The Music of Orpheus
Note: This love story is loosely based on the Orpheus Eurydice legend. There is sex towards the end so a little patience will go a long way.
While sweeping the hallway or emptying the trash cans, or making sure the bathrooms had paper towels and toilet paper, Orrin thought about Jessica. “So what if I’m the janitor and she’s a lawyer’s assistant, I’m just as good as anyone who works at Ainsworth and Thelin.”
Orin was extremely shy but determined to ask her out and believed that if she got to know him, she would see that he was a lot more than a janitor. He wished she could hear him play his guitar and knew if she heard his music she would see the depth of his spirit and hear what he felt. “If only she could hear me play, she would know who I am,” he thought, but he had no way to make that happen.
He always did an especially good job around her desk, dusting the filing cabinets and shelves, removing things, taking care with how he lifted objects, spraying the cleaning solution, finding things to do in order to have more time to be around her, hoping she would notice him. Often he would just stop by and ask if she needed anything. He’d take her coffee mug and rinse it out and ask if she wanted more coffee. He liked when she looked up from her computer, smile and said, “Thanks, Orrin,” then got back to work.
One day Orrin surprised her with flowers he bought from the Save-way Supermarket. He had a vase in the storage closet and filled it with water and put the small bouquet of daisies and zinnias in the middle of her desk and, wanting to be mysterious, did not leave a note. When she saw them, she looked surprised. She smiled and asked her assistant, Gloria, if she knew where the flowers came from. Later, Orrin walked up to her putting down the mop and bucket and asked, “How’d you like the flowers, Jessica?”
She had moved the vase to the side so she could work but then looked at them then up at Orrin. “I love them. What a nice surprise, but I have no idea who gave them to me.” She then looked at Orrin and smiled, “Did you give them to me?”
“Sort of,” Orrin said.
“What do you mean sort of, Orrin? Either you gave them or you didn’t.”
“Yes, I gave them to you. I thought it would make your desk pretty.”
He wanted to ask her to go to the movies or at least have a cup of coffee at the café down the street, but just stood there like an idiot, afraid she’d say no so he asked if she wanted a piece of gum.
“Gum,” Jessica said.
“Yes, it’s spearmint.” He pulled out a stick of gum from his pocket. “Do you want some?”
Just then the telephone rang and she put up her finger indicating he should wait for one minute. Orrin watched her talking and writing down a number, thinking how beautiful she looked with long dark hair that fell below her shoulders, her blue green eyes, her radiant face with a little make up, her lips made him think of kissing her. He loved the way she dressed, usually in blouses or colorful sweaters that made it difficult for him to not look at her breasts. She wore short tight skirts or slacks and always had long dangling earrings. She was petite, probably just over five feet and Orrin thought she was not only pretty but sexy and had fantasies about her where after a movie she’d hold his hand and they’d go someplace for coffee and she’d look into his eyes and invite him to her apartment and push him up against the door and they would be kissing and going crazy making wild passionate love on the floor.
While she was on the phone, Orrin stood in front of her desk, looking at her, holding the piece of gum in his hand waiting for her to hang up and when she did, he asked her again, “So, do you want some gum?”
“No, thanks,” Jessica said, turning back to her computer. “I’ve got to get to work now, Orrin.”
“Me, too,” he said, picking up his mop and bucket. “Enjoy the flowers.”
“I will,” she smiled, leaning over to sniff them. “That was sweet of you.”
Orrin really wanted to ask her out and kept walking past her office trying to get up the nerve to ask her. “How about dinner and a movie, Jessica?” he practiced, repeating that question, over and over, trying to sound confident and suave. He practiced it while mopping the men’s room. He looked at himself in the mirror, “How about dinner and a movie, Jessica,” he asked a few times, saying it in different ways, putting his hands in his jeans pocket, slanting his head slightly, smiling, then asking in a deep voice, looking at himself in the eye, “How about dinner and a movie, Jessica?” At the same time, he also felt stupid and hated his shyness.
He noticed dirt on the faded blue t-shirt and brushed it off while looking at himself in the mirror. He was determined now to walk into Jessica’s office and ask her out. He combed his longish dark curly hair before leaving the men’s room. Orrin had let his hair grow long after he got back from Iraq.
The army had cut it short when he signed up but after four years when he was discharged, he let it grow long--not real long. Sometimes he wore in it a pony tail, but usually it just curled down to just above his shoulders. He liked how thick, curly and wild looking it was. He had high cheek bones, a sharp nose and wondered if he looked like the father he hadn’t seen since he was three. His mom said he was half Native American and he could see a little of that in the mirror. He moved his face closer and looked into his blue eyes, “Orrin, you can do this. You can win her heart. You’re a good looking guy, smart, talented. She will fall in love with you once she knows who you are.” Again, he thought if only she could hear his music.
Orrin stood outside her office, and repeated the question once more. Finally, he took a deep breath and walked into the office. Jessica was working on the computer with her back to the door. He walked up to the desk, took a deep breath and just as he opened his mouth and said “Do….” the telephone rang. She looked up at him, lifting her finger again then answered the phone. “Oh, hello dear,” he heard her say. “I’m so glad to hear your voice.”
Orrin stood there, pretending he wasn’t listening to Jessica’s happy voice, “Of course, I’d love to have dinner with you and go to the movie. I heard that Julia Roberts is great in it.” She paused. “See you at six. I love you, too.”
When she hung up and turned to Orrin, with that smile that made his heart leap, “Were you getting ready to ask me something?”
“No. I was just wanted to see if the flowers were okay,” he said.
“Well, I think they’re fine, Orrin,” she said and went back to her computer.
Orrin stood there at the edge of her desk and looked at the yellow daisies and the red zinnias then at Jessica. He stood there with his hands in my pocket. After a minute, she turned to face him, “What’s wrong, Orrin?”
