Friday, December 22, 2006

Three Vignettes of No Particular Order (third in a series of 10)

I. Mandolin Player

It is a wide, open-mouth, and heartbreaking smile. Its owner plays mandolin and may be the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen. She is a baby really. But only in the sense that you are an old man. Exaggerations, both. That smile is a thing that if ever it were aimed at you, you would burn or build bridges, rob a convenience store, try to harness a star and skate the Milky Way—any goddamned thing it asked.

And you know she’s about to be famous. So you try to hold that moment of everything prior as if it were actually yours. As if in that moment you discovered the smile and poise and passion and vulnerability and self-assuredness.

And deep in the crevice of night, you see that soul-aching smile reflected in a million lenses and think to yourself, I saw her in a smoky bar on lower Broadway with nine other people once.

And in the middle of a song that could teach you to love and mourn, she smiled at me.

Just at me.

II. Been

Because he hadn’t discovered his niche (old as he was) he could play to most anything. He had the look, see. He was nobody and the most important motherfucker in the room at once. Being nondescript created intrigue in this town. He could have been an insurance company lackey or President of Next Big Thing Records. But he never professed to be either. He was affable and amicable and quiet and reserved and boisterous at all the right times—without trying to affect anything at all. Drinks appeared before him and strangers stopped to shake hands and say hello.

He had always been this way. In small towns it was received as quirky. In Nashville it was mysterious.

Because he liked to write he occasionally took notes during a band’s set, noting a particular guitarist’s style or singer’s inflection or bass player’s muted enthusiasm.

He owned the lucky curse of resembling someone else and often received the benefits assumed due the other man. It was empowering and curious.

Each night he began and ended alone.

And embracing himself in the wee hours, he almost always reveled in having been.

III. People Things

Soundtracks played in Ray’s head most of the time. Flatt & Scruggs. John Prine. Dan Reeder. Paganini. Sometimes he voiced over passages from Shakespeare or Bukowski—depending upon his mood.

He randomly checked the time of night using his cell phone. He knew this looked as if he were checking incoming calls. It was a habit.

Often he would retreat to the 24th floor to see the all of Nashville. The cacophony of light and people doing people things.

An unlit perfect cigar in his left hand. A swirl of whiskey in his right, brown and gold.

And always the music dancing with purpose in his busy head.

And often he was happy.

Watching those people doing their people things.