Friday, February 19, 2010

Learning the Rhythm

A small remembrance of a friend I lost when I was 16. I miss you, dear one. You saved my life, and for that I am so grateful.

Eddie was a sensualist. Not in the sexual way (although that certainly came into play as we grew older) but because of his love of beauty. All beauty, especially music. He could be brought to tears by a good guitar riff, or a spectacular piano melody. But rhythm was his true love and he engulfed himself in it. One day, when I was fourteen and he was sixteen, he arrived at my house. I was in a mood, one of those moods that spontaneously pounce upon fourteen-year-old girls, and was sulking in my living room. “Field trip!” he announced. We went to New Orleans and walked to a corner near a construction site. He grabbed my arm to stop me and closed his eyes.

“What are you doing,” I asked. “Are you sleepy?”
“Shut up for a minute,” he said patiently.
“If we’re just gonna stand here, I came out for nothing. There are plenty of construction sites in Slidell. Aren’t we gonna DO something?”
“I said shut up. Have I ever brought you out here and not shown you a good time? If you shut up I can find it.”

Suddenly, he did. He opened his eyes and smiled.

“Okay, do you see that big yellow thing over there? The one that’s pounding the street?” he asked.
“Uh…yeah. So?”
“That’s the bass drum. Hear it? It’s a real slow beat, in 4/4. Now pay attention.”

I looked at him with my right eyebrow cocked in sarcastic bemusement. I had no clue what he was getting at. My early teenage attitude was on the rise and I was about to say something, but he beat me to it.

“I said shut up. You can give me that shit when we get home, but for now I need you to listen. So, we have a bass. Alright, hear that glass? Like a crashing, tinkling sound. Those are the cymbals. The hammer over there, that’s the snare. The heels, hear em? Those are the rims. Now close your eyes and listen.”

I did. I closed my eyes, before he yelled at me, and leaned my head back for good effect. I stood there, thinking what a moron and then…I heard it. I heard it. I heard the beat of the bass start it off, I heard the clicking of a woman’s high heels at a faster tempo. Someone threw a bag of trash somewhere, crash. Glass broke, cymbals shivered. I heard something new: swish, swish. A street sweeper had come along. I opened my eyes and looked at Eddie. He was thrilled; he’d always wanted to try brush sticks. He pulled me in front of him and began to beat a rhythm on my back. We stood there, audience for the street corner concert, and listened.


tamatha said...

I love when you find music in unexpected places. Lovely story.

Jelinas said...

That was just beautiful. What a precious memory of a friend. Thanks for sharing that.