“Nothing, Jessica. Nothing’s wrong.”
He glanced over at Gloria who was standing at the filing cabinet. She turned and looked at Orrin and then at Jessica. Orrin took a deep breath and stood there wishing he could think of something to say but couldn’t. Jessica turned back to her computer and continued what she was doing.
Orrin hated how shy and awkward he was around her. He knew it was stupid to ask her if she wanted gum, but he never knew what to say. “It’s through my guitar that I express what I feel,” he said to himself. “If only I could get her to hear my music she would know who I am.” He knew that sounded crazy but knew that his music was special. He didn’t know why or how he came to love playing the guitar but it changed his life. “Something comes over me when I play and I say through my music what I can’t say in words,” he thought, remembering the day his life changed.
It’s funny how things happen that impact your life in ways you can’t explain. When Orrin was twelve he was walking down Ridge Avenue in Roxboro, the small town where he lived at the time. He and his mom moved around a lot. His mom and dad split when he was three and Orrin barely remembered him. They were never married and she had him when she was nineteen, so it was just Orrin and her.
They had just moved to this Roxboro the week before because a man she met on the internet lived there and they got to be on line lovers and so they ended up there. He didn’t know any of the kids at school since they all had cliques and he was so shy. It was a Saturday and Orrin decided to explore the town and was walking down the street past the different stores when he walked by a store that sold musical instruments. He was surprised when he saw the sign over the front door, “Music for the Ages,” but something made him stop and look in the window. There was a drum set, a trumpet, a keyboard piano, a banjo, a violin but what caught his eye was a blue guitar in the corner of the window. Orrin was drawn to that guitar. It’s hard to explain but something about the color and the shape sent a tingle through him and he knew he had to have that guitar. He must have stood there ten minutes just staring at it and then he went inside, heard the bell jingle over the door and saw an old man with shaggy white hair behind the counter. The man looked up at Orrin then went back to putting strings on a violin.
It was a small store, kind of dingy that sold CDs, but also had several tables with old record albums. You know the big kind with vinyl records and a sign over the table that said Vintage Records--Used. A few pianos, an organ, several different size keyboard pianos were on one side of the store. On the rear wall sat a row of guitars both acoustic and electric and in the glass case where the man was working was a shiny trumpet, a few violins and a row of harmonicas.
Orrin asked him how much the blue guitar was. The man looked at him and said a thousand dollars then walked over to the window and brought it over to him. Orrin knew nothing about guitars. The man told him it was acoustic with nylons string instead of wire. It was a classical guitar and that he knew the man who made it. He handed it to Orrin, “Hold it. See how it feels,” and added, “It was originally twenty-five hundred dollars but no wants a blue guitar, so now it’s a thousand.”
Orrin had never held a guitar before but when he cradled it in his arm then plucked one of the strings, he felt that tingle again and a strange feeling came over him. He strummed it and loved the sound it made and felt the vibration ripple though his body. He put his finger on the lowest string at one end and plucked then moved his finger up the string a little more and plucked again, then one more time and told the man, “I love the sound of this guitar. It’s beautiful but there’s no way I could afford a thousand dollars.”
The man nodded and said he was selling it for the person who made the guitar, an old friend of his since childhood. He thought for a minute, “Maybe I could sell it cheaper but I have to ask my friend.”
He told Orrin his friend had been making guitars his whole life but this was the last one he would ever make then added, “I don’t why he painted it blue. I told him it was nuts, no one would buy a blue classical guitar.” He then paused and nodded, looking at Orrin “I like the way you look holding that guitar,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “For some reason I think you should have that guitar, maybe my friend would sell it for a lot less than a thousand dollars. I could ask him.”
Orrin looked at the guitar then back at the man. “Thank you but I doubt I could afford anything. We just moved to town and we don’t have much money.” He strummed the guitar again, closed his eyes, feeling the strange sensation again.
“What’s your name,” he asked.
“Orrin,” he answered, plucking the string again.
“I’m Hermes,” he said.
“Hermes, like the Greek god,” Orrin said, surprised. “I love mythology. It’s one of my favorite things to read. Hermes was the messenger.”
“Well my family is Greek. My parents named all of their children after Greek gods but I tell most people my name is Herman because if I tell them my real name, I get strange looks. No one in this country is called Hermes.”
“So why did you tell me your name was Hermes and not Herman,” Orrin asked.
“I’m not sure, but when I saw you holding the guitar that my friend made I wanted to tell you my real name. It just felt right. Some things you can’t explain. By the way my friend’s real name is Apollo, but he calls him self Paul for the same reason I don’t call myself Hermes. We grew up together in Greece. Both of our families came to America when we were fifteen.”
“Apollo,” Orrin said, surprised, thinking that was strange. “Wasn’t Apollo the god of music and poetry?”
“Yes,” Herman answered, nodding and laughed. “I see you know your mythology.”
For a moment Orin looked at Herman, thinking what he heard was strange but then looked down at the guitar he was holding and plucked the strings a few more times, loving the sound, feeling the vibrations. He closed his eyes and strummed a few times then handed the guitar back to Herman and said he had to go.
“Listen, Orrin, come back tomorrow. I will talk to my friend, maybe we can work something out. I’m usually closed on Sundays but I will be here. Come at noon.”
When Orrin left, Herman put the guitar back in the window and Orrin walked back to their house, actually his mom’s boyfriend’s house. His name was Jeffrey and he was ten years older than his mother. He was a building contractor and a pretty decent guy with several men working for him. Not many guys would take in a woman with a twelve year old son but he invited Orrin’s mom to come visit and then a few weeks later they were there living in Roxboro.
