Your career, your music, has really complicated things all along.
I prayed and prayed to meet and marry a musician. I knew you were out there actually, and I wrote a song and used to sing it to myself all the time, “I look for you, on the train, between the doors, and in the city streets, but will I know you when you looook at me. I pray for you, sometimes too…etc.” I forget all of the words- it was about eleven years ago and I lost those lyrics a long time ago.
Then after we got married, I wrote a little country song that went, “Be careful what you’re wish’in, I’m in love with a musician.” Because…it was hard. You had a passion that seemed, to be always taking you away from me. The thing is, I think I’d prayed for someone mediocre- who sang and played the guitar and piano maybe on the side- but what I got was a musical genius with perfect pitch and non-stop creativity who was driven to do this thing for a living.
And then, just when you were reaching your goal- doing music, for the most part, “full-time,” when I was saying, “Go- do it. It’ll be hard, but this is your time,” you die.
More complications. Reading about your death online on music websites, reading comment after comment that began, “I don’t know the guy, but I saw him play with Regina last year and I’m a huge fan…etc.” This was hard.
But now, I’m back at that everyday place where, just like the soccer and movies…your absence leaves a giant personal void in my life where music used to be. And not just music- not just talking about the craft, sharing lyrics or melodies, or new artists (which you mostly introduced me to and kept me up to date with), but the actual lifestyle that we led together. Going to gigs late at night, meeting interesting and artistic people, following the trail of your music really- to different venues, people, and shared experiences.
I can’t paint an artificial rosy picture of that either- it wasn’t always enjoyable. Some nights I loathed all of the twenty-something girls in tank tops and heels in those clubs. I didn’t think they were really there to appreciate the music. I was also creatively frustrated myself. It had been my choice to put song writing and performing aside because I was just too immature and emotional to work at and share my music with others in that way…so I’d given up- which frustrated you. I wrote an essay about my creative struggle for my MFA program in which I referred to myself as a “shadow artist,” mostly just supporting you from the sidelines. But I’m not sure I was even doing that.
I’d sit in a corner with my feet up on the chair and listen to you play beautiful music- sometimes with tears in my eyes- later you’d tell me “You looked like you were chewing on a piece of crap” (a favorite expression of yours). Sorry, sorry I looked that way.
In all fairness, it was often because I felt you were so much better than some of the people you played with- and I wanted you to succeed and wasn’t sure if playing with them was the best route. I was upset when you barely got paid, or even refused any pay after lugging sometimes both your cello and keyboard by yourself to a venue and skipping dinner. “No man, that’s OK,” you’d say, and I’d tell you that if you ever wanted to make a living at this you better start asking for what you’re worth which in my opinion was a lot. You’d tell me that you were making connections or doing a friend a favor. You knew what you were doing much more than I did. You knew by then what the music industry was about.
You’d pack up your cello, and tell me you’d just be a moment, but then you’d always wind up talking to the various people who wanted to tell you how amazing you were. I tried to teach you over the years to say, “Thanks.” because I got tired of hearing you deny it. “Just say ‘thank you,’ ” I said. “Because you are good and you know it’s true.” To all those artists who eulogized him by saying how humble he was and how he always turned it around to say how good they were…that is true, and one can only be truly humble if one knows exactly how talented one is. He knew, of course he knew. That is what was so beautiful about his humility.
I’ve decided you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of spam or emails they receive after they die. Your inbox is full of song writing contests, lyrics of the day, Paste magazine newsletters on new indie artists…all of that you brought to our shared life. I think about subscribing to some of them myself.
Despite the tension and complications, in some ways your death is like a filter, or a sieve, draining that all away and leaving only the pure, the original, the true:
us at a piano in a coffeehouse while we were dating – you placing my fingers on two keys and telling me to keep hitting them while you play something amazing around them.
there we are at the front of a church leading the congregation in worship…afterwards you told me you were blessed, even if I messed up a bit.
you standing at our wedding, holding your cello and singing to me, “I have come to pour out my heart, to tell you I love you, to tell you I cherish you- but you already know it’s true…” a love song.
me sitting with my guitar over white wedding gown, being sure to look you right in the eye while I sang, “I want to thank you for loving me, so very well…”
us standing in the balcony at a Travis concert hearing the song, “My Eyes,” and knowing that this was going to be the soundtrack to our pregnancy.
and about a week ago, I was sitting in the ferry station before coming back from the city and started to listen to all of your voicenotes on your iphone. I thought I’d listened to most of them but I found one I had missed.
You are playing the piano and I can hear Audrey in the background making baby gurgles. You start to sing, “Audrey….Auuuuudrey, you’re beautiful. I’m sorry…it’s this way” over a stirring piano line.
I can only guess, but I think this apology is either because we had a fight or more likely because you were traveling so much and missed her.
It is a beautiful, beautiful melody, and the lyrics are doubly appropriate now.
Things were tough. Sometimes when you got angry with me for resenting you for doing music, you’d threaten to destroy your cello- which is worth quite a bit of money. “I’ll just destroy it right now,” you’d say. Then I’d have to beg you not to because I knew you really might in your anger.
But there it is now, in the corner. I keep thinking how I learned to “invest” in people rather than things because they’re the only thing that lasts- but now all your stuff is still around, and you’re…gone- at least to my human senses.
Anyway, I had no agenda or intention for this post. I just miss the music.
The complications, the things that put music in that spot of contention in our lives- earning a living, paying rent, etc.- blow off like a layer of dust on a piece of paper. Underneath I see
just the notes
and the words
in your handwriting.
and your voice singing over the piano:
“Audrey, you’re beautiful…I’m sorry it’s this way.”