The Secret Song

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Song writing.

Submitted: August 20, 2013

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Submitted: August 20, 2013

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The Secret Song by Craig Davison

Why should I do anything

When I can sit alone

And dream of love

However improbable?

(Anonymous)

I don’t know if it was any good - the song I mean, that I wrote with a friend in town; probably not, but I liked it, and it was a song. I had a chord progression and a sort of melody and structure I’d been working on, but I only had one verse I liked, and out of the blue my friend Zeina, who I had played it to, sent me seven verses of lyrics that more or less fitted the tune. I didn’t realise it was a song lyric at first, being a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, and thought she was pouring her emotions out to someone who obviously wasn’t me, and had sent it to me by mistake. I didn’t really want to read it, as it all sounded quite personal and painful, but the penny dropped and I sat down and finally read it from an entirely different perspective; as a song lyric.

It wasn’t intended to be a ‘secret song’, and I’m sure I said that as a joke one day, as her husband had earlier asked me to come up with a tune for him to put a libretto to, for their tenth anniversary next year. But it had to be a secret, of course, so the ‘secret song’ was really his idea. I liked the chorus I’d come up with for him, which went ‘You’re the girl for me’. Sweet, romantic and simple, but after I played it to Zeina, through headphones dancing up Wade Street toward the Bottom Pub, she forced a confession out of me - I admitted that there was a ‘secret song’ I was writing with her husband. She was furious and made me promise to abandon any future song writing endeavours with him. She’s very possessive sometimes; especially when it comes to writing love songs about her, although technically it wasn’t about her: it was just a song. Of course when he found out that Zeina and I had written a song together he reacted by accusing her of writing a secret song. What a joke!

If I had my time over I would have been honest and just told him that he was wasting his time. “She doesn’t love you, Pal.” It sounds a tad harsh, but honestly, put him out of his misery. It’s over. But it wasn’t my job and it certainly wasn’t my responsibility. She was my song writing partner and nothing more, and if I had to console every dickhead willing to pledge his eternal passion for her, I’d have to at least negotiate a payment with them, whether or not it was done at the altar. It’s not that I don’t have empathy, or occasionally feel pity; it’s just that life’s too short. Women fall out of love with you, or you fall out of love with them. Like some poet said: that’s the trouble with love – one party becomes bored and the other unhappy. According to my modest reading of sexual evolution it appears primates aren’t terribly monogamous anyway. If you want life-long fidelity, marry a swan.

I mixed-up the verse structure and she pointed out that I had them in the wrong order, but after a little tweaking and compromise it was written. I called it Broken Hearted Blues Again and eventually I played it at the local pub. Not that anyone bothered to listen, other than Zeina. Original songs don’t go down very well at the Top Pub. The drinkers on Saturday afternoon like Johnny Cash and Click Go the Shears, and even Skye Boat Song, which if I admit is a fun song to sing, but I have an intense historical dislike of the Stewarts. Those Georges from Hannover might have been a bunch of mad Germans, but they avoided Civil War and employed G.F. Handel. Man, what a songwriter to have in your Royal Court. We started to play from midday to one on Saturday, when they have the toss at the Top Pub. The barmaid spins a coin and if you call it correctly, the beer is free. I don’t think it extends to other beverages, like cider which Zeina and I drink. The punters sit out in the beer garden where you can smoke, reading their form-guides, going back and forth to the bar to lay bets and get more beer, hopefully free. Life’s a gamble.

I’d formed a sort of band with an old bloke named Arnie who played rapid fire pipe band percussion, and asked me to bring my guitar down and play some songs. I carried my guitar the kilometre or so to the pub, which is hard to do inconspicuously in a small town. Not many people walk anywhere, as there is an alternate driving reality; short inebriated trips in white Utes from their homes to the pub, which in some cases is shorter than my trip from inside the house to the toilet outside. By the time these cunts find their keys, find their cars and manage to reverse the twenty metres from their carport to the pub car park, most normal people could have strolled down and already be on their second schooner. But remember, you cannot live without a car. Survive perhaps, but that’s it.

Arnie had set up his massive bank of obscure looking percussion instruments, consisting of aluminium pots, lager phone and comic horn. Our musical styles were a little different, as he was Scottish reels and jigs tradition and I was from the Punk Blues Folk non-tradition. There is some overlap, but not a lot outside of making raucous noise in public. There was no question of asking for money to perform, but if we got a couple of beers we were happy. Arnie would have paid for the opportunity he enjoyed it so much, in his weird fucking tartan cap, and me in my black Akubra Bogart, which makes me look like a Hasidic Jew, according to some idiot here. Up the road in Griffith it looks Mafia Don, so it’s all about location. We’d race through our sets of Waltzing Matilda, Jackson and Black Velvet band, receiving beers from the publicans, Honey and Marty. They were kind and seemed to like some of our material

