This Is Why We Sing
"Look at what I bought today!" He hands me an ancient, out-of-tune guitar with two F holes swirling about on both sides of the strings. I strum a simple chord into another simple chord and listen to the echoes crash into each other. Jimmy, lazily tucked into a giant wicker chair, begins playing a little tune. "Teach me something. Teach me anything," I say with a smile hidden in the shadows. He says in a slow drawl, "Well, what do you want to learn?" "I don't know. Anything." And he begins playing and singing a little something. I don't know who wrote the words and the melodies he plays. Bob Dylan? That wrinkled man who wrote "Fulsom Prison"? The song sounds withered and wise and I'm happy to connect myself to it. He whispers the chords for me in between lyrics. My fingers eagerly follow his commands. I lean my head back and close my eyes. So simple. So easy and right. I feel that every evening after a long day filled with so many conflicting thoughts should end this way. His singing. Our playing together under the evening sky, joined by chords, words, and happy familiar chatter. This is why I play.
I wander inside to sample a delightful eggplant parmesan dish lovingly crafted by a good friend. "You must always cook your meals with love," he says matter-of-factly. He's always feeding us bits and pieces of his meals in progress. We taste a bit of fried eggplant straight out of the steaming frying pan. In turn, he tickles all of our noses with a lemon leaf, explaining that some useful ways to enjoy this plant are dried in tea or infused in some chilled water. After enjoying a meal of his, I immediately scheme of ways to repay him, but I'd be too shy to offer him my attempts at a hearty meal. Perhaps after I've had a bit more practice from those pretty, colorful magazines with gooey blueberries sliding off of pastries on their covers...
After we have all decorated our plates with the bright purple main dish, cinnamon glazed carrots, and some buttery croissants, we chat amongst longtime girlfriends about our surprise when we discover the contents of our purses are all the same: lip gloss, some type of headache relief (most of us had advil), a smartphone, and brand new and old copies of The Great Gatsby. "I can't believe that anyone could dream up a film with scenes like that," I say. Someone else replies, "That movie was a huge let down! The score was just terrible, much too modern." Then a woman's soft and yet powerful voice floats in from the back door putting an abrupt end to our conversation. So we happily abandon our debate at the kitchen table along with the dirty pots and pans, drawn to the music like hipsters to a farmers market.
I find a secluded spot tucked away just behind and to the left of the trio playing their music. I feel that I need to approach their performance like one would approach a fragile butterfly. It was as though I needed to sneak past them as silently and unobtrusively as possible, or the magic might stop and they might fly away. We all form a semi circle around the guitars and singing. I don't know what they are singing. Dia clutches her knees and sways forward and back, singing, singing with her eyelids drooping. Two guitars dance around each other as her accompaniment.
It is nice to see her singing for herself and for us, a bunch of tired old friends, enjoying some excellently seasoned vegetables and a pretty song or two. I couldn't help thinking, "this is why she sings, to feel like THAT, to help us feel like THIS." The end of their song conjures up images of a scene from The Great Gatsby. I picture the director explaining the nuances of the scene to the actors just so, fixing a prop here and adjusting the lighting there, giving everything he has to his creation, and then letting it go to be what it will. He made us feel that feeling for days and days after we walk out of the theater, tossing our empty coke cups into the trash by the exit.