Over the next week, Sasha continued loading Kiev’s studio with CDs, opera books, coffee table picture books, and playbills which he piled on a small table next to the Murphy bed in the studio. He’d been coming over at least four times a week to hang out with Kiev and Aria after work or on the weekends. He was at the studio more frequently than he went to the house at Kensington. Of course he always showed up there for Sunday dinner.
Elias and H-C joined in the visit one balmy evening. Opera music blaring, a discussion of the meaning of a theatrical piece erupted. She captured it on video.
“Take for example Porgy and Bess. The Gershwins were brilliant, but I don’t think they knew as much as they thought they knew about the African American experience,” said Elias.
“I’m not going to argue with you on that, but the music they created is timeless. And it’s ours.” Sasha held his chin in his palm.
“What?” asked Elias.
“What wasn’t ours to begin with, what we may have rejected, we’ve come to more than accept. We embrace it, love it through its faults.” Sasha said holding his index finger in the air.
“What is Porgy and Bess, Uncle Sasha?” Aria had been to a couple of operas in Germany. All of them were in parks and free to the public.
“One of the only great classic American operas, darling.”
Elias began to float around as if he were a solicitous woman. Sasha sensing some event he could accompany, retrieved his cello which he’d leaned against the Murphy bed.
“It was the first classic American Opera. The music is complex, of course, it’s the Gershwins. The story is about a community living under duress, but still living, finding love and misery, love and misery again. A fallen woman,” Elias stepped up and batted his eyes, Sasha nodded towards him, “finds sobriety through the kindness and love of an old poor cripple. Only that does not last as tragedy and sorrow drive her back to her old ways and down the road to defeat. I shall play Porgy, Elias will play the role of the fallen woman, Bess.”
“Elias, let’s sing “I Loves You Porgy.” You know it don’t you?” Sasha began to play.
Elias started, “I loves you Porgy, I do, I do…
The group listened politely and giggled at Elias’ interpretation of the fallen woman smitten with Porgy the cripple. He batted his eyes, fanned himself. Everyone in the room seemed as if they were a participant the show--even herself. Aria felt something engage in her soul. A desire for belonging broke open inside of her.
Sasha rose. In a baritone voice he followed, “I loves you Bess, you is my woman now, you is, you is…”
Aria’s mouth flew open, she grabbed H-C’s leg and pressed down.
“Wow! Uncle Sasha,” she exclaimed.
Finally, the threat mortalized, here the impending polite storm. Sasha, the wind maker. The low baritone emanated vibrations that condensed and saturated the walls of the brownstone and the auditory and sensory organs of the listeners. All that he wasn’t as a pedestrian, he was as a singer. Flat Stanley morphed into the third dimension and was working on a fourth, saving Brooklyn one vibrato at a time.
Kiev stopped working his clay, and engaged in a rocking two-step in place.
Eloisa, in the garden, yelled up during a lull, “Wha’ch’all doing?”
Sasha called her up to the studio with a wave of the arm, “Come on, gal. We got to be going to Kittiwah…”
Eloisa didn’t need to be asked twice. Aria opened the door for the orange-clad maven and Eloisa immediately joined the party.
“Hello, I’m Eloisa. Aria and I are friends. I’ve heard a lot about all of y’all.’
A round of introductions were made. Aria beamed as she claimed her family and her friend.
“What scenes are we doing? Can we do the scene where Maria tells Sportin’ Life off? You know that scene Elias?”
“Sure do, friend..”
“Well, I’m no friend of yours, low-life,” Eloisa responded, keeping to the character of Maria. “Aria can I use your poncho?”
Aria whipped the poncho off and tossed it to Eloisa, who pulled it around her shoulders. It looked more like a napkin than a cape.
“In this scene the town butcher, Maria, has had it with Sportin’ Life, the town’s drug dealer. She threatens him with a large butcher knife and vexing words,” Sasha introduced the scene.
Aria deftly moved behind Elias as Sasha spoke, clearing some equipment, the cello and a couple of sculptures. Elias nodded his thanks and grabbed one of Kiev’s trimming knives and gave it to Eloisa. He proceeded with his duet.
“He’s liable to knock over something with that tail of his,” Aria whispered to H-C.
“Aria, Elias isn’t that large of a man,” H-C responded.
“Well, I can see that, silly.” Aria beamed at the show.
Eloisa absorbed the role of Maria. Though her voice didn’t have the operatic qualities, she deftly sang the words.
“Come on old woman, let’s you and me be friens’.” Elias said.
“Friends with you low-life? You? Hell no! I hate your strutting style and your got damn city smile and your ten cent diamonds and your five cent style but owww I hate your guts. Somebody got to crave you up to set these people free and the writing on the wall says it’s gonna be me. Some night when you is full of gin don’t know when I’s about. I’m going to take you by the tail and turn you inside out.”
Aria used her elbow to bunt H-C in her side.
“ Frien’ with you low life? Hell no!” Eloisa cackled and chased Elias around the room with the trimming knife. “Figures I can break your bones, yes one by one. Thens I going to carve you up and hang them in the sun. I’ll feed our meat to buzzards to give them belly aches. I’ll take your bones to Kittiwah for rattlesnakes. Friens’ with you low life?” Eloisa held the trimming knife at Elias’ throat while he was down on the ground. “I think I must decline. I sooner cut my own throat than call you a friend of mine,” Eloisa walked away, fanning herself.
The actors bowed.
“Elias, lay down and act like you’re dead. I’m going to do the funeral scene”, He happily played along.
Eloisa sang “My Man’s Gone Now” becoming the church lady, Serena. Devin flourished the mostly a cappella song with some musical notes.
“My man’s gone now, ain’t no use in listening, for his footsteps climbing up the stairs…ole man sorrow…whispering when I say my prayers…”
The group, surprised but not interrupted by Eloisa stealing the show. The troupe didn’t care.
As evening arrived, the sounds of opera and laughter combined with the floral scents from the garden. It created an ethereal veil that curled and twined out the window and lay on Brooklyn like a foreign lover.