CONSTANTINE IN LOVE
Constantine was in love.
I know what you're thinking: “Constantine? Love?” Constantine of the sneer, the acerbic tone, the sarcastic needling. Constantine who drove too fast, shot too easily, who slugged a Saville Row clerk who questioned his taste in ties, and who calmly walked into the Getty and set fire to a Georges Braque everyone else claimed to be authentic.
Not that he was immune to libido or heart – far from it. He was, after all, the Constantine of Monte Carlo courtesans and London 'gentleman's clubs', who defended his friends to the death and wept openly at Picasso showings. But he was, after all, Constantine – the same tall, stately, elegant Constantine who infuriated and frightened more than he endeared or comforted.
This was Constantine, the information age – James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the living ancestor embodying The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, a 21st century parlor society rogue – and, yes, indeed, he was completely, utterly smitten.
Her name was Mishiko Samurata. Her stage name was Chrome Lotus. Her home was Tokyo. Her first album was called Notes Lost in Transit, published under the Shijiko Label. It sold well, mostly to a small but respectable number of avante garde artists and musicians. Not many had heard Cherry Blossom Tones; but those who had, described her work as mixmaster Philip Glass but with even more hideously complex melodies. Not top ten, hell, not even top hundred, but something worthy of a listen... if your hearing hasn't been polluted by insipid commercial music.
She'd never been outside of Japan, until that weekend. A flock of culture vultures in San Francisco had paid her way from her native land to take part in a experimental music symposium and performance. Constantine had been in the city to visit his brother, Nicoli. As with a lot of their visits, they sought out something unusual to spend the night with. Nicoli, who was much more attuned to such things, waved a pendulum over an open copy of the SF Weekly and came up with an address in SOMA.
Rain pelted them as they stepped from the taxi and walked towards the nondescript industrial building. As usual, most of the rain avoided Nicoli, veering away from his leather greatcoat, leaving Constantine to flip up the collar of his Burberry and simply sneer at the downpour.
Inside: Concrete floor, metal folding chairs, sculptures made of bedsprings, barbed wire, and melted dolls (“Fucking awful,” said Constantine,) hung on the walls. Nicoli, as usual, had a mad assortment of Yen, Francs and Pounds in his wallet, so Constantine paid the ten buck donation fee to the lithe, purple-haired, multiply- pierced art student behind her work table desk.
“You sure about this? I mean... fuckin' 'a'..,” Constantine stage- whispered as they walked around the space, cataloging the art (“fucking worse than awful”) as well as the patrons (“fucking worse than awful”).
“Trust in the pendulum, My Brother. Trust in its mystery, its power. I predict that tonight will not be a disappointment,” Nicoli proclaimed, sipping something dark red someone had handed him and making a very sour face.
“Yeah, right,” Constantine said, “I'm staring at bedsprings, barbed wire and melted plastic dolls and he says to trust in the power of a bead on a string.”
“Could be worse,” Nicoli said, passing his half-empty paper cup to someone else. “Someone could start singing.”
Someone did – after a point. First there was a moment when a gaunt kid in a puffy shirt and too-tight slacks called for everyone to be quiet, then he introduced “...quite possibly the foremost experimental musician on the scene today...”
“God help us,” Nicoli said, snatching up and finishing another paper cup of the bitter wine in one quick gulp.
“God help us,” Constantine said, his eyes wide, thoroughly entranced.