The next day was Sunday and Orrin went back to the music store at noon, saw the closed sign on the door and thought it was strange that Herman told him to come back, but stood in front of the window staring at the blue guitar wondering what could possibly be worked out since he knew his mom had no money for a guitar. Just then, the front door opened and Herman invited him in. When Orrin entered he saw another old man with a white beard, wire rimmed glasses and a black Greek fisherman’s cap on his head. He was sitting on a piano bench and when he saw Orrin, he smiled, nodding his head looking into Orrin’s eyes.
“So you are interested in my blue guitar,” he asked. Those were his first words. No hello, no introduction.
“Yes, I don’t know anything about guitars but I liked holding it,” Orrin said, glancing up at Herman standing next to him.
Paul looked up at his friend, “Bring us the guitar, please,” he said, looking back at Orrin.
When Herman handed it to him, Orrin cradled it in his arms and plucked a string and immediately felt that tingle again. He looked up and noticed the strange way Paul was looking at him. Orrin looked away and plucked the string, holding his finger there then moved it up a little and felt the sound vibrate through his whole body, feeling again the strange sensation he felt the day before.
Paul and Herman didn’t say anything but just listened to Orrin plucking and strumming the strings. After a few moments, Paul put up his hand for him to stop and looked at Orrin before speaking. “Listen, I will give you my guitar and I will teach you to play it.”
Orrin could not believe his ears and felt like he was going to cry, “Why?”
“I don’t know for sure. I love that guitar and I will not be making another one, but when my old friend, Herman told me about you, I had a feeling. I can’t explain it and for some reason I wanted to meet you and now I know I want you to have my guitar. I have played the guitar all of my life and I have a feeling I can teach you to play like no one else. What do you think about that?”
Orrin didn’t know what to say and couldn’t believe this was happening to him, but that’s how he got the blue guitar and learned how to play. Still, he was curious why he was given the guitar and the first day he went to his house for a lesson, he asked, “Why did you give me the guitar?”
Paul looked into Orrin’s eyes before speaking. “The reason I painted the guitar blue is because I knew who ever wanted to buy it was meant to have it. There are no other guitars in the world like it, but when I met you and saw how you loved it, I knew you were the one to have it. It’s a simple as that. Does that answer your question?”
“I guess so,” Orrin answered, still wondering why Paul thought he was meant to have it but just accepted his answer.
He began going to Paul’s house, first one day a week, then two then almost every day and Paul taught him to play. He said Orrin was a natural and gifted musician. He said he must let the nails of his right hand grow long in order to play properly and though his mother objected, when she knew why, she left him alone about it. Paul taught him to read music and said he wanted Orrin to eventually be able to compose his own music but he must first learn the music of the masters. Orrin was learning to play classical guitar and Paul introduced him to the music of Bach, Scarlatti, Vivaldi and many others. He also taught him to play Flamingo, the music of the gypsies as well as the folk music he knew as a child in Greece. They listened to Paul’s records of Andre Segovia, Jose Thomas, Narciso Yepes and many other guitarists, but Orrin especially loved listening to Paul play. He loved how he seemed to be looking out into space when he played, hardly looking at his fingers and Orrin studied the way Paul played and knew he wanted to be able to play like that. He thought that Paul’s playing was better than any of the great players he listened too and marveled at what a master he was, not just as a musician but as a craftsman who made beautiful guitars. He often thought about Paul’s real name Apollo, the god of music and poetry and when he watched and listened to his playing he knew he was experiencing something special but could not articulate what it was he felt.
One day, Orrin asked him why he didn’t become famous. “You’re better than any one I have ever heard. You’re a master and you’re living in a small town making guitars.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Being famous is not important. Making beautiful music is all that matters and I love making guitars so that others can make beautiful music. I’m very happy. I have made a lot of money selling my guitars. Musicians come to me from all over. A few of my guitars have been played on concert stages all over the world, but I wanted to be left alone. Believe me I am content with my simple life in this little town.
Orrin took lessons from Paul for two years but then his mom and her boyfriend broke up and they moved away. Orrin didn’t want to move and wished he could stay in Roxboro and live with Paul, who was more like a father to him than anyone in his life, but Paul was old and Orrin’s mom really needed him to get a job and help support them. He was almost fifteen when they moved away. He wasn’t doing well in school and hated the place and he never made friends. All he wanted to do was play the guitar and he practiced all the time and never did his homework. He remembered Paul telling him something Mark Twain said. “Never let school get in the way of your education.” They both laughed and Paul told Orrin he never finished elementary school but became an apprentice to a guitar maker in Greece and after that, music and making guitars was all he ever wanted to do.
After their lessons, Paul would make tea and they would eat goat cheese on crackers and Orrin loved listening to the stories Paul told him of his life in Greece and how he learned to play the guitar. He told him how his wife, Elena died when she was young, how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. “She was the love of my life and all the music I have ever written was inspired by her.”
One day after a lesson, Paul asked if he knew the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orrin remembered reading it but didn’t recall much but Paul told him the story about how Orpheus played the lyre and his music was so beautiful and enchanting that everyone loved his music and how he fell in love with Eurydice, how she was drawn to his music. They married but one day she was bitten by a snake while she was out walking and she died. Orpheus’ heart was broken and his music became very sad. He was inspired to go to the underworld and beg Persephone and Hades for his wife. He played his lyre for them and it was a love song to her that was so beautiful and haunting it made the gods of the underworld cry and they decided they would allow Eurydice to return with him on the condition that he must not look back to see her until they were no longer in the underworld. Orpheus agreed and was overjoyed that he now had the love of his life back; however, just as he was one step away from being back on earth, a moment of uncertainty came over him, a horrible feeling he would lose her and suddenly glanced back to make sure she was still there and that was his fatal mistake. She disappeared and returned to the underworld. He lost her again. She was gone and his broken heart returned. From that day on his music was filled with longing and the pain of his loss. He would sit under a tree with his lyre, looking up at the sky with his eyes closed and play the sad music that filled him. He would pluck the strings and the sound of his mournful music made everyone who heard it cry and feel sorrow for the tragic loss.
