Tell us what you think.
Didn't gain his position from nepotism.
And he was no prodigy.
Took hard work, luck. Had graduated from a renowned music academy at the bottom of his class, yet won the same year the school's songwriting award, which, when performed at the Fall Symposium – the auditorium filled with academics, dignitaries, ministers, legislators, and government officials – received a standing ovation. That opened doors and secured him the job of assistant to a second-rate conductor at a struggling theatre that always played to a hall half-full.
To earn extra money he busked, and while strumming guitar, singing songs, watched wave after wave the march of people proceed to and from their obligations, and realized these normal folks pounding pavement were his true audience, and not the socialites with enough resources to afford weekly tickets to the Royal Opera House.
He decided that his country, his government, would serve as muse, and dedicated his music to his fellow countrymen. Planned to lift up their hearts by praising the state. Through allegiance to its laws and leaders, he had faith people would pursue a better life and triumph.
A semi-circle gathered around him, a normal afternoon of busking, a chief adviser to the Minister of Propaganda happened to wander by and gander a moment at the joyous hand-clapping and foot-tapping of the crowd chanting along to his simple, memorable, and powerful anthems. Solidarity and unity its main themes.
Delighted by his abilities, his superiors applauded his skill. Writing hymns devoted to the glory of the people, the state, and its leaders was effortless, for he adored these ideas. One after another, with ease, his songs were genuine and brilliant, and these prideful tunes, distributed in pamphlets and printed in newspapers, the public wholeheartedly consumed and sincerely cherished. He had captured their aspirations, was a conduit for their collective voice, and honestly portrayed their hopes in a resonance according to their spirit.
Sunday evenings he always enjoyed strolling through the same park he had previously entertained on a daily basis, and on this occasion discovered that a group of children, swinging and leaping about the playground, were chirping his song Evening on the Roads; and he soon learned it was mandatory at every school after morning announcements for this composition to be recited.
At various social activities – before sporting events, graduations, toasts, government functions, groundbreaking ceremonies, and factory openings – delivered passionately and swooned by heart, enthusiastic groups and crowds cheered his most popular and significant, such as Remember the Land, Long Long Long Ago, To Find Our Home, For Our Fathers, That Invincible Spark, The Grain! The Grain! The Grain!, and At Exactly 4 O’Clock.
He had become the breath of the government to inspire the will of the people. His words synonymous with its tenor.
His office on the fifth floor – with walls bare as when hired, except for acquired plaques, ribbons, and awards honoring his contribution to stirring and motivating minds loyal to what he was certain was the absolute honest truth, the grandeur of his nation – was inside one of the first buildings bombed during the coup.
After the coup, the new government outlawed his songs and their banished melodies branded as the soundtrack to a cruel regime. Even to hum a few bars in the street would cause nervous looks, gawks, scowls, or scolds. Perceived as celebrating violence, prejudice, injustice, heinousness, now in secret sung, and the singers considered impudent creeps, practicing a terrible and vicious ideology, holding onto an inferior past, and embracing symbols of savageness and ignorance. Those nefarious years, that most disparaging of eras, a pit of darkness in the nation's history, when personal freedoms were aggressively smothered and those that disagreed were jailed, tortured, murdered.
This new regime gave particular attention to eradicating his songs from the public psyche. His songs represented the worst.
In Budapest we saw the new Renrut Blankfein exhibition, titled Sunday, the third and final conceptual performance-installation of his Weekend Trilogy. First of which was Friday Night, where for four weeks at the center rotunda inside the Agnafit Museum in Stockholm, Blankfein spent eight hours each day in an elevated glass box, laying immobile across a mattress. Next to him the book How to Speak German in 30 Days and on the page his vision was fixed upon it said large in yellow ink When you kissed my soul you left bruises turquoise and purple. The second one, Saturday, my sister saw while living in Chicago. It had Blankfein, wearing a white suit two-sizes too big, slumped on a bar stool that was housed in a glass box, holding an unlit cigarette between his teeth and glaring at the ground. For Sunday, he was inside a glass box, sitting completely naked on a red couch. On his lap rested a green ball of yarn about the size of a small boulder, and he was busy knitting. It stated in the piece's manifesto that when he had finished knitting an outfit he would leave. I looked closer and noticed he was wearing one sock.
Barely a gleam from the two eyes in their shadowed hollows, peering over the smoldering campfire, and so cold outside his silhouette, cutting a slightly darker shape out of the spread of wilderness, offered with every syllable a smoke-like exhale of visible breath. A serious voice.
