The Green Busker - Chapter Nine

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 8
It seemed life was turning around for me. The haven of Dambrugge - the good company of Tom and Ken - potential romance with Char. But the breakthrough, within my mind, was achieved through Irit. Before leaving England I was 40 years old and feeling each year. Now I was 40 years old,  yet growing younger each day.
My lifestyle had radically changed and a different part of me was emerging from some vast inner sea.  The new emergence burst through like an inner Oceanic volcano. The new 'me' was the powerful upsurge of lava from that volcano. It burst through the Ocean forming a mysterious island.
This island augured an open opportunity for new growth, despite its initial, primitive entrance - an entrance built on calamity and destruction. 40 years were swept aside for new birth - 40 years that I could vaguely recall that saw me end up with nothing. Everything I once had was gone, swept away by the tumult of the eruption. What I carried with me into Europe was the stark remainder of 40 years, aside from one very, very important person that I loved so dearly.... my daughter. But, as sure as being lost, she was beyond my reach. The pain of this was hard to bear. But my emergence into Europe offered a new birth and a chance to discover a part of me that could, as a life task, be a required discovery for both the World and I. The children in Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Thomas Covenant in the Land and a host of other stories about an ordinary life swept into the realms of an extraordinary world.... this could summarize the inner experience of the journey I was about to undertake.
Up until Irit my social contacts were courtesy of Scot, Tom or the extroversy of chance acquaintance. I had remained fairly introverted. Now my extroversy gradually increased as I accepted this new world as my reality. Slowly, though not overly consciously, I would move toward building my own social circles.... because I understood the motivation for such a thing.
An important part of 'what we are' is the knowledge that there are those who care for 'what we are'.
I had been catapulted into a new life... but this new life was worthless without self-value or without someone who wanted  to know a little ABOUT my new life.
Not someone in England who spares a few minutes on the phone, but someone here NOW...seeing me, hearing me NOW. I wanted someone who loved me enough to shed a tear if I slipped into the River Schelde and drowned.
A selfish thing?
No! It is self-value!
Without this there is no valid existence and no aspiration. Irit had fired me to write a song through my disappointment with her, but it could only have occurred through my awareness I was valued by her in some way. Like a spark in the night, self value had briefly entered my life once more through Irit - inspiring a desire to do more than just exist. To regain that value I wrote my 'siren song' and it had an immediate effect. It stopped the frizzling away of self-value by directly aiding my introduction to Char.
With my music and my social matters I faced two daunting mountains. But when ascending mountains you can rarely see the summit.... merely the edge or ridge that obscures the view of the ascent beyond. Perhaps this is best.... otherwise it might be decided it is too big a task to attempt.
One more ridge is merely one more bridge.
It was too hot to play during the day and too hot for people to greatly desire to sit on terraces. Those who did would find it too hot to appreciate live music. Late evening was work time for the busker.
This meant that Tom and I slept until mid-afternoon, or later, as a general routine. Then we would cook a healthy dinner and relax ourselves awake in the cool dining room. It seemed Dambrugge was the only place I'd been to, in Antwerp, that didn't surround me with humidity and heat. Once we were relaxed and refreshed we would head out , around nine in the evening, to work.
In the Conscience Tom and I set up to play the terraces there. I was nervous because I had arranged to meet Char in this square.. and she was due to arrive any moment. That's if she DID plan to honour our early morning agreement to meet. I didn't really know her at all. For all I knew I may never see her again. I was desperately hoping she would come. At the same time I was desperately hoping she would not arrive while I was having a bum gig, so my nerves ensured I concentrated on my singing and performance. I was singing 'Nancy Spain'. It was going well and the energy from the audience felt good....
Char came spinning hurriedly into the Square with her black, midnight hair newly washed and vibrantly swelling around her semi-excited, semi-nervous face. Clearly she was contritious on being slightly late, but clearly she had viewed our meeting as an important event by the time she
had evidently spent in preparation.
My joy at her arrival was matched by my relief that I was performing and singing well... and by an inner confusion about what should happen next.
