Farewell to a Muse
We stood there for a moment just looking at each other and I wasn't sure if was going to throw-up right there on his feet or die of a heart attack first. My head was spinning, guts churning, heart racing with the simultaneous feeling of exhilaration, anticipation, and dread. Knowing that this moment was really all it would be, and soon all of this would be over forever.
Michael leaned in again, and finally, I found my way back into my right mind, and held my hand up to stop him.
“No.” I said, probably a little more sternly than I had meant to be.
I felt him take a step back from me and sigh a little,“Why?” he asked softly, “All this time, I thought this is what you wanted? Is it my marriage? My kids?" He sighed again, screwing his face into a distorted expression that mirrored his obvious distress, "Because I've been thinking Kim, I know what I want, I've made a decision.”
Oh sweet Jesus, I thought to myself...can I just find the door and run for my life out of here? Just keep running and running until I forget that any of this was happening? I thought about bolting for the door, I really did, but then I wondered if the entire music department witnessed Professor Johnson running for her life like her hair was on fire... they'd probably think I was on drugs or something.
No, I was an active participant in all of this, so I better do the grown up thing and at least deal with it. “Michael, this is a problem. I think you may have misunderstood me and my intentions.”
“How?" He asked with genuine surprise, "I thought we felt the same way, it's my fault for dragging my feet for so long. It's just,” he took a breath, “Just that I feel so guilty for feeling this alive, with you and not Gayle but it is what it is and I can't keep denying it anymore. It's killing me.”
Cue the melodrama, I thought to myself as I watched him wrestle with this great life altering issue that was his “undying, leave my wife and kids” love for me. Meanwhile, I just stood there, continuing to be half horrified, stunned and feeling all of what I had been desperately clinging to, leaving me like a balloon with a slow leak.
“Michael, stop. Just stop. Yes, I have feelings for you, and yes, it is a romantic love I haven't felt in so long, but it's not the kind of love you think. I love your art, I love the collaboration, the creativity, the fact that I've had my spirit returned to me after so long of thinking it would be gone forever. And yes, that comes from you, but it also comes from the longing of knowing that we could never go there. Not ever...” I trailed off realizing something.
“What Kim, what is it?”
“Why am I having this conversation with you like you are some kind of love sick undergrad I somehow inspired, and I'm having the 'Sorry I can't be your Mrs. Robinson' speech? I mean, don't you have these quarterly? Why am I having this with someone who has been around the block, so to speak, and you're acting like this is the greatest love story ever told?”
“What?” He asked again, the distorted, pained look now replaced with genuine puzzlement.
“Seriously, haven't you done this yourself? Fell in love, to fall in love and be inspired? To have a muse? You Michael are my muse. I watch you, I'm around you, and it inspires me. I had been going through the motions for seven years, and then I met you that one day in the string room, and my spirit returned. I wrote my first original composition that didn't feel like I was cutting and pasting the past together to make the present. All of those things that I had thought I'd lost just came back in a flood, and -”
“Yes, yes I feel the same way,” Michael interrupted, taking my hand, “It's been amazing, which is why I just had to do this... tell you how I feel and finally be honest with myself about it. I love you Kim, I hear what you're saying about the whole “muse” thing, but it's much more than that for me. Much, much more.”
I was afraid of that. Of course it was. But as this conversation carried on and he stuck to his profession of love, the anxiety started to wane and the dread started to fill in the blanks. This is it. This is history repeating itself. Here's Michael being me seven years ago when I stood in the rain on John Victor's doorstep crying and pleading that I loved him more than anything, only to finally learn this lesson the hard way again.
Oh Michael. Dumb, dumb cloistered musical genius Michael, didn't hear what I was saying because he hadn't been here before. Lucky bastard. His whole life, music had been just what he did. He didn't need inspiration because the right notes always happened. They were embedded in his pulse, and why I loved him so much. I acutely wanted that for myself; so I took it from him by osmosis, and now it was over. Anticipation feeds inspiration. Just anticipating in the parking lot when I would pull in every morning, the sound of the faint piano from down the hall, the coffee rings in the composition room, listening to him lecture and direct.
But now, I stood there and looked at him. Gone was the beauty, the glow, the anticipating... and I looked at this middle aged intellectual man, not at all physically attractive to me, trying to kiss me and ride off into the sunset together. And there it goes, I thought. That heady, happy, drunk feeling I've had for the past year, it's gone.
I've never been one that has been able to create in pain. I'm just not maudlin enough for it. I can't write a gloomy ballad over heartache. I create in love, for love. And he was my love. But he wasn't understanding me.
“Vivaldi's Virgins,” I blurted out.
“What?” Michael asked, looking genuinely confused by this point. Perhaps he was finally figuring out that I was actually insane.
“Vivaldi's Virgins,” I repeated, “You know what I'm talking about, right?”
“Yes, his students in the convent," Michael answered, "What does that have to do with anything?”
“Vivaldi had the biggest growth in his craft when he was teaching at the convent. Because of the art around him. The pure beauty, joy and genius that some of those orphans in the convent gave him. I'm sure he loved, maybe even lusted after a few, but he never touched them. They were sacrosanct to him. To touch them would be to defile the muse. He had to take that longing and anticipation to give him inspiration, keep him coming back for more, feed him creatively...” I trailed off.
“So you're telling me, I'm your virgin.” Michael sighed softly chuckling to himself in that way you do when you're humiliated and uncomfortable at the same time.
“Yes. And I don't want you to take that as a rejection, because it's not, it's just another form of love. Maybe not sexual or even romantic, but even purer than that. You gave me so many gifts and awakened my spirit. But now, now it's been sullied. Like actors on the stage, you can't break that plane with the audience. We broke the plane,” I smiled at him, “And now you are no longer my muse.”
Michael leaned up against the desk, “Well, I feel like an idiot, because now I feel what you're saying,” he sighed again as I saw the blush of embarrassment rise from his collar.
I laughed, “Of course you do! I bet if I had let you kiss me, you would have immediately wondered what the hell you were doing and it would've been a huge disappointment for you.”
“Oh I don't know about that,” he chuckled, “I'm willing to bet you're a good kisser.”
“Maybe. But you'll never know,” I answered.
“So now what?” he asked.
“Now I go back to being frustrated and teaching theory, desperately looking for inspiration to hit me again, and you go back to your wife and kids and keep being a genius. I'll have to talk down the wayward undergrad a few times a year, and you get to keep being oblivious. But at least you don't have the pressure of being my muse anymore.”