His playing changed recently. There was more electric guitar than before. For years he was drawn to finger picking and beautiful harmonies. The acoustic was a self-contained instrument. He did not need a band to play gigs or make songs.
But things were different since he sobered up. Hours were spend where the only thing he wanted to do was bend notes. He wanted the feel of the steel strings biting into his fingers. It was not about the music anymore, it was about feeling the pain. Joseph used anything to distract him from wanting to drink. He bought a twenty foot cable and wandered around the house. He paced back and forth, digging his fingers into the strings, going wildly out of tune, but bending the notes until he got the pitch he wanted.
He wanted it loud. As loud as it could be. Loud enough to make everything go away. It was cathartic and spiritual. But not something that would make money. Not something he could sell to television.
Joseph set the guitar down and scribbled out some chords in his notebook. The student would be there soon and they would want to learn to play the way Joseph was known for. Joseph’s fifteen minutes of fame kept him earning a living and his was grateful for that. It was not the life he would have chosen, but it was better than it could have been if he had sobered up without a way to earn a living at all.
He walked upstairs and saw the dead bamboo in the vase near the window. Joseph had never been able to take care of plants or pets. There were many times he was glad he did not have children since he was sure he would have forgotten about them as well. I have been sober for two years, he thought, and I still kill everything I touch.
Scattered on the floor were his book on Buddhism. There were strange tantric treatises mixed in with basic instructions on mindfulness meditation. He enjoyed reading sutras, and even liked the repetition in them since it reminded him so much of writing songs. Joseph sometimes chanted them and put them to music in his head. Need to tidy this mess up, he thought. He picked up the books and stacked them in the corner.
Next to the bookshelf was a framed picture of the Buddha. Next to that was an even larger picture of Bob Dylan. They both had their place in his heart.
There was a knock at the door and Joseph opened it to find, not the student he expected, but Crystal. “Hey buddy,” she said.
“What are you doing here?” he said.
“I need money,” she said. She brushed past him into his living room. He felt her breasts brush against his arm.
“I don’t have any money,” he said.
“Well, duh,” she said. “But I was wondering if you wanted to do some gigs. My manager lined up some festivals for me to play and I need a guitar player. We’d make more if it was the two of us.”
Joseph felt an ache in the pit of his stomach. He missed her, but his life always seem to turn sideways when she was around. This was the first time he had seen her since he was sober. “What kinds of festivals?” he said.
She winked at him. “You know, the hippie circuit. Hempfests. Bluegrass. Folk shit. Country Fair. I’ve got the itinerary. He wanted me to hire a whole band, but we’ll make more if we just do a duo. And I know you can handle it.”
“You know I’m sober now, don’t you?”
“I heard the rumors,” she said. “You’re still doing that?” Her eyes searched him up and down. “I can’t see it. Seriously, you’re no more an alcoholic than I am.”
That’s the truth, he thought.
“So, you’re a drunk. So fucking what? You in or out?”
He sighed. Joseph needed the money. “I’m in,” he said.
Crystal smiled broadly and ran up to him and hugged him. He felt her breasts up against his chest and the whiskey on her breath. God help me, he thought.