Having lived in the same area of Southern England for the past forty years it could validly be claimed I was Culturally Closeted (CC). I expected people and situations to respond in a time honoured fashion. There was little in that experience to clue me up on what happens next in this situation.
I was in the situation where I needed to work.... and where I needed to progress this first date with Char. I had to try to achieve both without too much compromise on one or the other. On the one hand I risked annoying my duo partner... on the other I risked annoying and possibly losing Char.
Would she be willing to follow me around while I worked.
I half expected this, but I couldn't be sure.... and it gave me a shy feeling. In such a case I wanted her to hear me perform perfectly... with never an unappreciative audience to make me feel 'small'.
As it turned out, Tom and I were able to continue playing terraces, while Char did a mixture of waiting or alarmingly disappearing for awhile. In between terrace sets I would seek to bridge the difficult mind link and play her love songs. While I sang to her our eyes drunk thirstily of each other and spoke in ways our minds were too primitive to comprehend. Thousands of people flooded the Cathedral  and its environs with a party spirit that is part and parcel of Antwerp in mid Summer. It was exciting, but such a gem as Char could be lost to the crowd forever if I failed to win her desire to continue this somewhat chaotic first date and make sure of a second.
As I played terrace sets with Tom I hoped Char wouldn't feel I'm neglecting her and poutily dismiss me from her life.
The nervousness of this first date made it all too clear that a second date should be in a private environment, where meat can be put on to the bones of attraction.
Char worked at the Zoo as a Summer job. The zoo was by Central Station - less than five minutes stroll from Dambrugge. Char suggested that she visit me the next day after work. This was far more amenable an idea than that first date. Suddenly everything clicked in. She could visit me after work at around five.... and when she left to go home, around nine, I could get to the task of playing terraces with Tom.
As I retired to bed, after the testing experience of the first date, I could sleep, relaxed, in the knowledge that my new life was beginning to take shape -and that, after believing my life was over, I had a new dawn...and a new girlfriend.
Char would come, after work, to visit me. We would lose ourselves somewhere in each other's soul. I felt sure, on a root level, that we were in love
within the first couple of days. Our souls had raced to this... before our mind, body and heart had had time to reason it all out.
It almost seemed our souls already knew each other... long before we were confined into separate organic beings here on Earth....
OK! It's your stage, Cranky Brian! Shoot....
Do souls clarify their ethereal relationship by challenging it with the cold, hard tests of survival and its resultant influences on a mind and body that is largely unaware of its true existence in soul form?
The survival interpreted by mind, body and heart... may resist the impulses of soul, because the impulses remind us of a wonderful existence we have come that, ultimately, we will return to.
To be reminded may instil a wish for premature return... or a vehement, proprietary resistance by mind, body or heart of their territory.
But people who arrive at a point where their lives appeared 'washed up' may loosen the confident hold of mind, body and heart - and open a keen awareness of their soul. With awareness of our true nature can come a re-opening of purpose that will re-fire meaning. It could enable the soul to remind mind, body and heart that there are tasks to be done - and that it knows what those tasks are... even though it could reveal only glimpses of what it sees to our barely comprehending mind, body and heart.
Soul awareness and a new purpose creates a cocoon ... from which a new person emerges... with a new sense of identity.
The survival instinct, which can be the most dominant feature of our lives, is modified and balanced by awareness that seeking to feed good energy to others should NOT be relegated by fear of survival.

...But any idea that this was a simple relationship, within my CC experience, would be swiftly dispelled.
End of Chapter 8 of The Green Busker

Chapter 9
It was Saturday night, mid-August, and I was due to perform my first ever paid gig. But not alone. I would be performing with Tom, Sven, his brother Kevin (only 15, but over 6 ft tall) and an Irish fiddler by name of John at the Elephant. OK, a share of the pay didn't amount to much, but the
experience was bullseye - with a great audience. Lots of jumping off the stage and jigging amongst the audience, playing songs like the 'Popeye' theme and Bob Geldoff's classic 'I don't mind'. I chucked in my vocal oar with things like 'Star of the County Down', 'Nancy Spain' and 'Dirty old Town' and other stuff Irish. It worked well, although the next gig we did there around a month or so later didn't work so well. But I was pleased at having blooded in my gig experience.
