You had just finished your performance on a large stage at the university. Now you sat in the back, your unwieldy black case sitting upright next to you on the seat, and an old carpet of yours doubled over itself lying comfortably across your legs. I went to turn the radio up before you spoke. It was ABBA.
I was sure you said, “It’s a wondrous night,” so I awkwardly replied, not really accustomed to using that word myself, “It is wondrous.” Then you replied, “Excuse me?”, as if I was the one who started in on conversation. “It’s a wondrous night,” I began again, this time like I really knew how to say wondrous. Musically now, like we were in the middle of call and response improv, you replied, “Yeahess’ss,” in an otherworldly way that seemed a result of some change in time, laying bare a rhythmic nature of that small word of apparently secluded syllables. I’d learned early in this on-again off-again ridesharing road trip there in that little cabin that people have a feel, and moods are co-created by such hidden vibrations even without the words — a two strings one sound kind of thing. Maybe it’s like ABBA said. “Every feeling you’re showing is a boomerang you’re throwing.”
We got a warm, light wind through the windows at about 25 mph, so we cruised at that speed for a while in a comfortable windy silence. The call and response became a dance of postures instead. You seemed to enjoy the air. You had a light smile like you were enjoying a special moment from your concert in retrospect. I dangled my arm out the window to feel the wind on my shoulder and face. You lowered your window further and rested your head back. This was the perfect moment to propose and plot an evening caper that would throw any other evening commitments to the wind. Just propose and plot — not even do. That alone would be a meeting of the minds. It would have to begin with music of course. Moments passed, but my fantasies about what our night could behold did not. So I adjusted into the restful but anticipatory silence enjoyed by a host before introducing another round of musical compositions and asked, “You wouldn’t mind playing another set for us, would you?” This was the show after the show, and the one you tell people about — forever.
You gave a breathy “Ha!”, and then with a wide, closed-mouth grin, you tilted your head in a customary way that seemed to say yes, of course, or why not. As if by magic, you produced the instrument without a sound and sat upon your carpet, seemingly without moving.
Despite the crow’s course for a destination set by my GPS, I felt as though we were beginning to drift. Riding that way was truly the only way to ride: a sustained zephyr on our faces, the vibrations of ancient strings like those whipping about, taking the wind into us.
“Sitar,” I said plainly. You played on for a few minutes. “Set-,” you stressed, correcting, and after allowing a natural repose. Then again, in a kind, musical voice, after plucking once more in way that seemed to crack the ether wide open, you enunciated the full name like the instructor to a young student, “Setar.”