After hearing the story of Orpheus, Orrin often wondered if his music would ever draw someone to him like Orpheus’ music. Orrin remembered a few times he had met beautiful women that attracted him but his shyness made it impossible for him to even talk to them. He would just feel awkward and tongue tied and so composed music expressing what he felt but never had the opportunity to play it for them. He didn’t know if he would ever get the chance to play for Jessica but hoped he would and felt certain if she could hear the music he was composing for her she would know he was a lot more than a janitor at Ainsworth and Thelin and would fall in love with him, but he also realized that was unlikely. She was already in love with someone else.
Orrin knew he was lucky to get the job as a janitor for a large, prestigious law firm. When he got back to the states after two tours in Iraq, it was hard to find a job. The economy was bad after what happened on Wall Street. He didn’t know much about that. All he knew was that a lot of the guys coming back had trouble finding jobs. Some were homeless and many were really messed up both physically and mentally. Orrin still had nightmares about what he saw there. It was dangerous and he remembered not knowing who they were fighting. They walked the streets with their uniforms and guns, never knowing when a bomb would blow up. He knew they were supposed to be fighting terrorists but it was impossible to know who was a terrorist and who was just a regular person. Some of the Iraqi people liked that they were there but most people didn’t. It was horrible. He remembers being told to shoot anyone that looked suspicious and he saw a few people get shot just carrying groceries or carrying a box on their shoulders. He remembers one woman getting shot, her groceries rolling all over and a young boy running to her, crying. He saw a bunch of his friends get blown up riding in a truck in front of him and thought he could have been in that truck. That happened more than once.
Orrin had his blue guitar there and tried to play every day. He knew if he didn’t have his guitar and didn’t play his music, he would have gone insane. He got badly injured when a bomb went off while a few soldiers were walking past a market that sold fruit and vegetables. He was lucky because the guy next to him was killed, his head blown off and another guy had his arm blown away. Orrin got hit with pieces of shrapnel that went into his leg, shoulder and head. He lost a lot of blood and still remembered the excruciating pain. The doctors weren’t sure if they could save his leg or not but they did and he now has scars and slight limp. Another friend of his, actually his best friend when he was there, lost his hand and Orrin thought what if that had happened to him and he couldn’t play the guitar. Still, he grieved for his friend’s horrible injury.
Though Orrin was shy, He did have his first sexual experience when he was in Iraq and it was there that he learned how powerful his music could be. He was sitting by the Tigress River playing the guitar. One day when he was playing a young Iraqi woman came out from behind a nearby grove of dates and he turned and saw her listening. When he saw her wearing a long black dress, her head covered, he smiled and she came and sat beside him. She spoke a little English and told him she was drawn to his music. He went to the same place whenever he was not on duty and she would sit with him by the river and listen. She told him she was eighteen. Orrin was twenty at the time and though most Iraqi women were frightened of the military, she was not afraid of him. Her name was Aasera and they met often and she would listen to his music and they fell in love. Both were virgins and despite the restrictions on Muslim women, they made love often in the secret spot they found.
The first time was a night they met by the river in the evening when there was a full moon. After playing for her they made love. He remembered how shy and tentative they were but she allowed him to hold her, then eventually as their passion grew, she took off her long dress and the black scarf from her head and he ran his fingers through her long dark hair and entered her as gently as he could, feeling their bodies moving slowly and softly as if they were one then faster and more passionately until they both exploded in exquisite unforgettable orgasms, the first of their lives. Afterward she lay quietly in his arms looking up at the huge moon and at the way it shone silver on the still waters of the river.
They met several times a week for three months and Orrin knew it was his music that let them break the barriers between the two cultures. Aasera would have been severely punished if their relationship was discovered. This was before Orrin’s injury. When it happened, Orrin had no way of contacting her and the ache in his heart for the pain he knew he was causing her for suddenly disappearing was excruciating. Though the two lovers disappeared from each other’s life, Orrin knew he would never forget her. He knew Aasera was gone from his life but hoped that one day he would meet someone who made him feel the way she did. That longing could be heard in his music.
When Orrin got back home, he lived for awhile with his mom in a small apartment over a dry cleaners store. He remembered smelling the steam that rose from the first floor. His mother worked as a waitress in a pizza shop and had a boyfriend who often stayed in the apartment. Orrin felt like he was in the way and the man, Ben, didn’t like Orrin’s music and Orrin couldn’t stand the loud heavy metal Ben played. So when Orrin finally got the job as a janitor he got my own apartment on the third floor of an old house. The old woman, Mrs. Rose, who owned it, was deaf and so she didn’t mind that Orrin practiced and composed music late at night.
One day, Orrin got up the nerve to see if he could play music in a restaurant. He had heard about a place called the Mama’s Café that had different musicians play at dinner and into the evening so he asked if he could play there. He had to audition and remembered when the owner, Julie, heard him play, her eyes widened and she seemed mesmerized by his music. She called a few of her employees over to hear and Orrin saw their reaction. Julie said she had never heard anyone play like he did. That really surprised him. He hardly played for people before. He did in Iraq but only a few of the soldiers liked his music but most didn’t and thought his blue guitar was weird. He didn’t care and so he began going off to find a place where he could play and be left alone. That’s when he met Aasera.
It’s hard to describe Orrin’s music. It was a combination of classical, jazz and blues. Though he loved classical music--especially Vivaldi, he started listening to jazz guitarists like Django Reinhart, Larry Coryell, Kenny Burrell and a few Delta Blues guitarists like Honey Boy Edwards and few others and somehow combined all that into his own music.
