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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Khaela Watch: Ground Zero 

So she’s there, holding her guitar, mumbling into the microphone, standing so far to the right of the stage I’m afraid it might topple over.
Her voice is quiet and infused with a delicate honesty.
Lorel should be here, but she can’t. She’s working.

Machineworks is packed. Every table full, people standing in clumps all the way to the back, straining to hear amidst the buzz and whir of slide projectors and cash registers. It’s 10:30 p.m. Khaela stops strumming, takes off her guitar and says, Goodnight. Goodnight, she says.

Goodnight.
It’s my favorite word of late, but when she says it I suddenly feel like I haven’t eaten in three days.

And then she walks off stage. People clap. I clap, but I don’t want to. Clapping means it’s over.

And then she re-emerges, grateful and slightly sheepish.

Um, thanks, she says. Or something like that.

She decides to sing one more, a song she used to sing with her mother. She stands and waits, searching the recesses of her brain, trying to access something that is supposed to be there. For what we wonder. For what?

Um, I’m sorry I can’t remember the words, she says as she backs away from the mic. Sorry. Goodnight.

There it is again, that dagger of a word I once loved. She retreats into the shadows. But then she stops, re-emerges into the light, and scuffles back to the mic.
Pause.
Silence save the aforementioned buzz and whir of slide projectors and cash registers.

Um, she says, still searching. Nope.

And then she starts talking about camp and windows that aren’t really windows and the moon and decoding the secret messages of her mother – messages containing lessons she should have been told but never was. And then she’s singing again, and moving about the stage like a giant muppet caught in a strobe light, only the lighting’s constant.

Everything is off-kilter. It's Monday night and the world is upside down or inside out or something like that. Perhaps everyone is just speaking in tongues or something. It's different, that much is certain.

What's happening on stage is like reading someone’s diary when they've stepped out of the room for a pee. Only maybe this is even more personal – like being privy to the secrets no one would ever dare write down. We shouldn’t be watching this, but she’s not leaving and neither are we.

She can do anything she wants, so long as it doesn’t involve walking off that stage.

But eventually she does, and by the time she does – despite the fact that everyone feels a little unsteady, and unsure of fabric of the universe – everyone realizes that there is dancing to be done. And so they do, they dance. And everything is alright.

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