Of course there were critics – how could there not be spiteful carping in a small redneck town. Men would shout out, “Shut up!” if you dared to sing a note; but as the butcher pointed out to me one day, “They’d carry on even if Elton John turned up to play.” I’d probably join them, I thought. It was hard keeping in time with Arnie because he was so fucking excited to play live in front of an audience not comprised of nursing home geriatrics that every number just seemed to speed up into a blur. It was exhausting, and I was always apprehensive about getting up. I couldn’t eat beforehand and an afternoon of drinking lager isn’t conducive to a healthy or in any way spiritual lifestyle, despite how much of a buzz it is when a song goes smoothly. But honestly, we were just a joke to most people; a couple of decrepit old dudes demanding attention from a bunch of cunts who don’t give a fuck, but hopefully they found the absurdity amusing. Zeina took some photos of us and put them on Facebook and her friends thought we looked like ancient hillbillies or extras from the film Deliverance. Squeal like pig, my arse. I’ve heard that youth is wasted on the young, but I was beyond my use-by date. Maybe that’s just vanity and belated acceptance of my physical deterioration, but if that’s how bad I look on stage, I’d be a fool to do it again. And I did.

 

* * * **

I’m not a real song writer. I mean, I don’t make a living out of it and I’m not terribly prolific, but it’s something I’ve been trying to do for years without reward or success. But what else would I be doing? Labouring for the local council? People in this town have decided to label me ‘the poet’; it’s a lot to live up to, although I suspect it’s derogatory and reflects the brain-dead homophobia evident here. Although I am a heterosexual, father of two, in Coolamon poetry is synonymous with buggery and pederasty. I tried teaching out here a few times, but I was threatened physically, assaulted and endlessly cross-examined by idiot students about my domestic situation, and apparently if you live alone at my age you are a paedophile. News to me, and just so insulting. After a student at a nearby Riverina school screamed in my ear one afternoon, nearly deafening me, I couldn’t face doing it again. I’m from the coast, I’m urban, pro-environment, anti-exclusion, and if not necessarily a feminist, at least I am opposed to mindless misogyny. I don’t believe every great work of art could’ve been knocked out by a six year child. I don’t believe John Howard paid Martin Bryant to execute innocent people. Call me a sceptic or even a cynic, but don’t fucking call me a moron.

I should clarify something I’ve written. I could go back and edit it out, in case anyone thinks I’m heartless, cold or cruel. I am, but I still feel occasional compassion for fellow human beings. Up to point. I’d seen Zeina’s husband in pain; I’d felt that same emptiness when women have stopped loving me; when you would do anything to make them love you again; blind unrequited love, the subject of the greatest and saddest love songs, when you lose all sense of reality. That’s love. Get over it. I can understand some male, breadwinner-dickhead claiming to want to keep the family together, or whatever, but how much of it is subtext? Family; an excuse to extend ownership over another human being. My sympathy simply ran out after he dropped by out of the blue on a Monday evening, as I was just sitting down to watch yet another show about historical house renovation, to tell me she’d moved to Wagga Wagga to be with her boyfriend, which was bad enough behaviour in itself, I thought, as I didn’t see how it was any of my business; but then I learned he’d afterwards he’d driven around telling the town’s rednecks and dickheads, basically labelling her a slut. She may be a lot of things: obstinate, dogmatic, overly charming and too adorable for some tastes, but really: a slut? According to my sister I have a pretty good record with sluts, so if Zeina was a slut I would have asked her to sleep with me long ago, despite the twenty year age gap; but she’s not. I know her too well, and any man whose desire wanders beyond an acceptable level of mild flirtation toward overt declarations of passion, will quickly be relegated to outcast status. And fair enough; it must involve so much superfluous effort being the most desirable woman in a small town, in addition to holding down a job and being the mother of two children. And then there’s her husband.

I played Broken Hearted Blues on my electric piano later in the evening, but I was getting drunk and morbid. Zeina was gone and the only thing she left me was this song. Her husband had said she was leaving at seven, so I sat on the front veranda looking out at the Wagga road. I saw a white twin cab ute heading south at about seven thirty, the brake lights flashing momentarily like a farewell wave, and I shed a tear as she disappeared from my life, without saying goodbye. But every second vehicle out here is a white ute, so it could have been anyone I guess.

I soon stopped drinking at the Top Pub altogether, as she was also my favourite drinking partner, and because people kept asking me if I’d heard she had moved to Sydney, or run off to the Philippines, or whether I’d heard from her. I told them I didn’t know and even if I did I would never say anything. It’s not difficult keeping tabs on people in the modern world and I could look her up on Facebook if I so desired, as they could too if they weren’t such fucking in-bred retarded yokels. I never comment on Facebook or write her anything, and I do know roughly where she is, but what have I to say to her other than, “I miss you”. She’s still alive and kicking somewhere, so the rumour about her husband murdering her and shredding her body in a paddock is yet another outrageous lie about her. She is probably arguing at a bar somewhere with anyone within earshot and driving sad, lonely men everywhere crazy, and still writing secret songs of love. Hopefully from time to time she checks me out on Facebook too, just to make sure I’m still alive, and that’s close enough to love for me.


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