Dan listened to the music and it seemed to feed something in his soul. He smiled unconsciously, his foot and hand tapping out the tempo. He remembered back to when he used to play in blues bands. It’s funny how we remember the good memories, but forget the reasons we no longer do the things we love. That’s where Dan was when it hit him – the thing his heart and soul had always desired, his true passion, was to play music again. He watched a husband and wife band perform and interact – how fantastic it must be to have your soulmate also be a co-conspirator in your life’s dream. He imagined what their life must be like together.
He saw them practicing in their home together, just the two of them, scantily clothed on the bed. Her belting out smooth lyrics accompanied by an acoustic National Steel slide guitar – you know the ones with a tin can at the back end – they look like there’s a trash can lid underneath the bottom half of the guitar. He saw music in everything they would do together. He envisioned their creative life and realized how much he wanted that lifestyle. His life was anything but creative. He looked across the table at his own wife. Their dreams were different. They were out of step, in conflict – to no one’s fault – they were just different people.
He closed his eyes and imagined what living with a musician would be like. He remembers some of the bad parts about musicians at that point – the flakiness, the mood swings, the laziness. But real musicians were different than the amateurs he’d experienced. That’s why he had grown frustrated with them. It’s what caused him to move to Austin in 2000, to be around real musicians, professionals. He built a career for himself and his family that didn’t include his music, however. He had utterly abandoned his one true love, and it was starting to haunt him. Life gets in the way.
He just couldn’t fathom starting over at this point in his life. He had too many commitments, and too much to lose. And at the cusp of old age, probably not enough energy to pull off a complete lifestyle shift. Even this evening was out of sorts for his routine. He would have to sleep 4 hours extra the next morning just to get his normal 8 hours of sleep. Did musicians believe in things like sleep and routines? Or were they pure Bohemian in nature? He opened his eyes to see the female singer looking deeply into his eyes. His heart fluttered for a second until he realized that she can’t see him – the lights are way too bright on stage. She’s just projecting her best image, which is a direct reflection of her doing what she loved.
He imagined what she must look like naked. She was wearing tight-fitting clothes that showed off her ample figure. He liked the way she would look. She eased into a Janis Joplin song, and he was brought back from his reverie into the reality of now. She was trying to cover Janis – no one did that. She had a perfect voice, he thought. Better than he had heard in a long time. Her husband was the band leader, and the reason Dan came to the show that night. He’d followed this musician since before Dan had moved to Austin – you could say it was one of the reasons he moved here, to see him perform live at Antone’s. Antone’s had moved several times since it’s heyday, but the spirit was alive in this place. This was the bar where Stevie Ray Vaughn came up. All the blues greats came through Antone’s in the ’70s and ’80s.
But Dan was now fascinated with the blues player’s wife more than he ever was with the bluesman himself. He was happy to hear him playing blues again, this musician had stopped playing blues in the early 2000s trying to no doubt get some much needed commercial success. There’s just no money in blues, still to this day, at least in this country. These musicians go over to Europe once a year to make their ends meet. One month in Europe nets them more than they can make in a year in the US. Why stay here, Dan wondered. Why wouldn’t you just set up shop in some quaint city in Europe? Very few did, they always came back to the US. He was reminded of “Seasick Steve” an American bluesman living in the UK. He’d made a mental note to ask about why more musicians didn’t stay in Europe.
But not today. As she finished out her song, Dan’s eyes welled up with tears, she was really talented. He understood why her husband had stopped playing with other female performers – his wife far exceeded anyone else’s abilities. They’d only been married a year, he might even be hooking his wagon to her, and not the other way around. This band was pretty popular in Austin, but beyond Austin, they’ve had limited exposure and success. But goddamn if he didn’t look like he was enjoying himself. That kind of enthusiasm is hard to fake, Dan thought. They both loved what they were doing, and each other, and it showed.
“I should have been a musician,” he muttered to himself. No one heard him, but he said it out loud just the same, hoping somewhere in his soul that someone would hear him and challenge him as to why he didn’t start playing again. “FUD,” he said with a slight laugh. “Fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” still out loud, but to no one in general, and no one could hear him. His wife saw his lips moving and figured he was getting “the way he gets” when they go see music. She chose to ignore him and just enjoy the music. He may have been a challenge to live with, but he did know good music, she thought.
Dan’s wife didn’t have a musical bone in her body. But when Dan and she had met, he was playing in bands, and she loved when he would walk out into the audience and serenade her. She loved the feeling of being singled out above all the other women in the bar. He sure knew how to make her feel special back then. She wondered what had happened to that passion inside him. Does passion die? What happens when life gets in the way of a person’s hopes and dreams? She didn’t want to and couldn’t come to an answer. She just knew that they were in a different place in their lives now – she and Dan together, and each one separately. They had grown apart, not together. She imagined that him seeing a female singer would affect him. He was so hopelessly romantic, she thought. I guess it could be worse, she added. He was a good man. He worked hard and earned good money. He gave her anything she wanted – but recently there was something missing from him. He was searching for something. She hoped he wouldn’t need to go find a younger woman to replace her with. She didn’t think that would happen, he had his wits about him normally. But still, there was something fundamentally off with him recently, and she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Having fun?” She asked him.
“Yeah! You?” They had to yell over the music.
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