The concentration on the gig had the side effect of making my memory where, or when, to meet Char slightly foggy.
I had kinda hoped she would get to the gig, but I believed I was due to meet her at the Conscience afterwards if she could not make it.
The gig finished at twelve and, as tends to happen after a successful gig, an uprush of energy and adrenaline left me speaking to friends or clientele at the bar. My CC experience assured me that casual arrangements needed no special time.
At around one I made my way to the Conscience to see if she was there. As I arrived I was disappointed to catch no sight of her.
There were three figures lying down in the vicinity of the Hendrik statue - two guys and a girl. One of the guys was groping intimately with the female, who seemed, on the face of it, comatose. It seemed the height of tackiness to be groping a female who was unaware of proceedings in a public place - even if she was his girlfriend. In fact, it seemed the height of tackiness... full stop.
I passed by....... and my heart leapt to my throat as I recognized the female lying lost to the world... as the lusty youth groped with his hand beneath her jeans.
She had another boyfriend?
That's why I couldn't find her?
Anger and betrayal welled up within me.
Just walk away and pretend you didn't see her... then forget her!
But then I wondered whether she was even aware of what was occurring. Much less who she was with.
I could see her eyes were closed... although she moaned with a distant response to the guy's stimulating. But the overall impression indicated she was unaware of proceedings.
One inclination was to storm right up and say, "Char! What are you doing? Where was you?"
But if this WAS a boyfriend I could be made to look foolish. For all I knew, I could be the 'other' in this... not him.
She may have been dating this guy for months.
So.... betrayed, wretched and humiliated... I sat down within a few feet of the spectacle. With a quiet, mournful voice I moaned in an accusing and 'how could you?' way: "Char..."
Her head moved slightly from side to side and a brief glimmer of awakening stirred in her garbled throat. I stood up and walked to another angle. I spoke louder, more firmer, "Char! It's Brian!"
She swung her head around more urgently and her voice spoke testingly my name..."Br..Brian?"
Her hands pushed at the Valentino creep as she realized his advantageous pawing. The moment I realized she recalled my name, and wanted my presence, I moved in to take control of the situation.
I pulled Char into my arms as the protesting Valentino wondered who I was... and what had happened to his catch.
"Brian? I'm sorry," slurred Char, "Where was you? I waited so long!"
I wept inwardly at the words. She was waiting? Looking for me? I was not there when she needed me? The whole idea tore into me like a lion's claw.
As it was I had crashed in onto a witnessing of her weaknesses - one she may have sought to hide from me. What sort of cocktail knocked her out like this?
"Hey!" interjected Valentino, " That's my girl! Who are you?"
"She's not your girl! She's not for you.! And that's no way to treat her!" came my angered reply, " I'm taking her home!"
"I'll come with you!" stated Valentino.
His friend had come alert to the unexpected interruption and was angling to back Valentino up. There were two of them - one of me - and they weren't small in body. So I followed a tactic of diplomacy and firmness, but I didn't see any reason to mask my contempt for them.
"No!" I insisted, " I will take her home alone!"
I stood up and lifted Char until her arm was nestled across my shoulder, while my right arm supported her stumbling steps. Her dead weight in less lucid physical efforts made the task pretty hard, but I began the journey while telling Valentino and his pal to go way.
But Valentino believed he had made a conquest and was anticipating the great love affair to begin. I wasn't going to be the one to tell Char who she should date, though I hoped I was the one who fitted the bill. But Char was not in a position to speak for herself.
I simply knew instinctively she loved me. Or did she?
I knew instinctively she would give Valentino his marching orders the moment she became aware of him. Or would she?
