‘Slurring as if toothless and drunk’
The van was a way to navigate through my grief. I imagined I was driving away from pain but in fact it filled the four corners of my vehicle. I drove the long way to LA, through the South and along the Mexican border. I listened to the same CD the whole way, on repeat for the entire month. It was in the stereo when I started the van and I never bothered to take it out. The CD was by a guitarist, someone I’ve had infrequent but periodic hookups with over the past twenty years; he’d given it to me four years earlier, the last time I’d seen him.
He’s something of a genius improviser in the way he builds a melody and shatters it open. His music feels interior since it registers emotionally, but also exterior because, in order to structurally pull apart a song, there must be distance. A tune might turn itself inside out, negate itself, and devolve into atonality. Listening, I tumble into the lacuna that had once been a song. Later, I learned to recognize particular strains in his songs from the music of his teacher, a Haitian classical composer who, among other things, mimicked the sounds of voodoo drums with his guitar. You can hear it in the rumble of low chords oscillating back and forth, like jumping from your left foot to your right, the strings loose and dirty, slurring as if toothless and drunk. He plays on his own on this CD, and the sound of solo guitar was especially affecting in my state of mind. His guitar became my soundtrack as I drove west and by the end of the trip, I was in love with him. We’ve been involved ever since. Until last month, when he broke up with me. Again.
Photograph by Ryan