concerto in f flat minor for oboe and flute

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

the alienation of a middle age man from his life and surroundings. with inspiration and influence from tolstoy 'the death of ivan ilyich."

Concerto in F flat minor for Oboe and Flute

When the lights came up, Ivan said that he thought that the concert had gone on way too long. What a fraud to charge $150 per ticket x 2 tickets and then give them 2 screeching wind instruments parrying with each other for more than 2 hours. Yes he knew what he was saying, that he had gotten too much for his money, like private school or university kids paying huge tuition complaining of too much homework. He had heard snoring, folks shifting in their chairs, coughing and sniffling all night - at the expense of the concert which was no good anyway.

At work that week he had come up with the most elegant solution to his firm’s recent woes. The fix was to hoard the floating inventory until the pass through could take effect. They were supposed to be out celebrating. But he still felt ill at ease, unappreciated at work and at home. Plus his gout was flaring after the huge dinner they had eaten before the concert, which included plenty of wine, which made it worse. 

His wife came through for him whenever he needed, so that was not the problem. What was the problem he didn’t quite know, except that it was one thing after another. Tonight it was the concert and the gout, or was it; he wasn’t sure. The powers that be at work treated him OK, so that was not it either. He knew he was never much good at being whomever he was supposed to be, so that person constantly eluded him and underscored his weaknesses. No, it was something else.

Im getting by OK, he thought; I have no reason to be sour or discontented. Or if I do, I don’t know what it is. And if I don’t know, who would know. He got in the car with his wife and they started heading home. The topic came up of summer camp for their youngest, who was special needs and had never been to camp before. This child always cried with him, not with her mother and he had no idea why. He had asked his wife why she thought the child always cried with him and she didn’t know either. It would be nice if just once, someone would appreciate him and show it.

It was becoming clearer by the month that his pay checks were insufficient to cover all their expenses; what with the crying child and her huge summer camp tuition, the rest of her unique needs, a burned out transmission in his wife’s car, and crazy property taxes. He thought about going to a counselor for therapy, but he had tried it before and the band aid had fallen off soon after he stopped going. Medication hadn’t helped either. Plus it was all so expensive. No, the pathogen roaming his soul was deeper than therapy. 

What it was that he needed to rise above who he was he was at a loss to figure out. It was a grand mystery of the first order, the proverbial needle in a haystack. His friends were supportive although he felt not supportive enough. He didn’t expect a  ticker tape parade for himself, but some consideration of ‘his situation’ was certainly warranted; although even he couldn’t have told you exactly what ‘his situation’ was.. 

Once they were home he resolved once again to be more kind and relaxed. The baseball game was on TV; his team was getting killed. The crying child was upstairs with his wife laughing and frolicking. He paid the babysitter and saw her out. Now his pockets were really empty. He grabbed a beer and went back to the baseball game. Just then a car came screeching around the corner outside their house. It stopped outside music blaring and dropped off their older child. One less thing to worry about. 

Or was it one more thing: this child, though still underage, reeked of pot and had a beer in his hand. The child ran up the stairs without saying more than a syllable to Ivan. He heard his bedroom door open and slam shut. Now he was downstairs in the living room alone. His family was upstairs; he didn’t have a clue why no one wanted to be with him, although clearly they didn’t. Even the dog went upstairs after Ivan took her out. He tried to focus on the game, but it was over, not over in fact, just over for his team. Why was he even watching, he thought.

Why was all this happening. He just didn’t know. He cared but he couldn’t get to the root of his disaffection. He shut off the TV and went upstairs to get ready for bed. First, he checked his phone to see how his stocks had performed that day. Lousy, it turned out. Everything was down 15% year over year  His retirement was getting further and further distant all the time. His advisor had really messed up on his portfolio. He knew there was something he mistrusted about that guy. 

At times Ivan heard in his head the Russian spoken by his grandparents when he was a child. He didn’t know what it meant, but the recollection of it had a comforting resonance and quality for him. They put him on their knees, kissed played with and spoke to him in a language he didn’t understand. Ironically when they died he seemed to recall losing the only people who had  really loved and understood him.

Just so now, he felt on the outside of the conversation. Either he or the other person he was speaking to seemed to be speaking a different language. He joked with his wife that he would take a foreign language course to learn ‘teenager.’ However, he knew full well that this was not funny. His youth was over; he knew that. But was middle age supposed to be this gray. Was the man inside him really so rudderless. He couldn’t think through the problem further as his mind and nerves were shot from the over-full day behind him. 

As he climbed the steps he heard his wife in their bathroom doing her evening routine and toiletries. Her companionship and steadiness were they only things that kept him alive he sometimes thought.  It seemed to Ivan that if he only worked a little harder at becoming the man in the mirror he would emerge from the shadows and conquer his fears and demons, however vague and elusive they were. But the more she encouraged him and offered her support the deeper he sank into himself and ‘his situation.’ How does one get out of their own way, he currently had no idea. 

As Ivan waited to use the bathroom, he really had to go pee. Sometimes going pee relieved his gout. Should he go back downstairs or wait? Inside the men’s room at work one day, he had caught two guys going at it in one of the stalls. Maybe he was gay, he thought. But that notion quickly left him as his wife came out of the bathroom. He ran in and did his things then went to their bed. The light in the bedroom was already out. He whispered good night to his wife; she mumbled something and turned over. The ringing in his ears from the concert was finally dying down a little.

The friction between Ivan and the inchoate forces buffeting his soul grew and grew. He would sleep it off and then start all over again the next day. In his dreams, his car was searched by police, police finding nothing in it and still he was arrested. In another recurring dream, his dog told him to get away from her and go to someone else’s dream. There seemed to be no end to his  humiliations, big and small, awake and asleep, conscious and sub-conscious. He thought about having an affair, but who would want a balding graying thickening buzz-killer like him. 

As he closed his eyes that night, Ivan thought again of his Russian grandparents, his work and the day ahead. Was it all really so bad he thought. No, he didn’t think it, he wanted to know. He didn’t know. He didn’t know if his tenure and place in the universe were marked for disaster or what; if his spirit was dead or alive; or if he even had a spiritual side. Or even worse, what was a spirit and spirituality. He somehow got hold of the idea that these questions needed answering before anything else. This tiny window peering out upon the universal landscape was enough to stop the ringing in his ears as he drifted off to sleep. 









Submitted: July 25, 2022

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