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Positive Feedback ISSUE 2
august/september 2002

Click here to read all the parts of "The Mysteries of His System, The Verses in His Life, A Love Story, by Barry Grant.


The Mysteries of His System

The Verses in His Life

A Love Story

by Barry Grant


Part One



"Damn that review of line conditioners," Audie said to himself as he tossed his favorite magazine across the Turkish carpet that covered the floor of the room with the system. It landed with a clean thwack.

I’ve got to stop reading these things," he thought. "The system was sounding good, well, pretty good, but now. Damn. Who knows, maybe the AC line brings distortions I would surely hear once I could hear them."

All progress comes from uncertainty," Audie thought as he retrieved the magazine from under the equipment rack. Audie sighed.



Audie asked himself, "Am I unhappy with my system because I am unhappy in my life?"

Then he answered himself, "Maybe."

After that he added, "Who knows where unhappiness begins?"



(The Verse of Reason)

Audie just, Audie just, Audie just, wants to, wants to enjoy, muuuusic.

Audie venerates the original, honors the living sound, and seeks the true harmonics.

And, when the vapors of, disconnection, the slipping of self and self, the gap, foul his spirit, Audie retires to the room with the system, puts on the Mozart Requiem, and counts the recordings in his collection, row by row.



Perfect Lives ended. Audie, still, hands crossed in his lap, eyes limp in their sockets, listened to the rushing and ringing in his ears. "I’ll call it 2’37": A Sonata for Tinnitus," he said to himself, shaking his head. He thought about Perfect Lives. He thought about the words of the story, how strange they were, and how they were like a dream, and how the words and the music together seemed true. "It all seems true," he said to himself. "But what does it mean?" He thought about the sadness at the end of Perfect Lives. "The sadness is not in the words or the music, exactly. The sadness is not in Ashley’s monotone, not in ‘Blue’ Gene’s piano, not in the other keyboards, not in the drum machine, not in ‘Dear George, what’s going on?’ not in ‘I’m not the same person that I used to be.’ Where could it be? Is there a kind of sadness, a kind of feeling, that music and words carry, but which exists on its own, in itself? A kind of virus? That can’t be."

What am I thinking?"

Is this the way?"



 One night, too tired to cook, a sort of date postponed, Audie stopped for take-out at the corner Chinese. The food there was often, disappointing, but on nights like this, he was only thinking of saving steps.

Audie carried a paper bag from the restaurant to his apartment and placed a bowl and a glass and a bottle of water and a fork and a napkin on the table in the kitchen and turned the radio to jazz and poured water in the glass and emptied the box from the bag into the bowl and sat in front of what he had placed on the table and moved the fork into the contents of the bowl, and began to eat. Disappointment and regret and sadness filled his body. He realized now that he would never return to the place. Even if he was tired and his spirits were low and his hopes humble. Even if friends who sometimes visited him in his town wanted to go, he wouldn’t go. He would say to them, "The place is no good" and, "It’s gone down hill." He would talk them out of wanting to go. He would make them lose their desire for going.



Later, Audie had a mood, and in the moments of the mood, he desired a certain, idea, outside of himself. (His moods always chose him, always, and he thought that was right.)



Audie realized again how hard it is to find what one wants in life, even in one’s collection of recordings.



Today, everything, worked. Everything. The girl who had canceled a sort of date last week called to ask Audie out on a date tonight. (The name of the girl delighted Audie. Prudence. A name and a virtue in one word. She must be clever, he thought. Audie knew that was a silly idea, and he knew that names are accidents, but it was his idea, and he couldn’t help having it.) Audie thought, "This is hardly a ‘sort of date’! But what does it mean, her asking me out?" Later, when she kissed him goodnight (on the first date, this almost never happened to him) he had a better idea what it meant. But Audie thinks certainty is never right (that’s his philosophy) so he wasn’t sure, what it meant.




The Kiss

Audie stopped his car at the sidewalk in front of the apartment building where Prudence lived. He turned the key to the place where the engine goes off and the radio stays on. He rolled his window down. He moved his left arm to the top of the body of the door, and left it there, and he moved his right hand to the space between his legs, and left it there, and he moved the weight of his body against the door, and stopped moving. He listened through the open window to the sound of a street light failing. "Probably 60 cycles," he thought to himself. "That makes sense."

