We sat in a conspiratorial circle: deep down in the dark dank, hormonal dungeon, of an unfinished Ville-Émard basement. Aside from the flickering flame of a drippy dollar-store candle, the room was pitch black. My best friend’s parents were out of town, and Alex Vinetti and I were alone, at last, with girls—playing that timeless 13-year-old game, which might as well be called Let’s Break the Sexual Tension by Scaring the Shit Out of Each Other™.
It’s a game that, like hockey, consists of three periods. In the first, we recounted with deadly seriousness every scary ghost story we knew. In the second, we played Ouija—until the planchette developed a demonic mind of its own; Christina screamed bloody murder; and Kim locked herself in the bathroom.
Of course this was all just a kind of awkward adolescent foreplay, all just a prelude to the main event: the third period, wherein we’d get to play Truth or Dare™, an ingenious game that allows the young to rise—above their insecurities—and soar, far above and beyond good and evil: a game that allows the young to guilelessly and guiltlessly give-in to their capacious curiosity, without shame, or consequence.
Though the musty air was practically pregnant with pheromones, we were all just too young, and too chickenshit, to talk about sex. So we talked about death, with all of the erotic intensity, and attention to detail, of a bird of paradise, busily at work, on his palatial love nest.
“What’s the last thing you wanna hear before you die, John?”—pretty sure Christina came up with that gem.
“The last thing I wanna hear is the sweet summer sound of a red-winged blackbird: con-ca-reeeee-ah, con-ca-reeeee-ah, con-ca-reeeee-ah. It’s a sound that never fails to fill me with a half-crazy happiness, a sound that elicits a rapturous response, immediately and inexplicably, a response that wells up from unfathomed depths, from the very ground of my being, a delightfully demonic sound that possesses me, in an instant, with a kind of divine madness, a Dionysian ecstatic giddiness that’s so sudden and uncontrollable and over-the-top that, truth be told, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
If we played Truth or Dare™ late one night, in 2012, when I was 38, and you asked me the same question, I’d have given you the same answer I gave Christina, in 1987, when I was 13. But if you asked me today, in 2015, I’d have to confess: the blackbird’s been bumped—ousted, and replaced—by an even sweeter sound, a golden honey sound, that poured, out of my neighbor’s window, and onto avenue Laval: All. Summer. Long.
I’m talkin bout the sound Ashley Sabin makes when she’s talking to her baby girl, in her singsong voice. I’m talkin bout the sound of a love-struck mother, baby-talking her way into the Kingdom of Heaven.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)