Chapter 11: Gypsy
The Gypsy walked into a Pub open mic while I was performing. He was with two other musicians I knew. Our eyes met. Whenever I would steal a glance at him, he was intently watching me.
I was finally feeling free, finally feeling confident. After my set, I sat down at the bar to order another drink and waited for him to approach me. I knew he would.
"Hey, you're really good." His smile wide. His thick dark hair bouncing as he nodded his head.
I smiled back, "Thank you. I appreciate it." I turned my attention to Jube, "Can I have another green tea, Jubie?"
"No, like you're really good. Those are your songs?"
He wasn't pushy, just persistently complimentary. We made chitchat about my music. I got tipsy and told him about the open mic I was hosting. He wanted me to write it down. I took out my pen and began drawing it in large decorative letters across his forearm. I began to get very invested in the design. "I'm going to take a picture of this, okay?"
"You're going to use it to advertise online, huh?"
"Of course!" I smiled.
By the time he left, I was left wondering why he hadn't at least asked for my phone number. I did say something about whether we would meet again... "If you want to reach me, you will ask one of these guys," he answered with some skepticism, pointing at the two musicians with whom he had entered.
Mr. Mister was the host there that night. We didn't say anything to one another. By then, his girlfriend had sent me a message informing me that I was not supposed to be talking to him if I wasn't talking to her.
Soon there after, after never knowing we lived in the same town for three years, I ran into him at the open mic. A little miffed with how he had left things, I tried to ignore him. He approached me at the bar and offered to buy me a beer. I declined.
"I like you, Echo."
"I like you too, Gypsy." We both smiled, hiding our teeth.
A moment later he came back to tell me he had to leave suddenly. Again, he left, a mystery.
Bethie was in town. Her baby nephew was just born... Somehow I was invited to the baby shower. "Are they registered somewhere? What do they need?"
"Honestly? Probably cash... They're just moving out on their own," Bethie answered.
"Easier than going shopping. Cool. I'll see you there."
I bought melons, berries, and grapes; cut and stirred them into a fruit salad. This was not my first visit to their parents' house, but this was the first time I was there when Mr. Mister was. I accepted a beer and sat in the living room, chatting with Bethie and her best friend.
When I had started taking Reiki classes over 9 months prior, Mr. Mister had been the first person that I practiced on. He was laying on the floor, making faces at me and moving... Not like in class, where we would lay very still for one another with our eyes shut. I was nervous. I thought I must not be doing it right and quit.
Then within a month I grew more confident. One night I went down to the open mic and saw Mr. Mister sitting with his baby brother, looking very serious. I said hello to both of them took a seat on the other end of the bar. By the end of the evening, Mr. Mister asked if he could come over. I said yes.
When we got to my place, we sat on the couch and watched TV. I felt weird, like I did not want to say the wrong thing.
"So, I'm going to be an uncle again," he said.
I looked at him, "Oh... Billy and Milly."
"Well, they have been together for years. They were going to eventually..."
Somehow I asked him if I could give him Reiki again. He agreed and laid down. This time he did not try to distract me. He did move sometimes, but I kept going, from head to toes. He was sleeping before I reached his feet. Rather than wake him up, I brought him a blanket. I went to bed.
"I'd like to try Reiki some time, if you have time," Bethie said. "I have heard good things."
"Yeah, gladly. It did wonders for me," I smiled.
Milly brought the baby around. We took turns holding him. As he laid in my arms, I felt the palm of my hand against his tiny back heat up. Not like body heat, like Reiki heat. For a moment I worried I should pass him on to the next person, like I might be doing something wrong. But I calmed myself down. Even if something was happening, it could not be something bad. I was not intending to give him anything, and if he wanted something from me, he was welcome to it.
Later Bethie and I played with her 12 year old niece. At one point, Mr. Mister's dad brought out a banjo and played. After a while, all the party attendees under forty wandered outside to smoke. I stayed on the couch, content. One of the gals I recognized from their FFolk campsite came in to grab another beer, "Hey, you should come outside where there are people your age," she said.
