The Green Busker - Chapter Eleven

Things we must do (1st diary)
New Clear Winter (May, 1996)
Tortoise and Hare Guide
Tortoise 1
Death of Lone Wolf (Part 1)
Death of Lone Wolf (Part 2)
Monster in New York
Green Busker 7
Green Busker 9
Green Busker 11
Green Busker 12


Chapter 10
Char thanked me in the morning for the previous night's rescue and our attachment grew ever more closer.  But now I was worried about her safety.
The riddle that was Char became a dominant, obsessive force in my life.
Meanwhile, in keeping with my marital experience, discussion between partners on sex or bodily function was akin to discussion on what to buy at the shops.... or any other mundane matter. Lewdness and toilet humour bridge cultures far more readily than actual matter of fact directness - as though speaking of the weather, with no intent toward lewdness. Sex can be an incredibly technical matter.
Char was my girlfriend, so the matter of sexual intention needed to be worked out. When I played 'Are you out there' to her once she said, "It's a nice way of putting it!"
I suspected Char did not have much experience that would commend sex to her. I suspected she would see sex as something a woman gives and a man gets. I am entirely against that idea. There is a world of difference between getting laid and making love.
Char and Pierre seemed to be from a Catholic background, even though they may not place much importance on religion. So imagine that morning as Char and I were in her room, with Pierre standing not so far away in the other room...
"I want to make love with you, Char," said I, " but only when I am sure you are ready and willing... and I want you to be sober and certain you want to make love too."
Char stared back with a half smile - mouth somewhat open and I think she was probably overcome by astonishment.
But that was the key to Char/Brian. We were always able to surprise each other... and our carefully thought out plans for dealing with each other were flummoxed by this. It made for the most perplexing, fascinating relationship experience I have ever had. In fact, it was hard to know whether I WAS in relationship, or not. It was a case of one day at a time. The whole thing seemed crazy and impossible, but that was what made it glorious and soul lifting.
A few days later I had arranged to call on her, but she had left a note asking me to find her on the Conscience. I found her sitting on the foot high wall that formed a tributary square before the frozen, benevolent stance of Hendrik. She was sitting with a friend named Bart and they were sharing a bottle of wine.
I had taken on the mantle of crusading knight... and I was looking for potential dragons. For some reason Char had been overdosing and she had to be getting drugs from somewhere. So her friends tended to fall under my private suspicion. I held a strong belief that there were light and dark forces involved in the battle for Char. If I was working avidly for the light then there had to be someone working avidly for the dark.
Char's life was in danger. Something within me believed her death would have a dire effect on some future possibility. I have never had a reason to adjust or dismiss that intuition.
I drank a little of the wine, but declined the joint Bart offered. Not because I disapprove of smoking joints. It is nice, occasionally, to smoke a joint when one is offered. But I have never bothered actually buying the stuff. Anyhow, at that time it was important that I stand aside from the side of life Char allocated to taking drugs, or thinking of them.
It was very quick. Char's face glazed... and she began to slouch... keeling over off the wall. It was fortunate, I reflected, that I was there to catch her.
She may have badly hurt herself on the concrete awaiting her fall. I placed my back against the wall and held Char's torso across my lap.
Perhaps fazed, Bart excused himself and departed elsewhere. Perhaps he thought we'd be best left alone. If so, he was right.
Char was completely out for the count. It would be impossible to attempt to get her home. As a dead weight she would be too heavy to carry... and she would be too insensible to co-operate in any way in aided walking.
Her breathing was normal. She was not in distress
So I sat in that Holy square.... holding her...looking down lovingly on her peaceful, sleeping face. Through the passing of hours the heat of the evening turned to the cool of the night. I stayed in the same position... keeping her warm...though I shivered often in the night chill. I had to wait for
her to revive before I could get her home.
Constantly I gazed at her sleeping, while I stroked her hair in comfort. I saw her place a thumb in her mouth... just as my daughter would often do.
This magnified the melding and bonding of our two questing souls. A bonding that would enable me to 'feel' her across long distances and made her 'feel' me too.
I became aware of the vast power of communication we are capable of achieving - a capability so commonly suppressed by the disbelief of the mind.
Dawn had passed by the time she began to stir. I gently stood her up and hugged her for a long time as she sought to re-tune her awareness. She was disorientated and confused... but eventually fit to be escorted home.
Her brother had gone away for the weekend. We had privacy.
For the next 10 hours, from early morning to mid-afternoon, we embraced, exchanged sweet nothings or filled in essences of our life stories.
The conversation moved to my marriage.....and grief welled up in me as I looked up at her and cried,"I tried to do everything right! But it all turned out wrong."
It was a plea for her belief and understanding that this was so. She unveiled her concern and pain for me as I buried my head into her midriff and felt her arms enfold me with comfort.
"I will give you money to go see your daughter," she said.
The prospect of seeing my daughter would be a wonderful thing, but I knew it would be wrong to accept such an offer....
"No! I would feel wrong taking money from you like this."
