In today’s post, Sam Elkoni offers a fictionalized version1 of her experiences as someone politely interested in Leonard Cohen’s music who is married to a hardcore Cohenite.
It’s a narrative that is engaging and and instructive.
The Encounter By Sam Elkoni
The Encounter – November 2009
The landscape is green and lush, the air crisp and clear. Clouds mingle above, merging and scattering without apparent design in the opalescent sky. The sun envelops us as we meander hand-in-hand through the hotel garden. The aromas of freshly cut grass and baking bread catch the breeze, titillating my sense of smell. We are ready to eat.
We eat, drink and share profound secrets. He reads me excerpts from his favorite poetry book and we analyze the words. I listen to his voice and think back to last night’s amorous play. I marvel at his ability to stimulate both my body and mind with such precision, even after all these years. Sated, we rise and amble towards the elevators when he seizes my forearm and freezes.
‘What’s wrong Andy?’ I ask.
His face is pallid, his gaze unfocused.
‘Ands, Andrew are you ok?’
‘You’re scaring me damn it, what’s wrong?’ I insist.
‘It… it’s him. Oh my G-d, it’s him.’ Andrew stutters.
He is hyperventilating and seems to be on the verge of collapse. I envision the Angel of Death hovering above, black robe billowing in the lifeless air – scythe raised – summoning Andy to follow him.
‘Who the hell is him, the Grim Reaper? G-d himself?’ I exclaim.
‘Not G-d, but pretty damn close.’ He whispers reverently.
I look towards the lobby and standing there, is Andrew’s long time idol; the Man himself, Hakohen Hagadol,2 Mr. Leonard Cohen.
‘Wow, it’s He. Now, can you let go of my arm please?’ I demand.
Andrew releases me and floats toward the lobby oblivious of everything except Leonard. Massaging the blood back into my forearm I follow him, blaspheming his maternal lineage with every step. He approaches Leonard and asks for a moment of his time. Andrew expresses his admiration for Leonard’s work, and they converse. Leonard seems genuinely touched and is generous with his time.
I hover in the background and observe the encounter. Leonard’s comportment is that of a much younger man, and his bright tawny eyes exude sincerity and humor. Hell, he is even kind of sexy for a man his age.
‘What are you reading my friend?’ Leonard asks, spotting the book under Andrew’s arm.
Oh this? It’s actually one your poetry books.’ Andrew responds shyly.
‘Would you like me to sign it for you?’ He offers and reaches into his shirt pocket for a small blue sharpie.
He signs the book and hands both items back to Andrew.
‘This is yours.’ Andrew says handing the sharpie back to Leonard.
‘You keep it.’ He responds.
Andrew reverently tucks away the sharpie as Leonard turns to me.
‘And who is this young lady?’ He asks.
‘This is my wife, Sarah.’ Andrew intervenes before I can introduce myself.
‘So nice to meet you Darling.’ He says, clasping my hands in his.
His accomplished fingers waltz nimbly over my wrists and I cannot help but wonder how he is in bed and if Viagra is a necessary companion these days.
‘Thank you so much for your kind support, my Friends.’ Leonard says.
I am not sure how to respond. Andrew has been a fan for 24 years while I barely know the man’s work. Unintentional, implicit hypocrisy seems, however, preferable to the awkwardness – or worse – that would result from an unsolicited confession, so I remain silent and smile. With a handshake and hugs, we part ways.
The Encounter has occurred. Nothing will be the same again.
The Final Gathering – One Year Later
It is dusty and dry, the landscape brown and bleak. I stand by the hotel room window, taking in the sights. The breeze stirs up swirls of dust clouds wherever I look. In the distance, jagged mountaintops peek through the hazy pall. To my left, a giant pyramid looms, so tall the clouds reflect on its smooth black exterior. To my right, a fountain spews jets of water to gravity-defying heights. Interspersed between these eyesores are concrete canyons blazing with colors not found in nature. At this moment, everything feels alien to me, even Andrew. I think back to the beginning.
We met fourteen years ago at a diving club on the Red Sea, fell in like under the water and in love over dinner. We cohabited, copulated and conceived three creaturelings in quick succession. We were happy. Then, a year ago everything changed as Andrew’s enthusiasm for all things Cohen escalated. His other interests diminished, eventually becoming inconsequential. His obsession transported us to the precipice of bankruptcy. Our philosophical and sexual exchanges shriveled as his participation on a dedicated Cohen website increased.
I confess to checking this website every so often to see what and with whom he communicates. Each time, I am flabbergasted. The adulation, the hours of deliberation these people dedicate to Cohen’s every gesture, every wink, – hell, his every fart is mind-boggling, and more than a little scary.
I want to scream ‘Wake up people. The man has the same malodorous bowel movements we have.’
But I know it would be useless. Given the opportunity, these people would rip out the toilet seat he just sat on and hang it on the wall as a souvenir.
Andrew wraps his arms around me, dragging me back to the present.
‘I can’t believe we’re here Sarah.’ He says.
‘Our bank account agrees. It can’t believe we’re here either.’ I snap, regretting the words even as I say them.
I needn’t have worried; Andrew is beyond such day to day concerns as paying off the mortgage.
He goes on, ‘The final Gathering, I’ve been waiting so long for this event.’
