It happened on the same evening he was scheduled to perform at the Lyric Opera House. The promoter had arranged for a limousine to take him from his apartment on Broome Street in Manhattan to the stage door in Baltimore. On a whim, he decided to rent a Jaguar and drive the one-hundred-eighty-miles himself. It was in his nature to complicate things.
That he made it as far as Towson, Maryland, driving erratically at high speeds, confirmed his belief that a higher power watched over him.
“I believe in the numinous. Numin means to bow the head. I sit at the piano and bow my head.”
I was the doctor on duty in the ER that frigid night when they wheeled him in. In the course of fulfilling my duties I made my way to the private room he’d been assigned. As soon as I opened the door, he began to speak in his monotonous baritone:
“A healer, a fellow exile. How nice to meet you!” He lay on the examination table, propped on his elbows in a threadbare tuxedo. His hands were long, with very broad, very flat fingers.
He rambled on in a kind of extase. “Our society provides no succor to the gifted, to the inspired. So, we must live outside of it. Exile is like an incurable illness. One has no choice but to accept it.”
During my examination I found no injuries other than a contusion to the lower right quadrant of his forehead, where it had made contact with the steering wheel. Of course, a concussion was a possibility. The usual protocols were to be observed.
“Exile, doctor, is an emblem of the permanently volatile and insecure condition of being.” There was a giddiness to his voice and mannerisms that suggested he was drugged.
“We will have to keep you overnight, Maestro. A necessary precaution.”
Evidently, he could not resist performing. He was not alone. Monologists lurked behind every door in the hospital. “The exiled, doctor, should be grateful. Grateful for their extremis – after all, any wisdom one might ever hope to possess can only be gained through the experience of misery.”
He produced a folded piece of typewritten paper from a pocket of the tuxedo. “These are the medications I’m taking. I follow a strict regimen.”
I glanced at the paper – a list of at least twenty sedatives, muscle relaxants, anxiolytics, anti-convulsants – pocketed it and left him.
He called after me: “There is a suitcase in the trunk of the wrecked Jaguar…My pills…Someone has to get my pills.”
As I walked away, his was just another voice demanding recognition in the cacophony of the ER.
I put my hands in the pockets of my lab coat and headed in the direction of the cafeteria. I would buy dinner and find an empty table and read, as I did every evening without fail. It was in my nature to muse over things. I could not disagree with the Maestro’s assertions.
I imagined a set of nesting dolls; opening them entailed a recursive operation in which one exile was revealed after the next, until finally, the immortal soul, an exile from Paradise, from The One, was revealed….