You had just finished your performance on a large stage at the university. Now you sat in the back, your unwieldy black case lying comfortably across your legs, and an old carpet of yours doubled over itself beside you. 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.” You then said, “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. Glowing now, like we were in the middle of call and response improv, you replied, “Yeahess’ss,” in some otherworldly way, laying bare the sinuous nature of an often overdressed word (yes) of secluded syllables. I’d learned early in this on-again off-again road trip that some people have a feel. That feel sets the tone, and the tone creates a mood. “Every feeling you’re throwing 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 without talking. Our call and response became a dance of postures. You seemed to enjoy the air. You had a light smile like you were enjoying a moment from your concert in retrospect. I dangled my arm out the window, enjoying the wind on my shoulder and face. You lowered the window further and rested your head back. This was the perfect moment to propose and plot an evening caper with you. It would be a meeting of the minds beginning with music, of course. Moments passed, but my fantasies did not. I adjusted into the restful but anticipatory silence enjoyed by a host before introducing another round of musical compositions. And then I asked, “You wouldn’t mind playing another set for us, would you?”
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 taking 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.”