Welcome To The Harem
Playing Coltrane by Tinka
Summary: The heady sound of jazz is the key to a tainted past. Requiem spoilers. Krycek/Marita. R.
TITLE: Playing Coltrane (1/1)
AUTHOR: Tinka (email@example.com)
RATING: R - some naughty four-letter words
CLASSIFICATION: Kry/Mar, V
SUMMARY: The heady sound of jazz is the key to a tainted past
SPOILERS: Most mythology, I suppose. 'Requiem' for sure
DISCLAIMER: Not mine in a million years. No profit gained from this.
NOTES: At the end of the story
ARCHIVE: Bluefroggie & Gossamer OK. All others, please ask
that he should come out of the dark
liquid like metal
leaven as a song
- edward kamau brathwaite; "iii. son"
He blows the horn with will, fear and determination. A love
supreme, a love supreme. The piano battles with the saxophone;
the saxophone takes the lead. In perfect imperfect harmony they
soar towards the endless black sky. There the drums go off into
their own world. One-two-one-two-one-two. Key change. A love
supreme, a love supreme.
I hear the throaty tenor sax by John Coltrane through the wall. I
know this recording so well. At the peak of his career. At the
peak of his powers. I hear him struggle to bring out the music
inside him. Pain is seeping through the clever changes in keys. I
hear you, John. A love supreme, a love supreme.
I know this recording well, because this was the first album my
father bought when we arrived in the States. He loved jazz, and
John Coltrane in particular. We spent long summer evenings
listening to Coltrane, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker,
Monk, Buddy Rich .. oh, the list goes on. I learned to speak
American English to the heady sounds of jazz. Oh, a love supreme,
a love supreme.
Closing my eyes, I can almost pretend that I am still a boy
yearning to play the piano like Monk or the sax like Coltrane. I
can almost pretend that I have two arms and a life ahead of me as
yet unmarked by suffering, terror and screams. The smell of
Tunisia is all around me, though. It is not an unpleasant smell;
it is a spicy, earthy kind of smell. It is just not the smell of
long summer nights in New York sitting next to my father. I
stretch as the languid sounds of the sax disappear next door. I
wish she would play it again. Play it again, girl. A love supreme,
a love supreme.
I remember long nights of red wine and deep philosophical
discussions with my fellow Americans. Sometimes we went to trendy
nightclubs, sometimes we went to gay bars. Whatever opened doors
for me. Sometimes we went to jazz clubs listening to cool jazz or
hot jazz - but I only took them there if I really liked them. One
night when Mulder came round to pick up a case file, I played John
Coltrane. He never noticed. He never commented. Well, what a love
supreme, such a love supreme. What a motherfucking love supreme.
My father died when I was 14. I killed him. He was called back to
the Soviet Union and refused to leave the States. He had become
too intoxicated with New York, Miles Davis' trumpet and the
American way of life. My first blood on my hands. I remember its
sticky texture; how it seemed to penetrate my skin and become a
part of me. Later I started to wear rubber gloves - both to remove
myself from the texture of blood and out of fear for AIDS. Blood
still terrifies me. It reminds me of a apartment building in New
York, my father's dark eyes looking up at me, and my boy's life
suddenly becoming a man's life. I grew up in the split second when
I pulled the trigger. I took my father's jazz albums and fled the
apartment. I guess my father's death is the key to whom I am.
That, and the jazz. I still swagger like a black cat dancing to the
sounds of be-bop, although I try to lose it. I feel vulnerable
when I sense the rhythm of music in my walk. It is my secret. So
what is she doing playing John Coltrane? I must ask her. My secret
love supreme. My remaining love supreme.
I don't knock on the door before I enter her room. I like the
element of surprise; the possibility of witnessing something
private. I push the door open. It does not even creak, I note with
satisfaction. I hear her breath and the wind blowing in through
the open windows. There is no music anywhere. She doesn't even
turn her fucking blonde head. She is cool. She is composed. She is
wearing a cream-white silk pyjama. Her skin is slightly paler. In
her left hand, she is holding a long, elegantly thin white
cigarette. She has never smoked in my presence. I like it. The
cigarette looks to be an extension of one of her own fingers.
"I have never seen you smoke before, devushka."
I use the Russian world for "girl" just to annoy her. I can tell
it worked. She frowns slightly. I grin and sit down on her virgin
"Don't call me that, Alex."
Once upon a time this woman was indeed a devushka - a girl. No, she
was a devochka. A little girl. She had long blonde hair that her
mother used to braid. I used to pin those braids to her parents'
dining room table with my favourite knife. It is a long time ago.
It was in New York when my father played jazz albums and I had never
seen blood aside from my father's frequent nose bleeds. She loved
when I called her things in Russian. It reminded her of home. Now
the devochka is a devushka disliking her roots. She tries to forget.
I like to remind her.
She sighs and puts out the cigarette in the ashtray next to her
"What do you want?"
I do not answer. I kick off my shoes and lean back on her bed. I
want to know about her and the Smoking Man, Spender. I want to
know how she survived. I want to know about forgiveness and
regrets. I want to know what she is doing here in Tunisia. I want
to know about the past year. I want to kiss her. I want to devour
her. I want to fuck her. I want to know about her and John
Coltrane. I contemplate my options as she gets up to close the
windows. I decide to start out gentle.
"What's the deal with Spender and you?"
"Which one of them? Jeff or his father?"