So, there he was playing guitar background music in Mama’s Café on Friday and Saturday nights. Julie couldn’t pay him but she gave him dinner and he could have a beer or sometimes a glass of wine and he would sit in the corner and play. He had a large glass cookie jar that people put tips in. Sometimes he made forty or fifty dollars. It was nice to make the money but what really mattered to Orrin was how people listened. Even though they were there for dinner or to sit at the bar and drink, when he played, he could tell people liked my music. It was amazing, the whole place would get quiet and instead of being background music, it was like he was performing. People even applauded and Julie told him one time, how he was the only musician who played there that got applause. She told him that her business was much better when he was playing, that he was drawing people there. She even made a sign with his name on it which she put in the window--Tonight Orrin Star. By the way Star wasn’t his real name, it was Richardson, but for some reason he made up that name. The name just popped into his head. Things like that happen to him. It was like his music. The melodies and harmonies just came to him in a way he couldn’t explain.
He often remembered the way Paul looked up at the ceiling when he was playing for his wife who died. When Orrin played, he would do the same thing just looking up at the ceiling with his eyes closed and the music came to him. He felt he was playing music for the girl of his dreams. Sometimes he saw Aasera’s lovely face, her dark hair and eyes. He must have been doing something right because so many people who heard him play at Mama’s would drop money in his cookie jar and tell him his music was exquisite and some women said it made them cry. He started seeing the same people come back week after week and it made him feel good to see how his music touched them.
One Friday night while he was playing with his eyes closed, he looked up and saw Jessica sitting at a table with a tall man. Orrin could not believe she was there and would hear his music. He saw the surprise on her face when she glanced at him but then continued talking to her boyfriend. At first she didn’t pay any attention to his music. He tried not to look at her but a few times he saw her holding her boyfriend’s hands across the table and felt a pang in his heart. He tried not to look and concentrated on his music, closing eyes, but found himself looking at her while playing and noticed a few times she stopped talking and was listening to his music. Several times their eyes met but she would quickly return to the conversation with her boyfriend. When they finished dinner, they both came over and he but two dollars in his cookie jar, but Jessica smiled and said, “Orrin, I didn’t know you were such an amazing musician. Your music is beautiful. It really is.”
When she left, Orrin couldn’t get her words out of his mind. He was so happy that she found out that he played the guitar and was more than a janitor. On Monday, when he was sweeping the hallway, going past her office, he glanced in and she looked up and smiled. Their eyes met and Orrin felt she was looking at him differently. When he finished sweeping and cleaning the bathrooms, Orrin went into her office to empty her waste paper basket and she stopped working and smiled.
“Orrin, I was so impressed with your music the other night. It was beautiful. I never heard music like that. Where did you learn to play like that?”
Orrin was stunned and happy to hear Jessica’s reaction but it made it easier to respond. “I’ve been playing since I was twelve and my music is the most important thing in my life,” I said. “I live to play music.”
“Really, I’d love to hear you play again sometime,” she said.
“Well, I play at Mama’s Café every Friday and Saturday night. You could come there and hear me play.”
He was emptying her waste paper into the larger recycling trash can and was about to leave when he turned to her, “I have an idea, I could play for you after work. It’s a nice day. We could go to the park across the street and I could give you a private concert.”
“That would be lovely,” she said. “But I am meeting my boyfriend, Allen after work.”
“Oh, well, maybe some other time,” he said, trying not to sound crushed.
A few days later, Orrin composed music that reminded him of Jessica. He played it in his room for two nights and the next day he brought his guitar to work and went to her office and said, “I want to play something that I made up for you.”
She stopped what she was doing and Orrin sat down on a chair in front of her desk, quite nervous, “It’s called, “Melody for Jessica.”
He played the music, closing his eyes, looking up at the ceiling and when he finished and looked at her, he saw tears in her eyes. Gloria stopped what she was doing when he finished and she looked like she was going to cry too.
“That was so beautiful Orrin, thank you. I loved it. I can’t believe you made that up for me. It made me want to cry.”
Gloria came over and stood in front of Jessica’s desk, “Orrin, I didn’t know you could play the guitar so beautifully. I’ve never heard anything like that before.”
Orrin didn’t know what to say but felt relieved that she liked it. He sat there, holding his guitar, trying to think of something to say other than thank you. Jessica just looked at him. Orrin then stood up, still cradling his guitar. “Well, I better get back to work,” he said then left the office. Once in the hallway and out of sight, he took a deep swallow of air, leaned up against the wall hardly believing he had the nerve to play that music for her. While he worked, he hummed the melody, thinking how Jessica looked at him when he played. He was happy and wondered if Jessica would go to the movies with him or for coffee if he asked her, but then thought about her boyfriend and sighed thinking how nuts he was to even have such a crush on her.
The next Friday night when he was playing at Mama’s Café, enjoying how people were listening, Julie came over and again told him how many people told her that they loved his music and that they’ve been telling others about him. She said his playing has helped her business and even her staff commented on how his music added so much to the atmosphere and that their tips were better when he played. Of course that thrilled him, but what really thrilled him was that late that night, about a half hour before closing, with just a few customers in the café, Jessica came in by her self. She was wearing jeans and a white peasant blouse that revealed her shoulders. She looked much different than she did at the office. She sat at a small table in the corner and waved when their eyes met. She ordered a glass of wine and listened to him play. He played looking up at the ceiling with his eyes closed but a few times, glanced over at Jessica and liked how she was listening and looking at him, as if she were seeing him for the first time.
Orrin knew this would be his last piece before the café closed. Only one couple remained finishing their dinner. Orrin decided to play the Melody for Jessica and could tell she recognized it because when he looked over at her, she smiled and closed her eyes and listened. Orrin played it slowly and with all of my heart. He knew he had never played anything more beautifully and could feel tears in his eyes as he played even though his eyes were closed.