No one enters these woods. Not anymore. These petrified woods, nope, never. We're on the edge of them right now, tomorrow we'll walk around them. In the center, about a quarter mile in there's a clearing of pebbles. There sprouts a patch of tulips shining the healthiest stalks and bulbs. But no one ever goes in these woods, even during daylight. They say daylight’s worse. The voice is louder. Dull growls, bellows, whispers, mumbles of Christ. They say the voice quotes parables. The wind sings Numbers and Baruch. They say the air stinks in there, smells like rotting fish. Sometimes kids from town wear tulips behind their ears to brag they braved the folly of these woods. That they had dashed within, made it to the clearing of pebbles, and plucked a tulip and survived. But they're spouting fibs. They bought it at the flower shop. They never went into the woods, they never heard the ghost of Christ, the ghost which whispers the bible, the lying ghost, the false ghost of Christ, using the word of the lord as a trick to snare the trust of the people. They never heard the preacher’s ghost which haunts these woods. I don’t know who called him Anthony, I don’t think the guy was catholic. But he arrived dressed all in black, that I’m certain. He wore a collar and wandered in from the desert lost in a sandstorm on a mule. With his collar and kind words, honest face, no one expected, no one suspected, a fraud. He was gregarious, charismatic. The mayor loved him, the townsfolk loved him. Gained the trust of the town and they invited him to stay and he began a church. In the beginning all the girls were flower girls. Hung by their feet from trees. In these woods. Upside down their dresses revealed their bellies gutted and emptied. They looked like broken umbrellas. Brutal that stench, the blood, it dripped into the soil, it stained the grass. Soon another girl, and then another, and then two. And more and more. Anthony the preacher he tried his best to calm the town. He blamed the woods. The woods were the source of evil. He said to them that these woods were home to a monstrous wickedness. And the people believed him and they too blamed the woods. Believed him that some thing was living here, some horror was in the woods, and that the evil was proud of its destruction, proud of its contribution to terror. At night, armed men patrolled the outskirts of the woods. But still another body. This one had a message crudely carved in its flesh, describing the death of every first born girl would commence upon the next eclipse. And would you guess the eclipse was the following night. And all the men were prepared and carried rifles, patrolling the town, shooting at any mysterious movement in the shadows. Everyone else stayed in their homes, and the few motherless children whose fathers were detained protecting the town stayed with the preacher. When morning came those children were hanging from their feet. Boys castrated. The girls even worse, they had twigs and flowers crammed in their orifices. Hanging in these tress. The preacher was discovered wandering around the woods, covered in blood, eating a hand. There was no trial. The men right then carried out their own justice. Sliced his head clean off on the spot. That night a large comet streaked the sky, and in the morning the forest was petrified, except in the center where there was left a clearing of pebbles and a healthy tulip patch grows. And his voice can be heard, luring his victims into a false sense of safety with the word of god, quoting Christ, a ghost of blasphemy, a lying ghost. For years they spoke of burning the woods down. Let fire erase it all. But that idea never came to fruition. And it is still here today. Surrounding you.
Started happening more frequently. He heard footsteps, but when he whirled around no one was there.
- Maybe an inner ear thing.
Went to the doctor and the doctor told him he was fine.
- Fit as a fiddle.
He sought a second opinion, - All the tests show a picture of good health.
A third, - Top notch, you've got nothing to worry about.
But still, whenever walking alone, the clatter of footsteps followed, and scanning behind he observed not a thing.
- Maybe there's something wrong with my head.
After all the brain scans every doctor told him he was fine.
- Your insides are tiptop.
- In the pink.
- A clean bill of health.
- Fit as a Stradivarius.
Despite another failure to diagnose its presence, immediately upon exiting another doctor's office he detected that familiar sound, and upon determining the vacancy within his vicinity, suddenly noticed at that instant a stranger strolling behind him, a thin faced man in a long gray coat, appearing only in the reflection of the adjacent glass building.
Whispering, - Can you hear me now? I know you can see me.
- What are these? trick mirrors?
Although no person stood near, the mirror showed one approaching, and the stranger's hands were cupped around his mouth like a megaphone, yet from very far away his voice echoed, - No I'm right next to you.
Low and concerned, -What? why? magician mirrors? What's going on? this isn't funny.
Hands remaining in the same place, - I'm here with you. Always, pursuing, the stranger menacingly hissed.
A slow growing grin, realizing, - You know about my condition. Woody put you up to this. He thought it was hilarious. This is some ruse you're pulling with him.
- It's not a ruse. Look in the mirror. Really look in the mirror go ahead. Look in front of you and simultaneously look in the mirror. I'm right next to you.
- Put your damn hands down, and he darted forward forcefully swatting at air.
- There's nothing wrong with your brain, nothing wrong with your body. I am the footsteps. The footsteps you hear.
- Wh? screeched sharply at such a high-pitch it was barely audible.
Dryly, - You were driving. And cut a woman off. She lost control of her car, ran me over. You were driving. And cut a woman off. She lost control of her car, ran me over. You were driving. You were my cause of death.
After a prolonged silence, paralyzed by confusion, racked by inconclusive thoughts, stuttering, - No no no no.
Teeth clenched into snarl, - I am always behind you. But you're always faster than me. Soon you won't hear it anymore. You'll outpace me.
In the mirror then face to face so abruptly with a fiery gaze that he frantically startled backwards, - You're lying, and toppled to the ground.
Pure rage filtered through his quietness, its rupture like a shriek underwater, - Unfortunately we walk slower than you.
Looking up, stammering breathlessly, - We?
- Do I need remind you of the suicide you caused?
Trembling all over with irrepressible shudders, - Why don't I see him?
The stranger pointed out into the hazy distance of that deserted cityscape, at a sunset wrapped in a gauze of mist, as his arms stretched and mutated into slender oaken branches, - Oh he's way back there now.
A yell from the innermost depths of his chest withered unheard and transformed into a nauseating taste rising to his lips. He burst to his feet and sprinted away.
- Doesn't matter if you run we're attached. Wherever you go I'll be there. Just because you can't see me, doesn't mean I'm not here.