Copyright © 2017 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.
‘Tis the season to be jolly.
Is it fuck!
Sorry, it’s just… Oh sod it, you wouldn’t understand.
Seriously? You really want to know?
My audience is a rather unconvincing carved and painted figure of a fairy. It’s one of many peeping out the side of the remains of an old oak tree, which in turn stands inside a wrought iron cage in the north-east corner of Kensington Gardens. I’m not actually speaking to it out loud, ‘cos, you know, that would be just nuts.
Beside the secrets I’m about to share with it are buried so deep in me, I’m not sure I could actually give them a voice.
Hey, it’s a fucking fairy, so it should be able to hear my thoughts, right? Either that or it’s a piece of wood, and it won’t make any difference if I were speaking or not.
Most of the figures seem to be crawling all over the tree doing their own thing, but this one – no that one there, with the curly brown hair and blue dress – gives me such a compelling look, even in the dark.
No, I shouldn’t really be here. The park closes at dusk, and with this being the shortest day of the year, the sun set several hours ago, while I was in the theatre.
I’ve just come away from seeing the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s over in the Haymarket. It was a sort of Christmas treat to myself, and I didn’t expect it to affect me like that.
What do you mean? Like what?
I realised, I am the Phantom
The fairy looks back at me impassively, her expression filled with patient concern, compelling me to go on.
His disfigurement means he has to hide from the world like I’m hiding from the world. He hides in the depths beneath the opera house, I hide deep inside myself. He covers the part of him he knows will make people turn away from him in revulsion, I do the same.
She looks sad, this fairy. Sympathising.
He’s filled with a passion that spills out of him, but he has no way of sharing it. No-one understands. They’re so filled with disgust at his appearance, they can’t see inside to the music that pours out from his soul. He resorts to coercion to achieve his ends, and eventually to violence when those he seeks to influence resist him.
I mean, okay, that’s not like me, but it could so easily be. There’s a part of me that so yearns for release, and I can’t afford to let her free. No-one would understand. She’s so beautiful, but no-one would see her for what she really is.
I have to keep her caged, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair on her, or on me – on us. On the two of us, the two of me. She withers a little more every day, and every day I feel the injustice of what I’m doing to her twisting me just a little more.
And now I’m back to being like the Phantom again. He can’t make the music he so longs to create, thwarted at every turn. In desperation, he kidnaps the voice of his soul’s song, imprisons her against her will, resolves to keep her hidden in the darkness with him for all eternity.
She has her love though, her dreams of better things, of freedom. He comes after her, seeking to save her and the Phantom captures him, gives her the choice. If she wants her love to live, she must swear to remain hidden in the dark with him. If she doesn’t he will strangle the life from her would be saviour and lover.
She tells him she cannot love him – that it is not the disfigurement on the surface that so repels her, but the manner in which he has become bitter and twisted inside.
I am the Phantom. I keep a beautiful creature trapped within the depths of myself, and every day I hold her captive, sees me become more twisted and resentful, more corrupted and blackened in my heart.
She looks at me, concerned empathy etched across her tiny features.
So, what did the Phantom do?
He let her go. He let them both go. He realised hiding in the dark, hiding away from the world wasn’t an answer. He recognised the truth in what she told him, that all he was achieving in hiding from the world, in keeping her trapped with him, was a corruption of the music within him.
And what is your passion? What is your music? What curdles in your soul?
There was dancing. Elegance and poise. Young, slender figures reaching out to touch the divine, possessed of a grace I can only own in my dreams.
Her expression turns somehow reproachful.
Will you not set her free?
You don’t understand. I knew you wouldn’t understand. I cannot set her free. She is shackled to me with unbreakable chains.
There was man dancing tonight. In his first scene, he also wore a skirt, slippers and his legs were clad in silken stockings. His dancing was beautiful but so different. He possessed a strength and arrogance that I do not have in me. So different from the delicate gentleness of the others. So different from what fills me and spills over from inside me.
His would be the only dance my body could achieve, so very far from the choreography of my soul.
What became of the phantom? Once he had released her, what was his fate?
I do not know. He remained in the dark depths, and when they came looking for him, they found no trace of him.
She looks on with mingled sorrow and pity.
She was all that was real. He was no more than her shadow. He existed only through her. In releasing her to grow and flourish, he faded to nothing.
Will you not set her free?
You ask me to give up myself.
What will become of you if you do not?
I walk away from the remains of a tree. I walk down darkened paths feeling the weight of the decision hanging over me. Somehow I make it out of the park without attracting unwanted attention. The streets are busy enough – this close to Christmas how could they not be? – but I remain apart from them. My body walks among them, but inside, I am alone.
To remain as I am and watch the corruption of the only part of me I see as beautiful, or to become nothing and allow her to flourish. It is no choice, but it requires an act of will. Do I have the strength to permit myself to diminish so that she may grow?
Back home there is a suitcase hidden under my bed. Inside is a choice which, once made, will not permit me to turn back.
The dance within meme beckons. Perhaps I possess the delicate grace it demands, I will never know unless I try. Perhaps there is magic enough and dreams can come true.