When he finished the other couple got up, put some money in his jar and left. Jessica sat at her table and after Orrin put his guitar in his case, he went over. “Mind if I join you,” he asked bringing a half finished glass of wine Julie had given him earlier.
“Of course not,” she answered.
“I’m glad you came to listen to me play,” he said.
“I’m glad I did, too. I love your music. It’s really special and I love the piece you wrote for me. I haven’t stop thinking about. No one ever did that before. I was really touched.”
“Thank you,” he responded.
He didn’t know what to say but was glad that Jessica was beginning to see he was a lot more than a janitor and that’s what he hoped would eventually happen.
Orrin knew Julie and the others wanted to clean up and close, but they didn’t seem to mind that the two of them were sitting finishing their wine. While they were talking Orrin kept looking at her blue green eyes, her long dark hair halfway down her back and liked how she looked in the low cut peasant style blouse and jeans.
“When I came here with my boyfriend, I was surprised to see you here. I had no idea you played the guitar.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Orrin said, gradually feeling more confident and sensing her interest in him.
“What else don’t I know about you?” she asked, sipping her wine, looking at him over the rim of her glass.
“Well, I’m not just a janitor. I’m a composer and I’ve been playing the guitar since I was twelve. You already know I’m shy and do silly things like offering you gum when I don’t know what to say.”
“But you brought me flowers,” she said. “That was sweet of you.”
“Well, I thought you would like them,” Orrin said.
“I can’t tell you how much I love your music. You are so talented. I came here tonight because I couldn’t stop thinking about the song you wrote for me, but it was something else I felt.”
“What did you feel? I’d love to know. I never get the chance to talk to anyone about my music,” Orrin said. “Playing here is good and people give me tips so I know they like it, but would you tell me what you felt?”
“Passion, I felt your passion but when I watched you play with your eyes closed it’s as if you are someplace else, in another world. It’s fascinating. How did you learn to play like that?”
“You’re going to think this is strange, but when I was twelve, I saw the guitar I play in a music store. There was something about the blue color that made me want to touch it and I knew I had to have it. I wasn’t sure why at the time but the guy who made it, gave it to me and taught me. His real name was Apollo, you know like the Greek god of music but everyone called him Paul, and he said I was meant to have this guitar and that’s how I learned.”
“Apollo,” Jessica asked, “that is strange. I’ve never heard of anyone named Apollo.”
“I know but he was a master and he taught me how to play but I had to stop taking lessons when my mom moved, but I practiced. All I ever wanted to do from the day I met Paul was play music.”
Jessica just looked at Orrin and didn’t say anything. She finished her wine just as Julie came over to the table and said they were ready to close up.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Jessica said. “It’s a warm evening and I’m enjoying getting to know you.”
“Good idea,” Orrin said, feeling relaxed and confident. He emptied the cookie jar without counting, stuffed the money into his pocket, picked up his guitar and went to Jessica who was waiting for him at the front door, their eyes meeting, a smile on her lips. It was late and the streets were empty and they walked down the street for several blocks then through the park where they sat on a bench overlooking a pond and Orrin could not believe he was actually sitting there with the most beautiful woman he had ever known.
He could tell by the way she sat next to him with her body touching his that something special was growing between them. She then picked up his right hand, holding it and looked at his long finger nails. She then lifted his hand and brought it to her lips and kissed it and without saying the words, Orrin knew she was falling in love with him. He was already in love with her. He turned and their lips met and they kissed, first gently, tenderly and then she put her hand on the back of his head, pulling him deeper, harder against her lips, her tongue opening his mouth, their tongues touching. He then put his arms around her holding her closer, embracing her, feeling her breasts against his chest, his arousal growing, his hardness pressing against his jeans. She then pulled her mouth away, gasping for a breath then stood up. “Come home with me. I don’t live far from here.”
When they arrived at her apartment building, Orrin could see it was a pretty fancy place because there was a doorman. They took an elevator to the fourth floor and Orrin wondered how she could afford to live in such a place being a secretary. When they entered, he could see it was a large apartment with a sliding glass door at one end and a balcony that overlooked the city. Orrin felt a little out of place being in such a fancy apartment.
When he put his guitar case down, Jessica came over to him. “I bet you’re wondering about my living in such a fancy apartment, aren’t you.”
“Yes, I am. This is quite a place,” Orrin said.
“My father is quite wealthy and I’m kind of a daddy’s little girl so this is a gift. He pays for the apartment and my job lets me pay for the utilities and I bought a lot of the furniture but some of it’s from our summer home at the shore.”
Orrin suddenly realized that he might be out of his league being with a woman like Jessica from a wealthy family. They would never accept him, a guitar playing janitor, but when Jessica put her arms around him and they kissed again, she said, “I think I am falling in love with you.”
“Well, I’m already in love with you,” he said. “But you knew that didn’t you.”
“Not really,” she said, “but when you played the music you wrote for me, I knew what you felt. I have to admit, I was surprised and had no idea but your music stole my heart. I know that sounds corny and I feel like a silly school girl, but you swept me off of my feet. That’s why I came to the café tonight. I have never felt anything like this before.”
“But you have a boyfriend, don’t you?” Orrin asked.
“Yes, that might present a problem, but I have a feeling that Allen will be history. I don’t know what will happen with you and me, but right now I know I want to make love to you.”
