Remembrances

read the suite in order

by Evan Guilford-Blake

Butterfly  

I met Robby when I was twenty; that was, oh, a lot of years ago. He was older, pretty near the same age I am now, and he’d been around the block more than a few times. Me too, even then. But goin’ around the block was what you did in those days, what ev’ryone did. It was 1983. Hey, didn’t none of us know no better, yet. 

Ondine introduced us; she was his roommate back then. ’Dine and me, we met at this club, a bar, really, where she danced and served drinks. There were lots of places liked that in New York, back then. Still are, I guess.

They couldn’t’ve been more different. ’Dine, she was big and black and beautiful. Solid as a rock, fierce as a mama mountain lion protectin’ her cubs. Robby, he was beautiful too, but he was a butterfly: small, light, delicate. Seemed like he floated. Like music; like his music. And, he was a cowboy (and before you break out the Brokeback Mountain jokes, he never set foot west of the Poconos). But, y’ know — we both were: I mean, I always liked boots and chaps and spurs and leather vests. And ropes; and – stuff. And he really liked me – in them.

Bein’ a piano player, the other thing he really liked was, of course, music. All kinds but especially the music he wrote. So did I, once I learned a little. Once he taught me. A lot. First time I met him, he was playing at the bar where ’Dine worked. Blues. Not that he had the blues — I was dark; Robby, he was all light — just, he favored the music. Me, I grew up on C&W. Moved to New York when I was nineteen and didn’t know much of anything else. 

I was just sitting there this one night, nursin’ my beer, waitin’ for some guy or other to ask me if I was lonely, and listenin’. Likin’ what I heard. Ragged, but smooth too, and sad, and mellow. Blues on a piano? You get to hear in between the notes, the music that ain’t there, the empty spaces where the music comes from. And ’Dine came up to me after the set, asked would I like to meet him, the piano player. I said, sure.

She introduced me to Robby, and Robby introduced me to that. The music, I mean. But, like I said, to a lot of other things, too. I guess you could even say love. Being in love. Didn’t take long. Robby was the kind of guy a lot of people fell in love with. I was one of the lucky ones, though. He fell in love with me, too. Couple months after we met? He asked me to move in with them. Him and ’Dine, I mean.

I came home this one night, maybe a month after I moved in. Ondine was there, dancin’. Not the kind she did at the club, but this slow, swayin’ kind, the kind I didn’t really understand. Robby was playin’ his piano, and he just raised his one hand, real slow, to his lips. “’Dine’s dancin’,” he mouthed. I stood there and listened. Watched. Wondered. Somethin’ about ’Dine’s movement, the shadows it made that were risin’ in the loft and mixin’ with the sound of the music. It all, I don’t know, kinda captivated me. I think I held my breath.

He kept playing till he finished it, three or four times; and ’Dine kept dancin’. Big smile. On both of ’em. And when he finished, they smiled at each other and he got up and came over to me.

“That’s for you,” he whispered. “Like it?”

“Yeah,” I told him. 

“Good,” he said. “I hoped you would. I call it ‘Anthem for a Cowboy.’”

And he put his arms around me and held me in this, kind of dance, kind of swaying. And Ondine, she danced around us.

“Like a cocoon,” he murmured. “My little butterfly.”

Course, he was the butterfly. His wings were his music, Ondine says. Yeah. But, y’ know, butterflies don’t fly very long. But he still – visits me. In the dark; and when Iget darkest. I can feel him, his arms. We sway. And, I still got the music; his music. Maybe it’s not the same. But I still got that.

end









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