But the offer held itself up as a statement of emotional commitment. I had built my first bridge to a person in a foreign land who directly cared for me.
Cast adrift for more than two months I could finally claim some anchorage.
We spoke of how powerful our attraction was and then, on impulse, she picked up pen and paper and began writing furiously as I sat watching her.
After she had finished the impulsively inspired prose she showed it to me and transformed the visual gobbledygook into a verbal translation. The prose spoke of the curious strength of our attachment and her fear that her weaknesses would let us both down. Those swiftly scribbled lines were ominously prophetic.
But Char was not the only one of us with weaknesses.... and the accuracy of the prose was also revealed in its recognition of an intense love that weathered all kinds of emotional assaults and conditions.
From the depths of despair I had been transported to Paradise... all in the space of less than three months. I was in love... and it felt great!
I left her apartment at two in the afternoon. I had not slept for over 24 hours, yet I felt exhilaratingly awake and alive. The sun shone from a blue sky and with a Mediterranean heat as I strolled the short distance from Char's place to the Cafe Centrum. I found Scot sitting on the terrace with a couple of teenage girls. 
Scot was relaxing in a glow of self content.
"Sit yourself down, Brian!" he said chirpily.
I did, and then said, "I'm in love. I've just come from her place. She's gorgeous! She's special! I'm just so happy!"
"Well, Brian," said Scot, "This is the life. Sunshine, music and girls."
He was right. It WAS the life. I could not remember being quite so happy and content. The world had become a place of fairy tales and sparkling benevolence. Antwerp became a city where dreams came true. The masses of people flowing this way and that on the festive Groen Platz became peaceful spirits... happy to see a Brian wearing a smile instead of his usual self-punishing sadness.
Antwerp became the centre of one big, seemingly endless party. 
End of Chapter Ten of The Green Busker

Chapter 11
The experience of that evening in the Conscience inspired a 'sort of' song. 'In the Conscience' was only a basic thing, but Tom had played to Char and I a song called 'Blackness of the night' that he thought may be a Cat Stevens song, but he wasn't sure. I felt my lyrics and the 'Blackness' lyrics complimented each other - especially in the light of recent events. 'In the Conscience' had not been intended as a full song anyway; it was more a
means to record the experience. It did, however, strengthen the muscles of the Muse that increasingly awoke within me.
Tom bade farewell as he headed south for a two week period. Tom had proved the first true friend I could claim since my exile. The bridge that had led to him had proved itself by leading toward the bridge that led to Char.
My conversational matter with Char tended to be based on humour or sweet nothings. Char had a very secretive nature and she revealed snippets of her life frugally. Perhaps it was this that heightened mystery. I was always feeling there was much I did not know about her activities, so, even though we were in relationship, I felt somewhat excluded from her in many ways.
I would see her, more often, during weekdays; the weekend she tended to reserve for that part of her that excluded me. The whole thing made me a shade edgy.
Edginess gradually passed as my meetings with Char settled into some stability. At first, she would visit after work, but then:
"Um...Pierre is complaining. He says I do not pull my weight with the housework. I will have to go straight home after work."
So it became more common for me to visit her. But the stability remained.
There seemed to be no complications. I asked myself, "Is it as easy as that?"
It seemed to be. A part of me even became blase and bored. But even such brief moods as this heralded a vital change toward a vaunted goal of perceived normality.
Inspired by the overwhelming strength of our bond the cultural and circumstantial differences were blurred. Our minds could look at the powerful, unexplainable magnetism of our souls and declare it as a signal of the hand of Fate.
Once this was digested, it seemed to speak of positive qualities within us that - in our overly zealous negativity - we had over-looked. More succinctly, there occurred birth. The birth of a new hope. Within and without ourselves a hope of possibilities clung, like a bandage, to our heart.
To glimpse the impossibly wonderful transformation of one part of us gives an assurance that the despair dwelling oppressively over other embattled parts is not the inevitability it appeared to be. Instead, it seemed possible to change by substituting despair with new positive resolutions.
Our bond restored the most essential desire of all. The will to live.
Char told me she would be away for a few days, so we arranged an evening later in the next week for me to call in on her. This left a sudden gap in my vision of the 'Fairy Tale'.
Soft, balmy nights were frequent...almost expected. It was easy to be fooled into believing it would remain that way. But Antwerp was enjoying an unusually dry, hot Summer. I tried not to think too heavily on the future, but the bulk of my income was supplied by the bubbling terraces. In fact, the exuberance around the Cathedral area was so great that I would often walk with my guitar out of its case , because people would often stop me and ask me to perform. I would play a song and the people would dig into their pockets and shower cash into my 'hat'. The take from such a thing would often exceed the average of a medium sized terrace. I sang 'Nancy Spain' to one couple and the man gave me 2,000f. But he had his money's worth, because he recognized me and remembered the incident to me a couple of years further on. He said it was a special moment and thanked me once again.
But the parade into September warned me that eventually the weather would change, then it would be a hard Winter siege if I planned to cling on to this new life in Antwerp.
