Mel Birnkrant's
TARAS BULBA
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All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
 
            Unlike the morning after emails that spoke about the ghost cat, which were lost and then remembered, ten years later, the following account of a curious occurrence was written the next day.  Like most things that happened ten years ago, or ten days ago, for that matter, if not for this fragment of a letter I found in my old computer, it would have been forgotten, the day after.    

         
Yesterday, when I had the whole day alone, a small occurrence unsettled me.   There is a simple explanation for it.  And I did not interpret it as supernatural.   Nonetheless, it was one of those things that appear to be meaningfully coincidental.

Even though, it was not that late in the day, darkness was approaching prematurely, and I could hear distant thunder rolling.  So, I turned off my computer, and seized the opportunity to play the stereo.  Knowing I had all afternoon, I turned the volume up, to where I like it, and settled down in the unexpected darkness to savor the occasion.  Although, it was only about 3:00 P.M., it looked as dark as the end of evening, that point at which the waning twilight quickly turns to night.  The approaching thunder mingled with the low rumbling of massive sub-woofer that dominates the center of the room, and I soon found myself transported by the music.

The CD that I had chosen was Leos Janacek's “Taras Bulba”.  His music never fails to fascinate me. Amidst a cacophony of atonal agitation, there are fleeting snatches of luxurious melody that never fail to move me, and then move away as quickly as they first appeared, leaving one to long for more, and knowing there will be no more to hear.  That is why, with the storm outside roaring in all its glory, and a million raindrops resonating on the roof above me, I set the record to repeat itself again.

There is a part in this particular piece that, almost always, makes me cry.  I don't know why I subject myself to this; maybe, I am a musical masochist.   But there are often melodies in the music I love best that, when there is no one there to see, seem so beautiful that I find myself moved to tears.  And, there is a tantalizingly elusive passage in this music that always does that to me.   As usual, although I attempted to resist, the tears began to flow, as surely as if the conductor had commanded me to cry on cue.

This phenomenon always intrigues me.  Can it be simply an arrangement of abstract notes that triggers this reaction?   At moments like this, I’m inclined to take inventory, to see if it could really be possible that the music alone is what moves me, or if there is some other, more logical, or timely, reason to be sad.   And so, I looked into my inner thoughts, the ones that run, beneath the surface, and, yes, I did find reason there.  All my current quests to find the epicenter of impending sadness always lead to one place only.  There behind the giant speaker, in a humble cardboard carton, hide the ashes of my daughter.  Now, the music faded from my mind, and became but secondary to my thoughts about Samantha.
At that instant, something awesome happened, something that for a split second made me nearly jump out of my skin, and then dissolve into a torrent of uncontrollable sobbing.  At the very pinnacle of the most melodic gorgeous climax, a multicolored iridescent Mylar Balloon suddenly appeared!   It rose from behind the speaker, and hovered in the air above it, about four or five feet off the floor, and then sank down, out of sight, once more.

Unlike the ghost cat, which still remains a mystery, this phenomenon was easily explained.  Nonetheless, it was the timing that made it seem to be so telling.  In the very place where Samantha’s remains were hiding, that balloon had been hiding too.  And now, at this moment, when all my thoughts and emotions were concentrated on Samantha, [I don't think of her every day], as the music rose in my ears, and tears rose in my eyes, this balloon that had settled behind there, limp and depleted, itself on the verge of dying, yet hanging onto its last drop of existence, slowly rose into the air.   And for an instant, I thought it was Samantha!  Of course, I immediately realized it was merely a balloon that had been hiding, out of sight and out of mind.  Nonetheless, for a long time thereafter, I felt that Samantha had sent it to me as some kind of a sign or greeting.

No, it was not a miracle, just a coincidence that happened to take place with perfect timing.  I knew in an instant what had happened. It never showed its head again, as I sat there sobbing my heart out.

From way down deep inside, waves of anguish welled up and exploded, accompanied by sounds that shocked, and embarrassed me, even though, I was alone.  This spectacle continued, until the piece of bounty that I had discovered in my pocket was soaked with tears and slobbering and much nose blowing.  When I finally regained some vestige of control, the music suddenly soared with a final reprise of the elusive melody, full blown, and once again my grief burst forth, even more violently than before.

There is, of course, a most logical explanation. A party guest gave that balloon to Eunice on her birthday.  I can't remember whom. David and Kathleen come to mind, but, maybe, it was Maggie.  Anyway, on that day, it escaped and ascended, high into the rafters, where it remained for months, ever since the beginning of February.

Then over time, weighed down by a length of curly paper ribbon, it slowly descended and hovered, equidistant from the floor and ceiling, for several days.  At one point, I tore off a long piece of the ribbon, enabling it to ascend to the heights again.  But, all too soon, it, once more, descended and floated here and there, hovering in midair, five feet above the floor, like a head held aloft, without a body.  Eventually, it hugged the ground, and seemed to walk around the room.  I last saw it, weeks ago, cowering in a corner behind the Donald Duck, to the left of the big speaker.  From there, I assume, it drifted, and ended up behind the speaker, which stands a few feet from the wall.  As that is the one place in this house that is both unseen and untraveled, I keep Dewey's Hydria and Samantha's ashes there, as well.

When I entered the room, the first thing I had done was turn on the air conditioning.  One of the many vents happens to be in the floor, behind the speaker.  By the time the air reaches there, it is only a weak stream.  Yet, that must have been enough to toss the tired old balloon about, and set it dancing, there back behind the speaker, out of sight.  And after half an hour of secret dancing, the stream of cool air must have hit, just right, and thrust the dancer skyward, for one final flight.

When the music and the mucus too, subsided, I walked over to the speaker, picked up the sad wrinkled balloon, and carefully untied the last length of remaining ribbon, thinking this would set it free to rise into the rafters once again.  Instead, it fell slowly to the floor and lay there without moving.

Then curiosity led me to place it, again, behind the speaker, right above the vent, thinking it might do a happy dance, and levitate another time.  And it did sail up a few inches, but nothing like before, and then sank out of sight, once more.

I sat there in the darkness, and heard the entire CD over.  This time, unlike the rain outside, which was still coming down in torrents, I was cried out.  There were no tears left. 

I’ve thought about this event a lot, since yesterday.  And, although I realize, it was merely a moment, in which “coincidence” appeared to be the bearer of a message, my heart wishes it were otherwise.  If Fate did have a hand in this, it must have required a lot of planning; the storm, the music, the balloon in hiding, with my thoughts, combining, to culminate in a Masterpiece of perfect timing!