Helsinki Headnod Convention
Debut album Eargasms For Short-Sighted Post-Truth Era People coming out March 9, 2018
“N Train Express to Queens!”
Steam and bodies rush from the train as the doors part. Metal ships pass with the frequency of moments. Amelia sits still in the eye of the storm, yielding to the harp. The sound of petals falling counters the bustle of bodies in space. Breathtaking arpeggios bloom to a massive crescendo before one final flourish. Rosin dust billows at the final strike of the baton. Black clad bodies rise around her — a fortress of body heat and beaming faces swell against her back. The sea of people at their feet rise to meet them. The orchestra takes a bow.
“Ladies and gentleman, Sibelius Academy and the Juilliard Orchestra!”
The opera house rumbles. Niilo tugs at her hand. They lock eyes.
“Still up for coffee?,” he asks.
She nods, an exhausted yes.
He pulls a ticket from the lining of his jacket and balances it on the stand in front of her.
It reads JFK to HEL.
“Don’t think too long.”
The curtain labors to a close, swallowing light.
Beto swore he had the sauce. He reminded Amelia every chance he got. Whether it was inflating his resume or his age or letting off a drumroll to score her steps down the block. He always hit the crash dramatically when she got to the door of the bodega after work. He was annoying like that.
“America! America when you gon’ let me get your number?”
She groans, “Ah-MELI-ah. Say it with me. Ahhh—“
“Yeah whatever. You know I love you,” Beto responds
He taps out the spine of a Pete Rock beat on his crude set of buckets.
“I know you know this one!”
His body rises and lands on the ailing cymbal just as a nightstick comes down on his neck. Beto is snatched from his perch and ground into fine mince with the quickness.
“Every week a noise complaint. I told you last week what was going to happen if I had to come back here,” Officer Moriarty brays.
The block erupts. Dusk settles around the fray, framing bodies in a tangle of pastels that go to waste on violence. Amelia tries to pull Beto out but she is on her back in sinking sand. The sky so wide above them that they must be caught in the beauty god made for someplace else -- this isn’t paradise. Officers scatter Beto’s drums onto the blacktop like bird feed. The violent cadence -- all spinning tops and hubcaps -- roars to a fanfare before a truck tire milks one final statement from an irreparable bend in the metal. The guys on the block toss an adjacent cop car with bottles, bricks and anything else they can sharpen within seconds.
The donas stand with their hands on their hips. A mess of scarves and rollers and pins. Prepared for portraits, and war, and rapture. Unbound breasts dragging a peg-legged rhythm while their banter punches holes into the air trapped in the space between their homes -- an effervescent stream of conjecture peppered with scandal and gossip and invocations of god.
“Did somebody take a picture?”
“Dios mio! You are killing him! You want to kill him?”
Questions answered only by the crisp percussion of their brooms scrubbing the devils and chalk and dog shit from the asphalt. Picking up where Beto’s rhythm left off. Trying in vain to sweep the pigs away. Any hope of saving Beto drowned by the din of sirens and a swarm of neighbors yelling, “Black Lives Matter!”
Night engulfs Moriarty’s cruiser as it speeds away with Beto’s limp little body inside -- a broken wing. One of the OG’s scrapes Amelia from the sidewalk and stashes her on the steps of the building. He tears his shirt and wraps her hands with the fabric.
“Don’t worry mama, we got something for them when they come back”
Amelia doesn’t respond. The blood empties from her hands to leave a Rorshach pattern on the fabric. They both watch the lazy river as it moves, transfixed.
Beto’s mother screams.
Amelia recognizes the sound immediately. It is the note she had been trying to hit all week.
“Last call! Flight number 9842, JFK to Helsinki”
Niilo stands alone at the gate, looking out across the airport tarmac.
The gate attendant bellows into the PA in front of her.
“Sir! Are you on this flight? We are scheduled to depart in five minutes.”
A crit panel is seated in a small auditorium. Amelia’s harp is at the center of the room.
Her seat is empty.
Amelia approaches the gate, clutching her ticket. She is barefoot and completely spent. Niilo ignores the bandages on her hands. He kisses them both.
The gate attendant rolls her eyes and scans their tickets.
“Please take your seats immediately. We are about to depart.”
Verdant, idyllic and a million miles away from Myrtle Ave, the city is a neat arrangement of sharp angles, old world charm and the kind of warmth that makes you whole.
Amelia squints at the sun and takes a deep breath for the first time in days.
“All you need is a harp. No problem,” Niilo suggests. He toddles through chords neither of them love. They are rigid against the peace of morning. She looks down at her hands. He looks at her.
“So, about that coffee?”
Amelia steps from the curb. Footsteps rush like water against a deafening call to arms.
Bullhorns and anger and sirens pollute the air, suggesting the beauty she took for granted in Niilo’s rough chords. Amelia is the sore thumb in a sea of angry men with banners and swastikas and a million reasons why she does not belong. She is the dark spot they are eager to erase. The stain left after Beto’s death.
A hair’s length from the largest of them, she pivots to run. Riot police with batons and shields and spray canisters approach with dead eyes and little diplomacy. Niilo runs through them toward her. The density of their bodies drown him as he fights to save her from the approaching wave.
“Amelia!,” he screams
Weapons are trained at either side of her. With but a breath between them, she raises her arms.
All bandaged hands and that hard-earned Bucktown stone face.
Her words counter the silence of onlookers and contrast Niilo’s screams.
- Karas Lamb