We are all children of the drum. Life begins and ends to that primal one-two heartbeat, and drums have always been the most powerful of the instruments. We don’t always know that, though, don’t always consciously recognise it, any more, i suppose, than we recognise our own heart beating most of the time. It comes to us in moments, the remembrance of the drum that drives our lives. And we call people heart throbs for a reason.
I remember my first heart throb.
I was ten. My sister and brother were in junior high band, sis on clarinet, brother on the alto sax. My own entry into the orchestral world was just a glimmer on the horizon, i had no instrument in mind, no idea what i might be suited to play, but i loved the concerts.
Picture our little school gym, built in the classic style, with a raised proscenium stage on the near end, complete with fully retractable curtains. We even had lighting, of a very rudimentary sort.
The chairs were set behind the white line. The basketball backboard was in the fully retracted position, lurking somewhere up there in the shadows. Off to house right, near the entry doors, the climbing ropes lounged innocently against the wall, their gentle curve back to the wall hooks giving no evidence that these were the very beasts who had slammed Jolene against the wall, breaking her perfect front teeth.
The audience shuffled and muttered, as the band took their chairs onstage. We were sitting midway back, had a reasonable view of that inescapable half-circle waiting for the maestro. Mr. Hancock strode to the front, looking every inch the classical conductor. He had the big, wild hair, the slight stoop allied with the coiled physical power. He had one pinkie longer than the other, though i didn’t know that yet – that would be part of his pitch to me to choose to play his own instrument, the French Horn.
As a sidebar, i didn’t realise then what a distinction, what an honour that was, that he was claiming me as one of his own. I just thought the horn must be a weird instrument, he must be giving it to me because nobody picks it on their own. Typical, i whined in my mind, that i should be given the unwanted weirdo instrument. It took many years to realise what a fool i was in that regard.
In contrast, it only took a second to fall entirely in love.
His name was Tim, and he played the drums. He had fair hair, that caught and radiated the light. When the lights changed colours, his head wore a rainbow halo, and it was only natural that it should. For Tim was some fabulous creature from a higher realm, who had come to bring me a message – this is love, this is power, this is all we are.
He hit the drum. The lights went pink. My heart entrained to the beat. It was that simple. I spent the rest of the concert in dumb wonder, staring at my avatar. I did not know what this could be if it were not the thunderstruck love that all the books, all the movies, all my peers were speaking of. My body burned. My breath rode the movement of his arms. I was tied to that pounding rhythm, and it was also the train that bore down out of nowhere and rolled right over my soul.
What became of Tim? Who knows? I never noticed him again. He did exist, and in fact, his younger sister was in my homeroom when i got to junior high. But no, i never asked about Tim, and not just because i was crushingly shy. I did not need to know him. Our relationship was already complete. He had brought down the rhythm, and i had received its blessing. That was all, and it was more than enough.