"Nah. I'm good here. I'm leaving in a few minutes anyway," I answered, looking at my phone. I pulled the trigger. I sent a text to one of the musicians who had been with the Gypsy, asking for his number. When I got an answer, I said my goodbyes and went home.
The Gypsy did not have a car. He walked the mile from his house to mine with his Martin guitar in his hand, puffing unfiltered Camel cigarettes every step of the way. He preferred we play in my backyard, where he could continue to smoke as we played.
It turned out, to my chagrin that the Gypsy seemed to be the one man visiting me genuinely only interested in me for my music. The reason he had been so elusive was because he had a girlfriend. Fine, whatever. He was still fun to play music with... He was able to show me how to place my fingers easily. He played many different lead styles than Charlie had ever displayed, despite my requests. But the Gypsy had no desire to perform on stage.
"I like recording," his smile revealed sharp, tobacco-stained teeth.
Recording. Charlie had told people that he was going to have me record an EP by Christmas. I was starting to feel managed somehow... the Gypsy would confirm for me that Charlie was trying to play the part- to become my producer, manager. It irritated me. I was writing the songs. I was doing the promoting. I was booking the gigs. He was showing up, coming to rehearsals once in a while... Why would he consider himself my manager? I could not even get him to alter the country-theme he was putting on all my music.
As the Gypsy and I spent more time together, I became more resentful of Charlie's presence in my life- beyond our musical collaborations. Now that Mr. Mister had moved on, I had no interest in hanging out beyond rehearsals and writing sessions. It was difficult to tell Charlie without hurting his feelings.
The spring I broke up with Rolex, my best friend in New York, Ann got engaged. I asked Mr. Mister to be my wedding date. He very quickly said yes but failed to follow through. When the wedding came, I realized he was not going to go with me. Rather than becoming angry, I accepted Charlie's offer to come with me. He explained how we could work on music during the drive. I was glad to not be driving alone, in case I drank too much at the reception.
When we arrived the other bride's maids looked at him and me. Then within earshot they began their interrogation, "Is he your boyfriend?"
"No, he's my guitarist."
"But he likes you right?" One retorted.
"Of course he likes you," confirmed another.
I wanted to tell them they were extremely rude. Then I remembered I was in New York.
The one good thing that came out of it was that I was able to perform a song at a the reception, with Charlie accompanying me on guitar.
A year later, Charlie asked me randomly, "What are you doing June 9th?"
Thinking that he perhaps was booking us a gig, I answered, "No plans yet."
"Great, then you can be my wedding date."
"Remember my good friend who passed away when I was younger... Well, his little sister is getting married, and... there will be an open bar."
Wow, no way out. "Oh, cool."
I tried to tell myself, Be nice. You will have a nice meal, some drinks, meet nice people. Just enjoy it and stop making it a big deal. Hell, maybe you should stop judging Charlie and give him the opportunity to prove you wrong.
When the day came, I put on makeup, a nice dress, and heels. He picked me up, took me thirty minutes away to the other cute little town where the reception was being held- We did not have to attend the actual ceremony.
Outside the hall door, we met the bridal party, smoking cigarettes. Charlie bummed one from his brother. Charlie never had his own cigarettes.
For a moment I found myself alone with his brother and soon to be sister-in-law, "So, at our wedding next month you'll get to sit on stage with the bridal party."
What? "Cool," I tried to smile. Do they think I'm going to be Charlie's wedding date to their wedding too? Does Charlie think so?
Inside, we ate appetizers until the dining area was opened. Charlie got himself a drink while I was in the restroom but not one for me. I hesitated. I didn't bring any cash. Did I need tip money? Better to just ask Charlie to be a gentleman.
"Hey Charlie, would you mind getting me a drink?"
"You want me to get you a drink?"
While I waited his brother approached me again, "Is he getting you a drink?"
"Yeah... I asked him."
"He doesn't always think of these things."
"Yeah. It's okay. I'm used to being training wheels." I'm going to need a double.
