There is a break point in every heartbreak. One where you stop remembering the bad, and the good surfaces in little bits of salvaged memories at unexpected moments.
I am at that point. Mine is heartbreak of a different kind – not one of snuffed out romance and unrequited love, but instead caused by a loss of a piece of me. One forged by a group of people with a common love who held that piece. The kind of group you think would never cause heartbreak. I loved them each uniquely, and deeper than I knew I did until after I lost them. I was angry for awhile. I was sad for even longer. Now I just remember them as one remembers an old friend who has lost touch.
As I watch a friend blow out birthday candles, I smile when I think about how we all used to celebrate birthdays at practice by eating cake straight out of the dish, bending around each other’s forks. As I drive by In and Out, I remember how we stopped there to celebrate after a radio appearance, passing hamburgers between each other while beaming at the host’s reaction.
Sorting through old pictures, I see two of them, sitting back to back as they practiced, one with a mic to his lips, the other hugging the instrument that seems to calm his demons to his chest. And in that moment I appreciate the loyal friendship they have for each other.
There are stints of time that go by that I don’t think of them at all anymore. Sometimes I forget that my weeks were once dominated by their presence. Now other opportunities and pastimes have crowded into that space.
But it’s in the midst of live music I remember them most. It’s then my heart hurts again, like someone has reached in a pricked it with a pin. I wish they were there, appreciating it and sorting through it and digging into it like only fellow musicians can.
I try to imagine what they would think. How they would react. What we would talk about after the last chords have faded and musicians have wrapped up cables and snapped shut cases.
Like on this Friday night when a band chalk full of chops has me in an alternate state. Maybe we would sit together in balcony. Maybe one would stand, his arms crossed, and nod, uttering a guttural “Uh,” at high points of jazz riffs and blues chords. Maybe another would focus in on the drums, dissecting the rhythms into math equations.
Or like on this Tuesday night at Yoshi’s when one lone slide blues player sweeps the arm of his guitar over his audience like a wand. We sit under his spell. Maybe one would talk about how there was two much reverb in the second song and the back up singer was a bit pitchy, but in the end he would acknowledge the guitar player’s skill with appreciation. Maybe another would sit pensively listening, his chin in his hand, then repeat a lyric and ponder it with an articulate brevity beyond his years.
Then all four of them would talk about how we could and when we would and what the challenges are of playing at Yoshi’s someday too.
But on the way home, I tuck these imagined scenes away. The truth is, there is no trace of me left there. Anything I had the slightest impression on has changed and morphed into something else. Any photo I was in has been blotted out. It’s like they took a pencil eraser and scrubbed me out of that year. I compare that to my job, where my fingerprints are all over everything and will be long after I ever leave. At least there, I think, I am leaving a mark. At least there, everything I have poured in won’t splash to the ground and evaporate.
And so, when the thoughts of them resurface in the watery tides of my memory, I scoop them out for a closer look and then set them free.