Andrew and the others attending the Gathering anticipate it as a life-changing event. I am just hoping it somehow brings us closer again.
Two full days of cockamamie crap, if you ask me! I think to myself as I retreat into the bathroom to prepare for the evening ahead. We are meeting Andrew’s fellow Cohenites for drinks in the cocktail bar downstairs.
Just as I am finishing up, Andrew knocks on the door, opens it and lounges against the door frame. I glimpse his sea green eyes in the mirror and am transported back to the day we began our journey of love. He was standing in much the same position at the dive club, leaning against the counter, when he propositioned me to dive with him that morning. I experience the same intense desire I did that day.
‘You look beautiful Sarah.’ He says.
I wrinkle my nose and stick out my tongue.
‘Even more so now,’ he laughs. ‘Are you ready?’
‘I will be in a sec…’ I reply and finish applying my lipstick.
‘Ok, I’m ready, are you?’ I ask.
‘I have The Book (just in case). I have The Sharpie (just in case). I, my dear, am ready.’
I punch him on the arm in response.
‘Shit that hurt!’ I say massaging my wrist.
‘You haven’t hit me in a long time, I miss it.’ He smiles.
He rubs his arm and we laugh together as we head down to the cocktail lounge. Andrew is taut with anticipation as he seeks out his virtual brethren. We don’t wait long. As if they have this telepathic connection, they descend on us like a swarm of locusts as we enter the room. We are caressed and clawed, stroked and pawed. He basks in the corporeal contact that makes my skin crawl. I disentangle myself and head to the bar. The Bloody Mary is my first alcohol since I birthed my oldest broodling six years ago. I drain it in two gulps and order another. Sitting at the bar, I scrutinize the crowd. From this distance, they all seem so unafflicted, so merry, so… normal.
But I find myself wondering: How do their obsessions affect their day-to-day lives? That woman there, does she also mutter Leonard Cohen phrases in her sleep? Does she pleasure herself to ‘Hallelujah’ at night, giving its chorus a whole new meaning? That man in the corner, does he buy each album and book that is published, even if it just a redressed copy of a previous edition? How much Cohen paraphernalia do these people own? How many paintings of the Man are hanging on their walls? How varied is the music they play? Andrew has not played a single track by another artist (except of course those directly associated with Cohen such as Sharon Robinson, Anjani, the Webbs and NEeMA) since the Encounter. My four year old son’s favorite song is Avalanche, for G-d sake.
I look around and spot Andrew in the distance, surrounded by a sizable group of women. Even from this distance their hunger is palpable and they are clearly smitten with him. I sense a Celebration brewing. I grab my drink from the bar and insecurity escorts me in their direction.
As I get within earshot, I hear Andy say ‘Here it is.’
Given my current mindset and the emphasis he places on it, I reflexively envision my beloved husband dropping his pants to display his scepter to these wanton sirens.
This is, after all, Las Vegas.
Nor do the responses from his exclusively female audience offer evidence to contradict my fears.
‘Ooooh, can I stroke it?’ A voluptuously beautiful red head asks in a shaky voice.
‘I need to hold it!’ The salacious blonde in front of me demands breathlessly as she bends forward, her unshapely buttocks peeking out from under her skirt.
‘C…can I, I just k… kiss it?’ The wild haired brunette with the hollow cheeks and manic eyes stutters with zeal.
I must know what these women yearn to stroke and hold and kiss. Andrew’s rapturous expression galvanizes me into action, and with my innards firmly ensconced somewhere between my pelvis and my knees, I elbow my way through the circle. And staring right at me, standing erect and proud is Andrew’s pint-sized unit in all its cerulean tipped glory.
The absurdity of Andrew’s unit flamboyantly on display induces an irrepressible fit of laughter. Tears of laughter evolve into tears of relief as I realize the object of adulation does not reside in my husband’s underwear. It seems the small blue sharpie has attained a level of erotic stature amongst the Cohen minions, not commonly associated with the Sharpie species.
Concerned (and presumably more than a tad embarrassed), Andrew steers me to our room where, finally, we have an honest dialogue. We fight, we laugh, we cry and then we make love. Nothing is resolved on the spot, but our imminent marital demise is halted as he once again lifts me to heights of ‘Hallelujah’ that would make Leonard proud.
Sam Elkoni: After growing up in the African wilderness, living on three different continents, and traveling across the globe, Sam is now a cake-baking, gun-loving, Kiefer Sutherland-adoring wife and mother who resides with her husband, three sproutlings, two cats, two fish, and assorted other marine critters in the North American wilderness known as Washington DC. An adventuresome scuba diver and amateur underwater photographer, Sam has been employed as a writer, worked as a production coordinator for live performances, and taken a number of additional jobs she could list but would then have to kill whomever read them._____________________
- I.e., The Canadian singer-songwriter-icon named “Leonard Cohen” in the story is a fictional version of the Canadian singer-songwriter-icon named “Leonard Cohen;” other characters and events in the story may or may not be inspired by certain individuals and events but any specific similarities are coincidental so don’t even think about suing us. [↩]
- “Hakohen Hagadol” is a Biblical Hebrew phrase which means “The High Priest” but can also be literally translated as “The Great Cohen.” [↩]