The food was tasty. The people were nice... But as the dancing was only just getting started, Charlie began to cut into me. He was telling me, "You need to face reality. He used you," and other such useless sentiments.
I tried to tell him to stop, but it was too late. The tears were flowing, and I was running out the door.
During my hundred days, O'Malley and I crossed paths a few times at the Pub open mic. Then we ran into each other at a coffee shop open mic. He recognized me and asked me to accompany him on a Mr. Mister tune. I did. After talking a bit, we realized we had met more than a year ago at a show his band had played with Mr Mister's.
The coffee shop was having a songwriting contest. O'Malley suggested we should collaborate. I was willing. We were having a good conversation, but I had to run to a venue in Manayunk to buy a loop pedal from a friend. I invited him along to keep me company, "I'll buy you a beer."
He accepted, and we continued chatting about songwriting methodology. He told me about his experiences working in theater and now working as a theater teacher. I disclosed to him that my songwriting topic had largely been limited to Mr. Mister at this point. I felt more comfortable being open, so he would have some context for the lyrics I might potentially write with him... or help me learn how to escape this box.
In Manayunk, I unexpectedly saw Mr. Mister. He saw me buy a beer for O'Malley, and I couldn't help but wonder what he thought about my buying a drink for an engaged man.
My collaboration with O'Malley never blossomed. He became very busy with wedding planning, and it became too difficult to coordinate schedules.
I was pacing the streets, scrolling through my cell phone book in search of a friend to come pick me up. There was no one. Nick recommended a round about trip on the trolley, into the city, back out to the burbs by train, but I didn't have any cash on me. It never occurred to me to need it that night.
I was crying loudly when I suddenly ran into O'Malley and his fiance. "Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?" Shit! You said that out loud. Idiot! You're a crazy person, and everyone sees it!
"Hey. How are you? You okay?" He asked.
"Yeah, no... fine. I'm sorry. I'll see you later." I walked back towards the hall. When I ran into Charlie outside, I told him to take me home.
He complied but continued to say hurtful things to me during the trip.
I'm done. Something has to change. This man is my band mate. That's all... I'm not sure if I even want that anymore. Froyo once told me that Charlie had claimed that he and I cuddled. Not true. Once I did tell him- when we were very drunk and high and I was depressed over Mr. Mister, "Okay, Charlie, if we are fifty, and neither of us are married, let's do it." I'm so sorry I ever let him hear such words fall from my mouth. I have an awful sense of humor.
One day the Gypsy invited me to visit his dad, who also played guitar. He and the Gypsy's stepmother were wonderful people. They had intriguing life-stories that involved many career changes. They had been good friends for over twenty-five years before they decided, in their golden years, they would prefer to live as man and wife.
I adored watching them interact; the way they checked in with one another, the way his dad would periodically leave the Gypsy and I alone, saying, "I'm going to sit with my lady for a bit. Continue. I'll join you again later."
The Gypsy and I were getting closer. We were beginning to open up about our personal lives. He was beginning to reveal that everything was not well at home, with his girlfriend. He entrusted me with deeply personal secrets, justifying her undesirable behavior towards him. He said he wanted her to be better, but after six years, he still couldn't figure out what to do.
I tried to keep my advice to myself... I tried for many nights, as he would visit late and play guitars with me after she was sleeping.
Then one night I felt particularly vexed by Spectacle, I came home and asked the Gypsy to come over and ease my mind with music. He tried to remind me I needn't let this guy get under my skin so easily. But suddenly I found myself digging into the Gypsy's quandary. "You can't help her. You're enabling her. If you want to be with her, you need to let her go get better and come back to you."
"It isn't that simple."
Then something strange occurred to me. I think I need you right now. Then you can let her go. I heard a voice inside of me, urging me to kiss him.
We were disagreeing. Then a dirty trick fell out of my mouth, "If you're happy with her, what are you doing here with me in the middle of the night?"
He paused. He thought a few minutes, bobbing his head. "You're right. I like you. I have to go home."
He left. We did not speak or call or text. In another month, I moved to the city.