The younger the kiddie choir that sings it, the more haunting it sounds.
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Recommended for: The Whig Party
The Messiah was something we’d done as far back as we could remember. Separately, our parents had taken each of us to an annual performance of the eighteenth-century oratorio by the local philharmonic, until we rebelled (you, 11; me, 16) and the tradition withered. I’d speculated that, years back, maybe by coincidence we’d even attended the same philharmonic performance, and you asked if I remembered the one where, during the Hallelujah chorus, the first-chair violinist had stood up and hurled her bow javelin-style through the chest of the conductor, who fell resplendently back into the arms of the standing audience. I said that I hadn’t seen that one.
 
“Well,” you said, “I guess that means we probably didn’t overlap.”
 
*
 
The timeline does not work in my favor any way you slice it, no matter when I finally put the pieces together: You were pregnant and I ran for the hills.
 
When I did find you again, fully six months after I’d busted, it was at the mouth of a cave a mile outside of town. Peter had led me there. I’d found him prowling through the ruins of our old building like a Lazarus back from heaven, and when he fled from me, I followed. You were buried beneath a strata of six blankets with a book open on the ground by your feet, resembling nothing so much as an obdurate boulder in a river, the scrubland parting around you, the baby imminent, and the hour upon us. We had never been more than five miles apart. You greeted Peter first, but by the name of one of the elder gods. You had no words for me, and I didn’t deserve them.
 
We high-tailed it back to the city. The rickety shopping cart was your chariot, and I was the traitorous beast who pulled it.
 
*
 
The libretto to Messiah—compiled from scripture by Charlie Jennens and then passed to his longtime collaborator, Handel—has never particularly impressed us. It reads too much like King James' Greatest Hits, as if Jennens (who famously believed that Handel’s composition did not live up to its source material) had spent a summer afternoon in 1741 dipping into the KJB for his favorite bits, the annotative work of a lazy high schooler highlighting the obvious plot points so he has something to reference when called upon in class. In our versions, we swapped out the Bible for quotes from Thelemic blessings, Lovecraft, and Milton’s Prince of Darkness, the ancient and the far-below.
 
*
 
We have to take a train to another city to get to the hospital. Peter abandons us with a howl when he sees the headlights approaching on the platform, probably with flashbacks to spotlights and theatre rigging. Once we’re aboard, the movement of the train feels wildly out of control and imprecise, hurtling to a stop at every station, like its every journey is some terrible gamble. I hold on to you like an anchor, everything newly strange. The landscape goes from desolate to teeming.
 
The sight of populated civilization after all these months seems unreal, and the Land of Hospital reads like an alien environment, so bright and relentlessly lit as to preclude the possibility of true sterility. I imagine a poor janitor scrubbing repeatedly at the same corner, failing and failing to achieve Hospital White. It occurs to me that painting is an inherently filthy medium, that it is basically smearing layers of shit made from mashed plant and animal matter onto a once-blank surface. I realize I’ve forgotten what fluorescence looks like at full strength.


 
Somehow we get you to a bed without having to reveal our names, and suddenly I’m standing alone in a grand hallway symmetrically aligned with hateful flower artwork and flanked by an empty waiting room, watching the doors made half of glass and half of fake-looking varnished wood swing silently forwards and backwards on well-oiled hinges as uniformed personnel scurry in and out. And then I’m racing after you again.
 
Hours later, a child is born into a horde of beckoning gloves on a bed that I’m convinced will never be clean again. The tone I hear when he emerges fully into the room—hospital staff frantic around us—the musical association inspired by the baby is one of Handel’s most ethereal moments in Messiah, the chorus in Part III stipulating that resurrection comes as easy as death, where the younger the kiddie choir that sings it, the more haunting it sounds, and the vision I have is of a sky in roiling flame, unearthly but strangely peaceful. When I put my index finger out and his little baby hand can’t even throttle it, I feel gargantuan, titanic, and in the realization of our totally disproportionate sizes a wave of tenderness washes over me, a sheltering instinct, and I know that he is mine, in some way, but also that he fundamentally isn’t. It’s lights-out for both of us.
 
*
 
What seems like seconds after the room is cleared, in a still-drying sweat the nurse returns and asks if we’re planning to stay the night. I look from her to where you lie propped on the bed, swallowed by even the paper-thin gown, your eyes just slitted open. I tell her that, yes, we will be staying the night.
 
You drift back off immediately, barely disturbed. The nurse takes her leave. I turn off the lights in the room and sit in the chair by the window, casting out over the city below, running into the night, its constellation of mechanic lights. Beyond their perimeter, the world pools like a black ocean around an island. I have no idea where we came from.
 
I feel each minute pass, each adjustment of capital charging us for the time we spend here, for the space and the people. The baby grows at an incredible rate.
 
The next morning, I stand at the counter, you beside me in the mandated wheelchair with the baby in your lap, and the receptionist on duty tells me to see the financial counselor. I follow her directions to an office down the hall, heart rising into my throat, the same sensation as being hopelessly, eternally late. I wonder why I haven’t started running. He quotes our bill in a concerned voice and I lean forward onto his desk, as if to block you from shady dealings, though I left you back at the nurse’s station. When I reach into my pocket, I feel sweat run down my side. I draw the card from my tattered wallet and it’s accepted and swiped for thousands of dollars without ceremony. I don’t speak at all until the exchange has been entirely performed. I sign my name and return to the station. You don’t acknowledge that anything has occurred. 
 
An electronic pulse echoes out from the hospital terminal and lands on a computer screen somewhere in the distant Midwest, where a man who once took his child to yearly performances of Handel’s Messiah sits reading in his office. He notes the charge to his account. He is quicker to put the timeline together than I ever was. A son is born, and reborn.
 
We emerge from the hospital into the light of day. We called him Morning.
 
And, as surely as the culmination of Isaiah’s ecstatic prophecy rings out in Part I, in the words Jennens has chosen for us:
 
Unto us a son is born.
 
And, in time, the government shall be upon his shoulder.


Simon Jacobs 
is the author of SATURN, a collection of David Bowie stories, out now from Spork Press.

He may be found at 
simonajacobs.blogspot.com.
Previously:
St. Francis in the Desert
Magic Scene with Self-Portrait
Madonna and Child
Oedipus and the Sphinx
Adagio for Strings
"Doomed," Chris Burden, 1975
The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife
Sarcophagus of Harkhebit
Witches' Flight
The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Death of Marat
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