She took his hand and they walked into her bedroom. She put her arms around Orrin and he held her close, feeling her breasts crushed against his chest. They stood in front of her bed embracing, kissing, their tongues touching, dancing, swirling. She pulled him down on top of her as they fell to the bed, Orrin between her legs which were wrapped around his body, their bodies grinding and humping through their jeans, his hardness bulging against her, until she pushed him onto his back and she was on top straddling him, kissing him, humping harder until they could no longer stand it and he pushed her onto her back, kneeling over her, unbuttoning her jeans, his cock throbbing, until she took over, unzipping and he stood up rushing to take off his jeans while she squirmed out of hers, removing her black thong, her white pleasant blouse, her breasts covered by a white bra, which Orrin lifted, and started kissing then licking her hardened nipples, his hands rubbing her other breast, causing her to arch her back wanting him to enter her, breathing, gasping, “Oh please, I want you. I need you,” her urgent words brought his hand to his cock, bringing the head to her dripping entrance, moving it up and down her wetness then thrusting, entering her, inching his way deeper, her tightness gripping him as the thrilling sensation of her warm wetness pulsed against his hardness, causing him to withdraw and thrust harder and harder, her moaning sounds like music to his ears exciting him, inspiring him to thrust harder and faster and deeper, while she arched her back wanting more and more, their bodies moving together faster and faster, his thrusting harder and harder, their sounds growing louder and louder, her body tensing, trembling, “Cum in me. I’m safe. Oh please, please, I want it all” and he thrust again and again harder and harder and just as she convulsed, her whole body quivering, shaking, shuddering, her screaming, “Oh my God.” bringing him closer to exploding, her pussy gripping his swelling cock, his orgasm rising, his voice growing louder, “I’m cumming, I’m cumming and suddenly his thrusts exploded shooting hot gushes of his cum into her overflowing pussy, his whole body writhing in an intense overwhelming orgasm that sent thrilling waves rolling though him, each thrust causing her to scream louder, her spasms growing more intense, her screaming bringing sobbing tears to her eyes, her orgasms more intense than any she had ever experienced and when he collapsed on her, the soothing warmth of his cum filling her, her arms and legs wrapped around him keeping him deep in her, wanting to possess him, wanting him to never leave her body, both unable to move, as they lay there, panting, gasping, their hearts beating bringing a closeness like nothing either had ever known before. In that moment, both knew the bond of love that had entered their lives was deep, a gift from the gods to be cherished.
In the after glow as Jessica lay with her head on Orrin’s shoulders, her body half on his, her leg over his body, they didn’t speak wallowing in the warmth and peace of knowing they had found what both had been longing for. At that moment, the difference in their lives, Orrin a janitor whose life was music and Jessica, the daughter of wealthy parents living in a luxurious high rise apartment didn’t enter their minds.
The next day was Saturday and they spent the day together talking over breakfast, made love again, took a walk through the park, sitting again on the bench by the pond where they had shared their first kiss. Later, back in her apartment, Orrin practiced while Jessica read, lying on the couch across from him, but also unable to stop looking over at him playing with his eyes closed, looking up at the ceiling.
While he was playing, her cell phone rang and Orrin heard her say, “Oh, hello, Allen,” and she went into the other room to talk and not disturb his playing, but Orrin wondered what would happen, would she say they had to talk, would he become history and he stopped playing suddenly feeling painful pangs that he would lose her and closed his eyes suddenly feeling vulnerable thoughts, wondering how someone like Jessica could have a relationship with someone as poor and he was.
When she came back into the room, she came over to Orrin, kissed his head, his cheek and told him, she was going to meet Allen tonight that he had tickets for a concert at the Academy of Music. She then told Orrin, she really wanted to come to the café and hear him play again but couldn’t get out of this date.
Orrin looked away, feeling his fear of losing her rise in him. He put down his guitar and walked to the big window over looking the city. She came to him and put her arms around him, pressing her body against his back then kissed the back of his neck and his shoulder. Orrin was confused, disturbed until Jessica said, “I’m going to tell him tonight that I want to end their relationship.”
Orrin turned to face her. Their eyes met and she could see the tears in his eyes. She reached and touched the tear on his cheek then kissed him. “I love you, Orrin, you have nothing to worry about. I don’t know what will happen with us but right now, I know I only want to be with you.”
Orrin swallowed, loving the touch of her finger wiping the tear, loving the words he was hearing, how she smiled and could not believe that this was happening to him, that the woman he loved was saying what he wanted to hear. All he knew was he wanted to play music because what he felt was beyond words.
And that is what happened. Just before closing, Jessica came into the café and sat at the same table in the corner. Orrin didn’t see her at first because he was playing with his eyes closed but when he saw her smile at him, looking lovely in a black dress cut low, a pearl necklace on her throat, her dangling earrings, her long dark hair, his heart leaped and the music he played was light, happy, sweet and she could hear what he was saying to her through the delicate sounds that came from his guitar. It was the music he felt when she told him she only wanted to be with him.
Months passed. Orrin had quit his job as a janitor and devoted his time to his music, practicing, composing, most times at Jessica’s apartment but he still loved his small room on the third floor of Mrs. Rose’s house. He didn’t require much money and the tips he made at the café came to over a hundred dollars for Friday and Saturday. The café started serving brunch on Sundays and he started playing for a few hours over brunch but then he decided he also wanted to be a street musician. He wanted to play his music at different places around the city. He didn’t want to get an agent and play concerts in theaters or fancier clubs than Mama’s Café, although many people who listened to him said he could be famous if he wanted to.
He liked playing in the park during the day when there were a lot of people strolling and they would stop and listen, tossing coins or dollar bills into his open guitar case. He loved when children stopped playing and came to listen and he would open his eyes and look at them as they stared at his long finger nails plucking the strings, his other hand moving rapidly up and down the guitar, creating his unique mixture of classical and jazz. All ages stopped to listen--old men, young men, girls with torn jeans, black men and women snapped their fingers, bopped their heads when he played more bluesy music but there would be silence when he played Vivaldi or his version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, or music that Paganni wrote for the lute.
