The night was languid with heat and humidity. Cairn had gone before to reserve a spot, so I was able to luxuriate next to him on my lavender sari blanket that was woven with silver threads that united the sari's rich fabric and history, in the middle of the park with a direct view of the stage. I looked into Cairn's eyes that to me, were like the stars that created a palette above the trees. I was home.
The orchestra tuned and I settled against the beach chairs that Cairn had bought along, determined to observe and experience everything. The first chords from Luca's new opera encircled Central Park with a golden thread. It felt like looking into the beloved's eyes for the first time - the recognition - the disbelief - the intense relief that he's finally come. No, it felt like listening to the life current that made buds blossom and the ocean tumble onto the shore. It was the sound of life. I turned to look at the canopy of leaves that sheltered us and I swear that I saw new shoots sprout and jump into the summer night. I saw buds quicken and burst into flowers. I saw life. Cairn turned to me and drew my hand to his mouth where his lips lingered and promised more intimacy. I didn't know who this man, this composer was, but he was a genius. He channeled sounds from another realm. A realm that we long to retreat to but can only visit in meditation or dreams, or we hope, after death. The music continued to flourish, build and release, leaving a plowed field with new seeds in its wake. His music was about possibilities and expanse.
Phisto conducted the piece with a fury that made me feel greedy. I wanted to grab all of the life around me and stuff into my mouth, my pores. I wanted to roll in the grass and cover myself with life. I wanted it all. The next piece was from Saint Saen's Samson and Dehlilah, the Bacchanale. It was a piece that depicted greed, a surfeit of food, music, love. The intense and relentless swell of the music grabbed me by the throat and I wanted to shout yes to everything. I didn't notice how Cairn watched me with amusement or how his full lips curved and his dimples flickered from the shadows of his masculine face. I always loved music but my response to Phisto's conducting was visceral. The air grew heavier and plump with moisture as if in response to the promise that the music held
The last strains from the concert hovered above the muted park while the audience seemed to turn within and consider their destiny. I was surprised when Jasmine came to us and said in a gentle voice, "Come, I want you to meet them." Her eyes flickered to Cairn and she nodded, so we made our way through the crowd. She moved economically and with confidence so that we made our way easily and were soon behind the stage where I saw two mythic men talking with admirers.
Luca turned first as soon as he sensed Jasmine's presence. I was struck by his violet eyes that slashed against his rugged tanned face like an oasis in a dessert. His dark hair hung over his forehead, slightly damp from the heat. His eyes focused on Jasmine with such intensity that they seemed to create the impression of a universe with Jasmine at the center. Introductions were made and I stammered something about the vivacity and ethereal quality of the piece, hoping that I didn't sound terribly gauche. I just really wanted to kiss his hands for I felt like I was in the presence of something more fragile and beautiful than this earth can comfortably host. His touch at first was cool, then my skin flushed where his hand had just held mine.
"I'm glad that my music satisfied," he responded. The words glided on a rich baritone voice that sounded like another one of his compositions. His masculine hand was beautifully formed with long eloquent fingers and a large reassuring palm. I sensed Cairn's immediate reaction, as though he recognized the man. But my questions would have to wait until later.
Then we moved towards Phisto who commanded a group of admirers as a general might preside over his troops. His height insinuated that he would dominate every situation but his confidence guaranteed it. His speech was clipped and direct with an Eastern European accent.
"The music is only notes. It is the conductor that gives it life, no?"
And I knew in that moment that he and Luca hated each other with the primordial hatred that cleaved heaven from earth at the beginning of time.
They were not mere men. They were something more. And my new friend Jasmine was at the epicenter of something that had driven their desires and fears from the beginning.