Ever since I was a teenager, I've had a thing for musicians. While my girlfriends were swooning over Kiefer Sutherland and River Phoenix, I was locked in my bedroom learning exactly how many Discman plays of Need You Tonight it took to lose myself in the fantasy that Michael Hutchence's breathy "come over here" was a summons meant for me.
It wasn't just his growly purr, his sensual mouth and emotive eyes that did me in. It was - as it is with every musical crush I have - the creative fire behind those things that made them so hot. The idea of someone being so moved by an experience that he can't keep it to himself. That he has to take to pen and paper, to guitar and microphone, lest he go crazy. I understand that impulse completely, because it's one I surrender to myself, right here, lest I go crazy. So it's not just attractive; it's relatable.
Then there's the irresistible fantasy of being the inspiration itself. Who doesn't want to be a muse? Even an unflattering portrayal would stroke the ego: congrats, you got under his skin, in his blood. He had to trap you in a song, tied to a melody. Lyrics aren't even a requirement. Some of the EDM I listen to seems so erotically charged that I marvel to think what encounters, what unfulfilled desires motivated its creation. Oh to be so sexy as to inspire the hypnotic rhythms of a trance song.
I'm dating a musician now, a fact which tickles the part of my brain that wants to believe in fate, even when all the other parts know better. He was in the right place; I was in the right place - that's serendipity, not destiny. And I'd date him whether he was a performer or a tax preparer, because of how huge his heart is. That his creative spark would shine through even the thickest cubicle walls is just a bonus.
But I can't deny the thrill of it. He casually grabs a guitar, strumming as he perches on a bar stool opposite where I stand slicing an onion, and a sudden flurry butterflies threatens the security of my fingertips. We've been together over a year; there aren't swarms of butterflies. But there are enough, reliably, to refresh that adolescent, locked-in-the-bedroom-with-INXS feeling. It doesn't matter what he plays - his own work, another's, or a silly parody of something familiar. Billy Bragg reworked as a paean to Chaucer's toys, say. Half the allure is his technical ability. We tend to be fascinated by skills we don't possess, and the adroitness with which Terence plays - and can improvise - blow my mind. He plays beautiful music, beautifully.
Which leads to a frustration of mine, that will pinch his heart to read right now even as he anticipates it: I wish he'd start writing music again. I'm a broken record in that department. He can't get through an impromptu jam session without my scolding compliments.
"This is you?? This is really, really good. I would listen to this, if I stumbled across it on Spotify. When did you write this?"
"Two-thousand...four? No, five."
Or sometimes: "Um...right now?"
And then I lay into him, like a coach whose prize athlete isn't giving it his all. And it's not my place to do so, but he tolerates it, maybe because my encouragement helps chips away at the self-doubt that keeps him from writing new stuff. Or maybe because he's the most easygoing person on the planet. Probably that.
I want him to start writing again because he's talented and because I believe in him, and because I wish for him the same thing I wish for myself: creative fulfillment. And tonight while he practiced for a show, I confessed to him another, wholly selfish reason I wish he'd write new songs: because every time he performs the old ones, I am reminded that he hasn't always been mine. That he lived a whole life before me, full of experiences that excluded me. Full of joy and pain and friends and lovers and feelings he couldn't convey to me if he tried. And the insecure, abandonment-fearing child inside of me grows anxious. Her chest gets tight and her thoughts get ugly. Maybe there was something he loved before, when he wrote that song, that he loved more than me. Something I don't have. Maybe he loves that thing still.
Ironic, that the very thing which makes him exciting to me would be the same thing that unnerves me.
Typical, that I'd manage to make my boyfriend's previous creative life about me.
Anyway, I was honest. I explained it as best I could, using my blog as a poor comparison. What if I did a reading, of some of my writing that hailed from a time before you knew me? Wouldn't you wonder about what I'd been through, about who or what had inspired those pieces? And doesn't it make you feel connected to me, that as I continue to write now, you're a part of that? You share the experiences that become my stories, so in a way they belong to you, too.
He got it. And he said some things which I don't remember exactly, but which were sweet. I think he even said that none of his songs are about other girls, which made me feel ashamed, like my jealousy had boxed him into a corner he should never have had to retreat to.
And then suddenly we weren't talking about it anymore, the us that came before us. We were just the us we are now. He had been standing beside me at the kitchen island, watching me seed a pomegranate (a task he's usually in charge of). But now he moved behind me, reaching through my arms to peel the fruit which bobbed in a wide pot. "You have to hold it under the water. Like this, see? Just rub the seeds gently with your thumb, they'll break off easily." His chest against my back, his chin over my shoulder. His hands over mine, showing me the trick. And the gentleness in his voice undid me in a way that no whispering pop star ever could.
A little bit later he zipped up his guitar case and slung it over his shoulder, and I thought about all the times I've passed a stranger similarly equipped, on the sidewalk. How each time I've wondered about them, intrigued and inherently impressed. How occasionally I try to communicate, with a shy smile, my appreciation. That thing you do? It's magic to me.
And as my boyfriend headed for the door, to go play for strangers songs he wrote before ever knowing me, I felt a pang to think of all the years that sit silently between us. But I knew he wouldn't be gone long. I knew that he, his guitar, and the magic made between them would be home soon.