The awareness grew sharper when the long, dry Summer was suddenly interrupted by two days of rain... against a backdrop of cooler air. The Mediterranean feel was swept away and Antwerp transformed into a dour, depressed city intent only on functioning. It served as a sharp reminder.
I was floating in a fairy tale with Char, but the reality of my prospects looked grim.
I had come to love Antwerp. I had developed many friendships here. The city had made me feel at home. It had become my home city and my growing affinity with many of its inhabitants made me feel a love for Flemish culture.
But now....?
Whatever I felt, within my fairy tale, I was brought down to Earth by the rain. The harsh reality reminded me I was a stranger in a foreign land faced with a quandary.
How could I maintain myself in this city?
Char had instilled reason to live after the apparent destruction of forty years of my life. But there were serious material obstacles to work through if I was to attempt to stay in a city and country that harboured my emotional re-birth.
I was determined not to return to England. The only incentive for heading that way would be to see me daughter, but even she would soon be living in Ireland - even further away. Being unable to see my daughter was a running sore within my soul, but the land of my birth offered me no hope. Only the grinding suppression of my spirit.
But Antwerp offered me fairy tales and a basis for aspiration. It allowed me to follow my dreams, my ambition and my heart. I was not just another face ignored...alongside 55 million others. I was in a community where it was possible to be heard. I had to be here in Antwerp, because I became real here....not just another brick in the wall.
Ken, with his New Yorker tendency toward abruptness, was an ideal philosophical sparring partner. Our views were often poles apart, but we shared visions and ideas when they were not. He tried to show the world a hard edge - but toward me he often revealed an almost paternal compassion, shielded by hard edge advice (of course):
"Brian! Char is nineteen! Girls change their minds fast at that age,"
She certainly fitted this assessment though I countered by claiming this was different... because of our level of love.
But what level WAS that love?
Unless that love can be said to have elevated to unconditional... and affirmed as such... I would be riding for a fall. With Char it always felt as though I was riding for a fall anyway. But if I was not?
I needed to think practical.
A crashing flood had washed away my life and the only emotional rock I could cling to had been Char. But she represented a slippery rock and the rapids would sweep me away the moment I lost my grip.
I had to think practical in order to survive.
I had to have an idea of how to swim before I lost that grip. If I did NOT lose my grip I would be more secure if my ideas had been worked out.
Fairy tales are great, but when the frog transforms into a Prince? Is it simply seasonal? Does the clock strike twelve and reduce the Prince back into a frog?
So think practical.
But I could not do this because I had no idea of the problems I would face. How could I estimate my turnover capability without a grounding of how seasons will affect such a thing? I had to contemplate indoor bar playing. But this represented a major block to me. I was not a finished article. In fact, I was struggling through the early steps of learning my craft.
Someone once told me that in music there is no other criteria than to be convincing.
I had an ability to convince... because I could feel my music and be aware how to combine soul and mind to hone out advantage when faced by an audience. Before playing a terrace I would study its inhabitants and do an on the spot assessment of them. I would estimate their ambience factor by placing the potential audience into a category or 'box' within my mind. I would then use my radar to assess their mood, artistic openness and other matters. From this I will select a set of songs to present before them.
Telepathic energy was a vital ingredient of the psyche to understand for a performer like me, because I sought to capture and then project a mood.
It tended to be harder to assess indoor audiences using this system. A failed assessment on a terrace was an annoyance, but no great deal... but a failed assessment in a bar or restaurant could wipe out that place as an option, because the bar staff may remember that failure.
There was much potential and much peril when it came to gigging or bar playing. I balked at the prospect.
But Ken had advice for this as well:
"There's a bar near the Conscience paying 2,000f for solo musicians. I'm doing a gig there. Why don't you ask if you can do one?"
I delayed doing this, but the rain reminded me I had to survive beyond the terrace season if I wished to keep Char in my life. I forced myself to ask
the bar for a gig. They booked me for two weeks on. But my repertoire was still a limited thing. At about a song a week I was trying to memorize
more songs. But to fulfil that gig - a full one- I would need my music stand and my songbooks before me. I felt I was totally unprepared for gigs, but I had to go for it.
There was a large Pizzeria where I often ate at - and the manager approached me and booked me for a mini gig at the place two weeks on. The theme would be Country Music and I felt I would need a couple of supporting musicians for this one. Sven (mandolin) and Kevin (fiddle) were happy to join me for the gig - and both were excellent musicians. We would only have to play 15 minutes or so in the restaurant proper, then we would play on in the cellar for awhile. So it seemed an easy enough commission once Sven and Kevin were recruited to the cause.
It added up to two gigs in four days toward the end of September. It meant I could calm the trepidation caused by that first Autumnal rain.
My future seemed unnervingly uncertain, but the immediate period upcoming seemed secure.
I was in love.
I had somewhere to stay.
I had friends.
I had a reasonable chance of financial stability for the coming weeks. 
End of Chapter 11 of The Green Busker


Labyrinth Busker Journal - Brian Robert Pearce