an inherent element of self-actualization. Or cooking oil. I’m not sure which. The melody rises, it falls, it splashes, it colors the rainforest sky slate blue.
The swaddled antelope shyly looks up at Tarzan, then in the direction of Florence Henderson’s floating notes.
“Thanks for letting me know,” Tarzan says. “For listening for me.”
I hear what Tarzan’s saying but I can’t take my eyes off the floating notes. How they hover, how they flutter, look at them flit, they’re going with the flow, they’re going it alone, these notes. They’re unselfconscious, these notes. They’re themselves.
These notes are what you, when you and I were together, would call The Truth.
“We’re going to listen to the water drummers,” the floating notes say to me. “They make the river sing. Come with?”
The notes and I spy the water drummers waist deep in the rush that is this rill. They’re playing the river with their hands and each scoop-clap-swish is in sync.
I think I get it: The rhythm is the song and the song is the thing and the thing is what’s true. But the thing is, all I hear and all I’ve been hearing for months is the sound of your voice. The voice I knew. The song you sang. The song I knew. The one I miss.
I try to focus.
“What are the water drummers playing?” I ask the floating notes. “What song are they making the river sing?”
“We don’t know,” the notes say. “We never know. We can’t hear.”
So comfortable in their own skin, these floating notes. I think this in your voice. Not the one I think I’ve lost, but a new one. It’s a voice that’s all you and all yours, one with a little Wessonality in it. It’s a voice with new songs in it, songs I’d think I recognize, in shifting tempos and unidentifiable keys. Songs I’d need a baby antelope’s help to hear.
“I heard that,” I say to the floating notes, who are humming a tune I can’t place. “Anybody know that one?”
The river shrugs. Tarzan sighs. The floating notes hum and hum and hum as the syncopated beat of the water drummers welcomes the soon-to-be scatting rainforest moon.
Pat Foran is a writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in WhiskeyPaper, Little Fiction, Anti-Heroin Chic, Gravel, Bending Genres and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @pdforan.