Audie turned his head and looked at Prudence, not quite looking at her eyes, but almost, almost looking at her eyes, and almost about to look at her eyes. Just as Audie lifted his eyes, just as he began to tell Prudence about the street light, and its cycles, and the strange way its vibrations fit with the music from the small station on the left of the dial, Prudence said what a nice time she had and how interesting it was all that he had said about records and CDs and would he sometime play something on his "special system" for her and she leaned over to his side of the car and kissed him just like that. "What luck," Audie thought, "her kissing me just like that. It helps."



The snare-clicks of the key moving into the lock, the sharp snap of the bolt moving out of the mortise, the sweeping modulation of squeaks as the front door turned, the shuffling slap of shoeless feet two-stepping across a bare oak floor. In his mind, Audie made every sound in his space, a poem to Prudence.

Audie dropped into his chair, pushed his heels out in front of him, shut his eyes, and thought of Prudence and her soft eyes, and his system


to him

in silence.



Prudence and Audie sat on the tall hard chairs in Audie’s kitchen, stone mugs of chamomile tea in hand, telling their stories.

Prudence smiled at Audie, and, smiling, leaned across the small wood table, and kissed him on the lips. She kissed him again. Then Audie kissed her. Then there were more kisses.

Audie leaned away from Prudence, slid his palms under the sides of her chin, turned her face toward his, looked into her soft eyes, and said, "Do you want to hear the system now?"

Oh yes," replied Prudence.

Prudence sat in the chair Audie indicated. She surveyed the system with a quick turn of her head. Boxes and things and lights on tall shelves and wires and wires across the room to boxes on legs.

You choose," she said.

And he did.

And her face and her movements showed she liked, what she heard, and she said it was just like, being there, and she could almost walk up and touch the man playing guitar and, that drum, oh boy, what a drum, I can feel it in my toes, it’s kind of like, you know, and at that moment, Audie was sure that

Prudence was

the sort of girl

who could tell the difference

between being there

and not

being there

and at that moment

Audie could tell

the same difference

and he knew

where he was.



Prudence moved out of her apartment. She took everything she owned. Everything she could put in boxes she put in a box, and everything she couldn’t put in a box, she didn’t put in a box. Then Audie and some of his friends and Prudence and some of her friends took the things that were in boxes and the things that weren’t in boxes and drove them all to Audie’s apartment, where they found places for everything.



A blue heliotrope in a pink pot lights the toilet tank top, a deal table guards an alcove, vases and objets command the surfaces, novels and other fictions crowd the bookcases, blouses and slacks pin shirts and pants against a closet wall, pots and lids and pans and cans and bowls and more pans and boxes and a machine that spins lettuce and a machine that spins liquids and a silver machine that knifes herbs choke the pantry, and two large soft cherry red chairs in the room with the system change, everything.



"A girl named Prudence kisses me on the first date and then she and everything she owns moves in with me. How did this happen?" Audie said to himself. Audie sighed, but with a difference.



Prudence read aloud from Audie’s signed copy of The Wood Effect (second edition), "Professional audio practice proceeds along among numerous polarities, besides the one Absolute," while Audie turned off the amplification of the system and placed the positive ends of the speaker wires where the negative ends had been and the negative ends where the positive ends had been and set the recording to where it was before he had moved the wires and turned the amplification on again.

Prudence paused in her reading, Audie took his seat, and together they

listened to the waves

going down

before they

went up.

Prudence resumed her reading, "That singular event dramatically illustrates how the polarity dilemma could be seized by a single horn and felled forever," while Audie turned off the amplification of the system and placed the positive ends of the speaker wires where the negative ends had been and the negative ends where the positive ends had been and set the recording to where it was before he had moved the wires and turned the amplification on again.

Prudence paused in her reading, Audie took his seat, and together they

listened to the waves

going up

before they

went down

and enjoyed the difference.



That night, together in bed, Audie and Prudence thought about the Absolute. And they thought that as much as they thought about it, they couldn’t know it. It was a mystery to them. "How could this all be?" they thought. And "How did it happen?" And "Is there more?" And "Is the Absolute One?" (This gave them a lot of trouble.) Audie thought, "It could be changelessness." And he said this to Prudence. And she said, "You mean being upright, always?" And Audie said that he might have meant that, but he couldn’t be certain.



Her mind on the Absolute and her body gently pressing Audie’s body, Prudence thought her last thought of the day, "What does it mean that one day I didn’t know the difference between a wave going down before it goes up and a wave going up before it goes down and the next day and every day after that day, every time I hear the difference I am happy? Can a person change like that?"



Audie pushed his feet against the place where the covers meet the mattress and turned his head to gaze at Prudence’s face, and thought, "What luck." And that night, he dreamed, live music, got the soundstage, wrong, the Chicago Symphony, lacked air.