Man with a Guitar, 2000

by on May 1, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Sticking My Neck Out, Here" by Tyler Malone

Perhaps Braque’s man with the guitar was Frankie, the boy she used to play with in the subway not so many years ago. It was never about her, as her father and her husband and his family had reminded her so many times. Still Mary thought that she was looking at what she might have been, the Future of Man. If only they could have kept on playing in the subway, in the park, on campus. If only she hadn’t followed him home.

But now she did laundry and then assembled lunch from containers of lunch meat, string cheese, and apple slices or grapes; then drove her daughters through their over-watered Colorado. The Frankie she had known would have wondered where the water came from to make a desert bloom. But if she had still known him, she would not be here. She would not be blonde. She would not wear a tight neon pink t-shirt and faded mom jeans. She might still be barefoot.

Frankie, she read, was now the Future of Man. He was the narrow-faced, narrow-hipped man with a guitar. She had read somewhere that he had had laser eye surgery. She suspected that he plucked his eyebrows. Even his short, curly hair seemed hard. It glinted in the spotlight. Mary read about him every so often on the computer she kept in the laundry room. She downloaded his songs from Napster. Especially once she realized that her husband didn’t know about her computer’s incognito mode, her secret sites. Not knowing about them, he couldn’t check her search history. And her daughters were upstairs watching their animal videos from Blockbuster.

Mary, on the other hand, supposed that she was the Past of Woman. When young, she had been a pear-shaped thing, a blob with black, stringy hair, someone whom an old man past fifty liked to sketch. Now she was an almost-young mom, holding her matching laundry basket close to her while her daughters watched videos about cartoon dragons in the family room. She had become a character, the main character, in the infuriating but ultimately inspiring novels her mom used to read after the divorce. The Future of Woman was Frankie’s Asian wife or just maybe her older daughter Neveah who took her Medical Barbie on a mission in Africa.

Frankie was Braque’s Man with a Guitar, the Future of Man given the name of his band. You could not see his hand. You could barely discern his instrument. But you heard it. You heard it cut through the crap of all the music she listened to these days while she drove her daughters around, while her husband was home. You heard Frankie’s guitar urge his partners on: his wife, her brother, even Shaq, the drummer who rapped “I’m so bored with the NBA.” The future was a whirr of sharp noise and dull colors. Both obscured the body. The noise shattered the surfaces so that you could not recognize what was beneath the dark layers of animal and human skin: blood, heart, mind. Only she knew what was beneath what she heard on Napster. Only she knew why Frankie and Shaq were cursing her, the dumb whore, on that song she couldn’t unhear.

All too long ago, not quite ten years ago, Frankie was a skinny high school senior with acne, with eyebrows and glasses like his father’s and a guitar he had saved up for despite his family’s money. Frankie and Mary played old songs and their songs in the subway station near her college. She was the girl with the guitar, her glossy black hair, long for the ‘90s. Until, a month into their brilliant career, she accepted Frankie’s invitation to stop by his family’s home. Until she let his father sketch her in his studio. Until she became this bird with her perch in the past. Not the woman with a guitar.

editors note:

What music can we carry? How can we live and still sing of what we once were? ~ Tyler Malone

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