The first time I saw the fiddle, it must have been brand new, or nearly. We were both new to the band, him as a musician, me as audience. And dancer.
It’s the kind of music that demands all your attention when you’re dancing. Songs in things like 17/12 time, with half-improvised breaks and bridges and plenty of competition between the band members to keep things fresh from show to show. Every song a new rhythm. Every bar a potential about face.
You can’t think about this stuff. You’ll fall behind. You have to watch, and you have to guess where it’s going next. You can’t be drunk, either. A drink is fine–it keeps you from trying to think when you shouldn’t–but too many and you’ll be lost, only good for pogoing like too many people in the crowd. No good for dancing.
Watching the stage, it would have been impossible to miss the fiddle. Electric fiddle, electric blue. Almost as many pedals as there were on the guitar.
There was the constant question of when the mass of black, curly hair would finally get caught up in the bow or the strings, but it never did. The other question was how such virtuosity on that tiny instrument came out of such huge fingers. They couldn’t really move that quickly and precisely, could they? Why, that pinky ring was big enough to fall off my thumb without help. I know. I tried it.
The thing about watching the band that closely, about dancing when everyone else is moshing (well-placed, unpredictable elbows can almost always buy you room), is that the band notices you too. Something about the grin when you’re following a new song and doing it well maybe. Or just knowing that you’re there because of what they’re doing, not because you just wanted to get out.
He called me “Grandma” because I told him I didn’t date younger men. It fell into the category of silly lies, since we were two weeks apart in age. Still, it did what it was supposed to do, and gracefully. I don’t know that we ever talked about anything that wasn’t related to music or the band. We had a lot more to say to each other when we were a little further apart, separated by the edge of a stage.
Then, after a few years, the other fiddle player came back, and the blue fiddle went home. It wasn’t the same. The other guy was good, but…well, it was just a fiddle.
I’ve seen the blue fiddle only once since then. It wasn’t such a uniform blue anymore, worn to the wood in spots, and the hair was gone as well. The fiddle was still electric, though, and we still didn’t have to talk, just play and watch and dance. If the rest of the band had remembered how to play together, it could have been perfect. As it was, it was almost enough.
Still, not quite. At least (at least!) one day of every year, I miss that electric blue fiddle terribly.
Today is that day.