Eppur si muove. And yet it moves.
Galileo was talking of the sun in relation to earth, but here in the depths of the garage studio, I can see she is the one who knows the precise moment each song should advance and move towards an ending, not me. I’m going to be ok without her, but it’s becoming clear that she drives this creative process and I’ll have to adapt. She crouches on her bass amp, the hum and drone elongated as she accentuates each pluck. Me, with the second-hand Gibson we agreed to bring, slumping on my practice amp, cursing the hobble of notes we have decided to stitch together. We are the very essence of long forgotten. We have become a residual echo.
We met in the hall where a friend was getting married. Not exactly a Scout hall, but close. Torn posters still sticky-taped from the eighties, windows that were once covered in pink ribbons and doors that wouldn’t quite close. Left-over ghosts of old vinyl lining the seats. She got up on stage and sang ‘The Way It Goes’ by Gillian Welch. Her voice swept across the stage and flew directly into the night air. I was in awe. We spoke for a while towards the end and the last thing she said to me was, here’s an idea, let’s start a band. I wanted to reply yes immediately but whispered, I always live on the edge. This was never true and the sentence has stayed attached to me like soft static and sometimes made its way out during our arguments.
We fell in love over Levon Helm's drumming. Strange, but there you have it. We loved the steadiness of his beat, the reliance of his cymbal hits and the spaces in between. We craved music. We played at so many weddings. We had rotating band members. It was always like The Last Waltz with really good cake and no goodbyes. Every time I looked in her eyes and I knew we would always have the crunch and sparkle of song. The love that comes with the right amount of discord. But over time and many songs later, we just lost a connection. A wire had come loose.
Now, she sits there, telling me my E-minor sounds a little flat. I play back the track. Eppur si muove, I say. I thought she would appreciate the science of all this. She wears the face that says I should know better. We both fuss over the choices of chords, all the while twitching at our straps. I say, before becoming Elvis Presley's agent, Colonel Tom Parker ran a troupe of dancing chickens. This line had always made her laugh. She is right, the E-minor is downcast.
There's nowhere to go after the middle eight, she says as she picks her plectrum up off the faded carpet.
I remind her that during Black Sabbath's thirty-something year career, they had twenty-nine different band members. They did okay, didn't they? I ask as I try that E-minor again. She smiles as she crumples up the piece of paper with the new words written on it, the ones that we tried to craft after a little too much champagne. She says, this time, let the chorus repeat twice. We look down at our pedals and start to play, disorientated in our loss as the room becomes smaller. The long notes bounce around the room reverberating in my chest.
We know we will have to move on.
ALICIA SOMETIMES is an Australian writer and broadcaster. She has performed her spoken word and poetry at many venues, festivals and events around the world. Alicia is one-sixth of the ABC podcast The Outer Sanctum. She is director and co-writer of the science-poetry show Elemental, and has a new show on gravitational waves called Particle/Wave, which had sell-out shows at the Melbourne Festival 2018 and is touring in 2019.