Unchained Melody

Unchained Melody

“Unchained Melody. On an album called Unchained Melody. Makes a lot of sense.”

A man, hunched over and swaying, says this into a microphone. The words come out in a disoriented, panting staccato. His eyes are closed, and he grips the bridge of his nose with two fingers. He’s seated behind a piano on a concert stage.

Wet, parted lips unconsciously graze the shaking microphone in his hand before he mutters a defeated, “Okay.” He then makes an indecipherable scoff, or maybe it’s a brusque laugh, at what could have been intended as a joke.

The audience is silent, expectant.

The seated man weakly passes the microphone to a man dutifully hovering at his side. He grasps a large, red, plastic Coco Cola cup sitting on the hood of the piano and takes a quick swig.

Then, in a suddenly clear and unclipped voice, he asks the crowd, “How do you like it so far?” A playful smile flashes across his face. His eyes are open now.

The crowd bursts to life. Uproarious applause and cheering thunders through the exhibition center.

And then he plays. The clammy appendage that ineffectually gripped at his nose just a moment ago now deftly dances across the keys.

And then he sings. The muffled and stumbling cadence of before is no more. Instead, an operatic and clear booming tenor cascades out.

The audience is silent, overcome. Their eyes are glued to the stage.

The man, even with bloated jowls and sunken eyes, even though mentally and physically dilapidated in a way the natural progression of time couldn’t account for, shines brilliantly. His body, on the precipice of death, is a sliver of kindling consumed in the blazing pyre of his spirit. The grand pillar of fire soars upwards out of sight. The warmth outpouring from it permeates the skin of the spectators, even those in the far most seats. They are all aglow with one man’s passion. They inch forward as close as they can to the stage. They want the flames to lick their skin and ignite them. They want to burn with a fraction of the brightness of this star.

Sweat glistens the man’s face. His very essence perspires. If he held back, just a little, he might be able to preserve himself, but he can’t. One can't hold back and burn this brightly, so he perspires.

He sings a sad, tragic song for a life that will end too soon, sadly and tragically. The camera pans to a woman in the audience. She is biting one of her fingers and her eyes glisten with the beginning of tears.

The man crests the crescendo. A high-pitched note rings out, reaching, reaching. Did it reach?

The crowd is alive. Their applause is like the crackling of wood being consumed by flames.