January 7th, 2021
A Healing SongAs her headache had grown worse, and no professional from the discipline of medicine had been able to provide any reasonable answer as to why, Lydia reassessed, and picked up the faded pamphlet she had been handed by a friend, who had been given it by a friend, whose friend’s friend was the friend of someone called Melody. Hippies, she thought, hippies in woods. Sceptical doesn’t even begin to cover what she was feeling as she flattened out the scrunched up and folded paper, squinted at the faded words, then took out her phone and tapped in the contact number written there. She didn’t particularly enjoy talking over the phone and much preferred the safety off a text-based conversation but the email and Instagram handle under the phone number had succumbed to what could have been coffee once, and she didn’t have the energy to try and figure them out without the beginnings or ends. It rang for a while, which added to her anxiety, though she understood that unsolicited calls could be stressful. On her end they would often get left to the last possible second before being answered, if they were answered at all. She tapped an impatient foot, anticipating an answer phone message in every pause in the ring. The line clicked into life, and she waited for the other end to talk first. The voice that came from the mysterious phone-ether was like her grandmother’s; soft, calming, but strong as well, a whole life contained in a rich tapestry of tones. It was the voice of someone who knew the power of voices, and their ability both to save and destroy. All it said was hello, and her name. ‘Hello. Melody.’ And it really was, a melody. When Lydia heard it said out loud it didn’t seem pretentious at all. It still made her think of people convening with nature, but they lost the dreadlocks and multi-coloured hats. Wavy garms gave way to soft cotton and silks as they took on an almost elf-like appearance, the people in her mind who had names like Melody. ‘Hi, Lydia.’ ‘How can I help you, Lydia?’ ‘I’ve got a headache,’ she said, feeling more than a little bit foolish. ‘I thought you might.’ A sentence which, under other circumstances, might have come across as incredibly patronising, but from this serene tone just reassured Lydia that she was talking to the right person. ‘Can you help?’ How childish, she thought. ‘Yes. I think we should meet.’ ‘Alright, great,’ she agreed, ‘shall I come over to you or…’ The idea of going to a strangers home was only marginally less horrifying than the idea of having a stranger in hers. Though, now she thought about it, at least if she was on familiar turf she would know where the exits were, and the kitchen knives. ‘Let’s meet in the middle.’ Lydia sighed with relief. ‘How about the gallery?’ ‘The gallery?’ Lydia hadn’t been to any sort of gallery or museum since the school trips that bored the life out of her despite the teacher or guide’s strongest protestations that the things on display were some of the most whatever-they-were in the world. ‘Yes, I think that’ll be a good place to start. Shall we say Tuesday, ten o’clock?’ ‘In the morning?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yeah, of course, sorry, I just…’ ‘Yes?’ ‘Haven’t been to a gallery since school.’ ‘Is that a problem for you? If so we can meet somewhere else.’ ‘No!’ She hadn’t meant to shout that. Felt a bit weird to have a problem with galleries but suddenly felt even weirder to have a problem with having a problem with galleries. ‘The gallery it is.’ ‘Sorry, just, this isn’t some sort of religious thing, is it?’ She could literally hear the awkwardness in her voice, the roll of her own eyes. ‘No,’ came the carefully considered reply, ‘but I’m curious to find out why you’d think that would be different.’ The voice was so calm, so confident in its simplicity, that Lydia could hardly think to question it. ‘I just meant,’ she began, but didn’t know where to go from there so trailed off with an apology. ‘See you Tuesday then.’ ‘Yes, thank you.’ ‘Oh, don’t thank me yet.’ Lydia could hear the smile, and she smiled too, despite herself. For a while after she had heard the beep of the other end hanging up, she forgot all about the pain that had dogged her mind and vision for so long, and walked up and down the short hallway of her house smiling the same simple smile that tickled her tired cheeks. It was only a few minutes later, when she began to rewind over the phone conversation, that she realised how short it had been. Before calling she had prepared herself for the full psychological run down that she’d had to endure before with every other doctor, nurse, and psychologist who had attempted to delve into her pounding head and draw out the sting that had sunk there. Melody had barely asked anything at all. Even at the hospital, before an MRI, she had been forced to re-live her breakup with her teenage love just in case there was some nugget of trauma tucked away there. She remembered the look on the nurse’s face when she told them what she had done to end the relationship. ‘Don’t worry,’ she had said, after the genuinely heartless tale came to an abrupt end, ‘no trauma there.’ She slid into the whirring super-magnet with a smile, concern written all over the nurse who had another great ward story to tell that would also make them question the value of human companionship. It was a nice surprise, then, to be trusted so instinctively, and listened to with such unquestioning honesty. She looked at her phone. The call was two minutes forty-eight seconds. Maybe it was a religious thing after all, or witchcraft. On some level she hoped it was. She’d trust a calm witch over a bumbling doctor any day of the week, especially Tuesdays.
©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale