But If the While

But If the While I Think On Thee

Kevin McMullin

A new guy has moved into my bathroom mirror. I’m a little startled whenever I see him because I’m used to the old guy. The old guy boasted a beard. And let his hair grow long in a ponytail. This guy has his hair cropped close. At most his face gets a couple of days out from clean shaven. He’s got this weird looking snap thing anchored in the back of his skull. It’s a little creepy. You can only see it when he turns his head. I don’t feel like I know him well enough to ask him about it.

I’m having trouble connecting with this guy. He seems nice enough. He’s always there, every morning. Every night. When I smile he always smiles back. It would be so easy to start up a conversation.  I just can’t work up enough interest. I know how to do it, “Hey! Welcome to the neighborhood. Wanna have a beer some time?” But I keep walking away, and then… you know: the next time it’s even harder. And pretty soon it’s just awkward.

I miss the old guy. For one thing, he loved music. All kinds. We spent hours together listening to CDs, the radio… (We both liked to dance. Sometimes we’d cha-cha the chores together – boogie the broom, do-si-do the dishes – listening to each other’s favorites playlist, checking out the new tunes on line.) Or we’d play tunes ourselves. Classical. Folk. Jazz. All kinds of stuff. Other people would come over and we’d make a real party of it. Everyone dancing and singing along. The house was alive. It throbbed. I smiled a lot.

We were in a couple of bands together. Talk about intense. The rehearsals, the arguments over arrangements, the group dynamics… We went on the road, staying at motels and in other people’s living rooms, eating badly, putting miles on the car and not getting any exercise. We performed in coffee houses, schools, festivals. We even toured out of the country. We met crowds and crowds of people, made recordings, did stupid stuff and collected a cajillion stories. Get me started and I could tell them all night: The time we were playing on the street and a taxi drove up and a drunk fell out and told us to get in the cab with him; the gig next to the helicopter ride pavilion; the supper club where we accidentally tried to get people at a funeral to dance.  I could go on and on. We did a lot, the two of us.

This new guy? I haven’t heard too much music… I don’t think it’s his thing.

That old guy was there so many years. We’d really gotten comfortable with each other. I could always tell what he was thinking just by looking at him. He did the same with me. We knew each other’s moods. We had a real groove going.

But he’s gone now. I heard he had a brain tumor. Which kind of sucks. Because I really miss him.