Her voice is calm. I cannot read her. She has become adept at
hiding her emotions. I shrug. She continues in her self-composed
mode. I can tell she has been rehearsing this.
"The old man is dying. He wants to see you. He said it was
important. He sent me down here to fetch you. One of life's
little ironies, don't you think?"
I look at the ceiling. She sits down on the bed again.
"Why did you play John Coltrane, Marita?"
I am surprised to hear my own voice. It is dark, slightly bitter.
I turn my head and find her looking at me. I had to ask.
"Why the fuck did you play Coltrane? You must have known what it
would remind me of."
I lost my virginity to the sounds of Coltrane. It was not "A Love
Supreme" but "My Favourite Things". It was in my bedroom one humid
night when I was sixteen. I was staying at a safe house under
assumed identity as Alec Doctorow. The girl underneath me was
blonde - her hair flowing free and no longer tied up in braids by
her mother. She lived there too. I have never learned what
happened to her parents. I am somehow afraid of asking. We were
young and thought ourselves to be invulnerable. The sex wasn't
very good and I was scared at the amount of blood on her thighs.
At that point, I really did not mean to hurt her. Such a love
supreme, a love so supreme.
She was my love supreme. She still is. I told her I loved her back
then. She laughed at me. Marita was a precocious girl. She knew I
would not back my words of forever - vsegda - and of loving her.
She called me Darling Alexei. She left me two weeks later. I
met her again in the Hoover Building. She was dressed in a
tailored suit, her blonde hair cut off at the shoulders and her
footsteps were so precise. I could hear jazz in the rhythm of
her footsteps. The perfect timing. The intricate movements. I
would later discover her hips moved with same perfect timing.
Same perfect minute movements that were so good and so punishing
at the same time. Her fingers would play on my spine like
Coltrane's fingers would play his sax. Her mouth would make me
come alive, like Coltrane's mouth on the mouthpiece. She could
make me play a love supreme. Eventually, I realised I was
becoming like my father. I was becoming too dependent on jazz
music and her. I had to betray her or I'd betray myself. More
blood on my hands.
She is still looking at me. One of her eyebrows have shot up. I
bet she has learned that by watching Scully. I hate that eyebrow
manoeuvre on the obnoxious redhead and I absolutely detest it on
Marita. She lights another cigarette.
"When did you start smoking?"
She narrows her eyes slightly.
"I was trying to survive. I had to calm my nerves somehow."
"I never thought of you as being a nervous woman, my dear."
Her smooth lips suck at the cigarette. I suppress a smile.
"The world is changing, Alexei. The world is changing."
I do not have to ask her what she means. I can imagine it
all too well. The world is changing. The world is falling
apart and we are all falling apart with it. It is just a
matter of hanging on and fending for yourself. I'll survive.
So will she.
"So why did you play Coltrane, my zhenshchina?"
I whisper the Russian word for woman, and I see her smile
for a brief second.
"To lure you into my room, of course."
I met him when he was a boy with a mysterious smile. He played
games with me even then. He pinned me like an insect to a table,
he messed me up. I knew he would be my downfall some day. My one
weakness. My Alexei. He has nearly killed me on three separate
occasions. He has fucked the life out of me more times than I
care to remember. I know he is as tied to me as I am tied to him.
If he wasn't, then he would have stayed in his own room and
resisted the call of Coltrane.
"We have to plan this carefully, Alex"
He looks at me with intrigue.
"This? Plan what this?"
I tell him stories of powerful men being wiped off the face of
the earth. Of an old man slowly dying and slowly losing his
grip on reality. Of a world quickly disintegrating - how soon
everybody will realise that the world is at war. I tell him
stories of chaos, despair and aimlessness. My voice is carefully
cool, detached and measured. I do not use colourful adjectives.
I do not exaggerate. I present him with the facts. I tell him
that I have decided that we must join forces if we are to
survive. I do not tell him that I have both missed him and
hated him. I do not tell him how I had to persuade the Smoking
Man to let me travel down here. It is not wise to tell Alexei
such things. It makes him too powerful and too full of himself.
I can tell he is intrigued by what I have just said. I know
he can see the logic behind my decision. I know that he agrees
with me even if he intends to hide this from me for a while. I
know that he knows that I know this. Life with Alexei is like a
recording by John Coltrane. The haunting melody is ever present
although covered with intricate layers of key changes, difficult
harmonies and strange blue notes. Power struggles between
instrument and player - player and instrument. The fight for
dominance between the players. Despite Coltrane's drug addiction
and all his pain, he still played the most beautiful music I know.
Life with Alexei is beautiful music with all the pain,
humiliation and suffering attached to it.
"Yes, I think this requires careful planning."
Alexei's rough voice breaks into my line of thought. As I walk
across my room and press play on my CD-player, he takes one of
my cigarettes. He lights it as the sound of the saxophone fills
the air between us. We have some catching-up to do, my love supreme.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is an attempt to unite some of my favourite
things. I have a good friend who is a jazz pianist and who
introduced me to jazz. This story is dedicated to him. I also
adore the Russian language and felt that more should be made of
Krycek's background. I hope I have transcribed the Russian words
correctly. This entire story stems from a visual image of Marita
being dressed in white silk and smoking a long, thin cigarette.
I had no idea that the image would end up in a story like this.
The style of the story is inspired by jazz rhythms and Carribean
poetry (such as Brathwaite). An experiment that I hope works.
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org