Chapter 6:

A Week Alone Pt. 2: A Love Song

Purple Prose

Nothing drove Issei more in life than a career in music. To have thousands, millions of people watching with their hands blissfully in the air, the band Secret Prose written in lights. If nothing else, not working a third of the day helped, because otherwise he’d have little to do. At least, nothing constructive. No. He can’t waste the opportunity given to him.

Yet creating an album wasn’t easy. Even if Issei made every song with the bountiful time at his fingertips, the band still had to make time for practice and editing. In other words, it was a miracle Secret Prose even had five songs under their belt with Ebisu still a tossup.

This only pushed Issei harder. If an agent signed Secret Prose, Kanka wouldn’t have to work, and Takao would have an easier time finishing school. The whole band would spend their years writing music, playing music, touring the country–maybe even the world–with their music. Having fun. He’d feel whole again, and the vision that he and his brother had would finally be realized.

He stepped back into his apartment, the flickering lights bringing him out of the future and back to reality as the neighbor’s television bled through the wall with some game show or reaction stunt. Now what? It’s Monday, and he’s got nothing to do.

Like flipping between two sides of a vinyl record, Issei’s mind switched from writing a new song to Murasaki’s number. He thought about calling her–the agent at The Montauk would make for good gossip–but couldn’t she still be working?

Issei frowned and reached for his acoustic guitar instead. He’ll wait for night.

First he warmed up. Issei strummed each basic chord that came to mind, ran his fingers up and down the fret board, then played some five-note pentatonic scales. What kind of song should he make? What isn’t in Secret Prose’s repertoire?

An image of Murasaki smiling at him in Proteinium Records flashed in his mind–he shook his head vigorously. Surely not! And yet…No! You’re being ridiculous. You’ve only known her for a day.

Yet Issei couldn’t deny it: that day was the best he had in months.

Issei grabbed his head and pulled his hair. If you think I’m gonna make a love song just because of this one day…fine!

Secret Prose hadn’t made a love song yet. Rather than listening to the prying voice in his head telling him to just own up to his sudden, yet true feelings, he simply rationalized that every band makes love songs. Love songs have been around for centuries, and no genre is exempt. There was even a love song Issei found on the internet in the Death Metal genre. So it was only a matter of time until Secret Prose followed suit. Might as well make it in the first album and get it over with, right?

His brother’s voice reverberated like an announcer calling out to an empty venue. “The best thing to do when stepping into new territory is to close your eyes and play whimsically. Let your mind take you there. Let your heart be your guide.”

“You got it, Tsukasa.”

Issei closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let his imagination run wild.

He plucked the strings one by one. Images, memories, and thoughts swirled in his head. Some disappeared, others resonating stronger when he found a triad or a fun sequence of notes. Issei played the four-note melody again. A girl appeared, one with long, wavy brown hair and a highschool uniform, and with deadpan eyes, she said:

“She doesn’t want to see you anymore. Sorry.”

“But it’s only been a week!” Issei thought. “Why can’t she tell me herself?”

“She didn’t want to hurt you.”

Issei found himself playing minor tones as the memories continued. Dismal, haunting, and dark. Smoke billowed out from the ground, and in front of him she swirled, her face obscured in the smog. That girl. A diploma rested in her hand. From all the pride Issei felt in graduation, she got his attention.

“There’s someone else.”

“What!?” Even in memory, Issei’s heart dropped just as it did on that day. “We’ve been together for months! How could you do this to me?”

She dug in her heels and shouted, attracting onlookers. “You’re so goddamn boring! It’s a wonder why I didn’t leave you sooner. Your friend knows how to date far better than you do.”

Issei bit his lip. His thumb struck the E string and let it ring out as the melody sank ever lower.

It didn’t end. Issei was on the ground clutching his stomach, pain rippling through his core. He struggled to even lift his head, and more smoke rolled out as it shaped another woman. Her hair was dyed red, a wool sweater covering her wrists. A policeman delivered a handbag she owned while others took the thief away. One hand was on her hip, chin raised high. When Issei was at the lowest moment in his life, she glared at him from above with contempt. It was two months after graduation.

“What can you even do?” she said, scoffing. It was as if, to her, Issei was worthless. “How can a woman count on you for anything?”

He didn’t mean to revisit these memories–that’s just where the music took him. It hurt, recalling them.

Yet he had a hunch there was something hidden. Issei plucked another series of notes, low on the fret board like the previous riff, but this new melody was in the major key. It felt warmer, more alive.

There was meaning to these two riffs, but what? What was the music trying to tell him?

Then another woman appeared, older, and with short black hair. She leaned forward, her hands on the glass partition as though she saw something incredible. She noticed Issei, and she spun around with a look of pure amazement.


With great strength, Issei strummed a chord and powered through the next melody with twice the volume. Brighter tones. Higher pitch. In an instant, all the pyroclast in his mind was swept away with rain and wind, and at the end of the storm, a great light pierced the clouds and bathed him in warmth.

“Breathe, Mister. Breathe.”

“You got it, Murasaki.”

Issei shuddered, but he took that breath: he felt like singing.

Fallen hopes hit the ground,

bitter voices pin me down,

but my flame will never wither away.

Time after time the failures pile on me,

and all the while the memories run wild and free,

but my flame will never wither away.

I hold my fire here for you,

I see you’re holding yours too.

My fire rises high with you,

arcing up and over you.

Issei grinned as the acoustic guitar came to a head, and all at once his hands swept several power chords, and he discovered a new leitmotif, the same melody wrapped in a different-colored bow.

I hold my fire here for you,

that choking smoke you swept away,

and in its place you came to stay.

My fire rises high with you,

my hands are longing for your rays,

I know you are the light of day.

He had something. More than something.

Issei hung his guitar back on the wall. He noticed the neighbors had stopped watching television, and one family to the left had even started clapping.

“Thanks for your help, Brother.”

With renewed vigor in his steps, Issei reached over the nightstand, grabbed the phone, and added Murasaki’s number. Even if she’s working, texting her would be fine. He loaded up Hark–the social media app on smartphones–and began tapping away.

<Hey there, it’s Issei. I heard something interesting at The Montauk today. Looks like an agent was watching us. Hope I’m not keeping you from work. Just sitting here coming up with new songs.>

He looked the message over. Despite the surge of bravado, pressing Send sent a wave of stress straight to his stomach and he already regretted his choice of words. Issei could say anything he wanted to Takao or Kanka, but Murasaki was completely different; his heart beat against his chest as though he were hearing his own guilty verdict.

Yet not even twenty seconds passed before his phone vibrated–less than a minute, and her name was on the screen.

Pope Evaristus