Still, however, Valentino persisted - and insisted on helping Char home also. I guess it did make the journey a bit easier. Char virtually had to be carried. The procession stumbled its way to the apartment she lived in with her brother. It was around two in the morning and a light on in the
apartment showed that her brother would be up and awake. Another tactic to get rid of the luggage...
"Thanks for helping, but her brother is here. He won't appreciate three guys coming in this time of the morning."
Actually, I had not yet been in the apartment, nor had I met Char's brother - so I really didn't know anything about what he would think...or say.
"No,I'll come in too,"  insisted Valentino. There were a heap of stairs to struggle up, and with Char all but brain dead I had no more right, in Valentino's eyes, to enter the apartment than him. It was hard to counter such a claim because Char had NOT, heretofore, taken me into the
apartment. It may be she would not wish me to visit the apartment if she was sober.
So, in a semi-polite circumstance of verbal fencing, we carried Char up the stairs to the apartment, where Pierre, her brother, stood waiting for us.
With dark, curly hair and eyes, like Char, of black, fathomless depths, Pierre displayed, like Char, the history of Spanish blood in Belgium. There is no direct confirmation of this, but the Spanish occupation 300 years back suggested this impression to me. Originally, Char and Pierre were from the French speaking segment of Belgium, but they had lived long enough in Antwerp to consider themselves Flemish. Both, however, spoke English with a strong French accent. Naturally Flemish was their first language.
Pierre was twenty one, studious and quiet spoken. Char's bedroom was accessible only through Pierre's living room cum bedroom.
The entourage gave a greeting and a few words to Pierre... and then we proceeded into Char's room, where we laid her gently onto the floor. I sat down by her and she curled up around me as I placed my arms protectively around her body.
Valentino could see very clearly that there was a heavy bond between Char and I. His competitiveness began to slide and he turned slowly into self piteous melodrama and despair.
"Every time I try to get a girlfriend - something goes wrong," he lamented.
Well... I guess...from what I had witnessed of his ideas of gallant wooing.... he might have to change his attitude a bit in his quest for a female.
So I found myself playing emotional councillor to a guy who sought a massive step between creep and attractive.
"Somewhere there is a girl for you, but Char.." said I, unapologetic about my presumption while she was unable to speak for herself," NOT for you!"
With the comment I tightened my hold on her and her semi-conscious hands tightened their hold on me. Even in her condition I could see the happiness in her smile whenever she became aware that I was there... guarding and holding her close.
After drinking the coffee Pierre had made, Valentino and his friend departed... with the re-assurance, from me, that Valentino would have his girlfriend within six months. Something almost holy seemed to possess me through my interaction with Char. Even Valentino seemed assured by my statement.
A few months later, while I waited to play the Conscience, I met Valentino once more by the bench surrounding the tree in the square...
"Hi!" he said, "Remember me?"
I didn't immediately. There was a lot of stuff crammed into those intervening months. Nonetheless he reminded me of our meeting that night and the blanks were filled.
"This is my girlfriend, Anna," said Valentino proudly, in a way that suggested it was in some way thanks to me. In a way of saying, "You were right!"
I guess I did spend a bit of time telling him how to make himself more appealing.
I really can't remember.
Once Valentino had left, Pierre and I laid Char gently onto her bed - and then we retreated into his room to talk.
"This is not the first time she has been like this. Sometimes it is worse," explained Pierre, " Three times she has been to the hospital because she had over-dosed. It is worrying, but what can be done? She needs to return to school to re-take exams in September! She has hardly studied! If she is to go to University she must pass these exams."
My feeling was that this was Fate. I had a task! In addition, I was in love.
My task was clear. I had to see if I could turn around Char's life.
"Thanks for bringing her home safe," Pierre continued, " If you wish, you may stay the night here. There is a spare mattress in Char's room."
So I slept a short distance away from the girl I was growing to obsessively love. Enough to reach across and hold hands briefly before sleep.
End of Chapter 9 of The Green Busker


Labyrinth Busker Journal - Brian Robert Pearce