A newspaper story was written about him which brought more people to the park to listen and he often made forty or fifty dollars a day playing for the crowds that gathered around his bench and he liked to think this beautiful spot by the pond where he and Jessica first kissed was his theater and he didn’t want more.
Jessica’s parents were furious with her for breaking up with Allen because they knew he had a promising career as a lawyer and her father wanted them to get married and become a partner in his firm, but they were even more upset when they met Orrin by accident, stopping by uninvited on a Saturday morning and saw his long hair, his worn jeans and found out he was a street musician, a guitar player, a bum they shouted at Jessica questioning her sanity and threatening to take away her apartment if she continued this ridiculous relationship.
Orrin did not know what to say or do to comfort Jessica when she had the huge blow up with her parents. He didn’t want her to lose her apartment or be so pressured by her parents, but she reassured Orrin that she didn’t give a damn about the apartment, she wanted him in her life and nothing but her love for him mattered.
Orrin’s music became even more beautiful, happier, lighter, and listeners smiled when they listened, but sometimes when he thought of losing her, his music was filled with sadness and he could see by the look on peoples’ faces as he played that they felt what his music expressed. With Jessica in his life, he had never been happier or more creative and their days together taking walks, cooking, bike riding, making love sometime with abandon and wildness other times, sweet and tender, expressing the depth of their love.
One day after playing music in the park, he decided to surprise Jessica and go to her office with flowers. He hadn’t been in there for at least six months because it reminded him of his days as a janitor, but on an impulse he walked into her office and saw she wasn’t at her desk. He saw Gloria crying.
“What’s wrong?” Orrin asked. “Where’s Jessica?”
“It’s horrible,” Gloria said wiping tears from her eyes. “Jessica’s in the hospital. She was hit by a car when she was at lunch. The guy was drunk. She’s in a coma at Jefferson Hospital. It’s pretty serious.”
Orrin was stunned. He dropped the flowers and dashed out of the office and ran the five blocks to Jefferson Hospital. He ran carrying his guitar case as quickly as he could, found out what room she was in and felt panic as he waited for the elevator. When he found her room and saw her with tubes in her nose, her eyes closed, the nurse taking her pulse, he ran to her bed side. Just then the doctor came in and Orrin asked how is she, what’s going on, will she live?
He was told it was very serious. Her leg, her pelvis, severe fractures, head injuries, she’ll be in intensive care for quite awhile.
“Will she live?” Orrin asked.
“I don’t know,” the doctor said. “It’s very serious. She’s in a deep coma. She won’t even know you are here.”
Orrin went to her bedside and leaned over to kiss her, feeling her dry cold lips. He held one the one hand that did not have a needle in its vein. He could tell she was hardly breathing and just looked at her closed eyes, her pale face, her hair draped on the pillow.
He couldn’t take his eyes from her, seeing his beautiful Jessica in a coma, hoping she wasn’t fading and didn’t know what he would do if she died and was no longer in his life. He remembered Paul telling him how he felt when his wife died, how he mourned and never stopped loving her. He remembered the story of Orpheus and how his pleading music inspired Persephone and Hades to release Eurydice from the underworld and how Orpheus almost brought her back but then lost her when he looked back to see if she was there.
Orrin glanced down at his guitar case and suddenly wanted to play his music for her, hoping somehow she would hear his longing for her, his wanting her to be well and took his guitar from his case. He stood by her bed, closed his eyes and started to play softly, feeling his heart sending music to his fingers, as he touched the strings, wishing his music could somehow bring Jessica out of her coma and back to his life. Somehow he felt the coma was like Eurydice in the underworld and he was Orpheus playing to the gods to give him one more chance to have his love with him where she belonged and they would to return to the sweet days, the blue skies, the warm sun, the green fields where they loved to roam and embrace, make love and hear their ecstatic sounds fill the air.
He looked down at her closed eyes as he played. The music was gentle, delicate, each note filled with his pleading for her to hear and see him standing there. His fingers moved gently, then with more passion, more intensity wanting to reach her, he closed his eyes as he played and then opened them and saw her eye lashes flicker, saw a slight movement and then she slowly opened eyes and looked up at him, their eyes met and lingered, he thought he saw a small smile on her lips and his playing grew louder, his fingers, moving faster, he played chords he had never played before when suddenly he heard shouting behind him and a nurse and two orderlies came in said he had to stop playing.
Orrin kept playing, looking at Jessica’s eyes, ignoring the nurse telling him to stop playing, but the two orderlies grabbed him, making him stop playing and roughly pulled him from the room shouting “This is a hospital. You can’t make noise here.”
Orrin struggled to break loose. “Leave me alone. My music is helping her,” but it was too late. They pushed him against the wall. One of the orderlies went in and grabbed his guitar case and took his guitar and said he had to leave or they would call the police.
Before he left, he looked back in the room and saw Jessica’s eyes were closed. He wished he could play for her but knew what would happen. He would be forced to leave. When he went back to see her the next day, she was not there. He was told she had died. They were sorry but there was nothing they could do.
Orrin was devastated. He didn’t know what to do. He walked around the city unable to believe that the love of his life was gone. He continued to play at Mama’s Café but his music was now so sad and mournful that people stopped listening. Julie knew what had happened to Jessica but told him he had to play lighter music or she could no longer have him play.
He understood and knew he had to find a way to play music that touched people and made them feel better, not sad, not music of loneliness and death. Gradually, he remembered the night they first kissed in the park, the nights they made love, the way she wiped the tears from his cheek, the way her smile melted his heart. He knew Jessica would not want him to be so sad and it was the memory of their love that let him close his eyes, see her face and know he would always play his beautiful music for her.
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/the-music-of-orpheus.aspx">The Music of Orpheus</a>