It was morning.
Three ducks hovered apart across the still surface of a bluish manmade lake.
Revy sat on a sun-bleached bench admiring the peaceful body of water he had come to at the heart of the small community college.
Sporting scruffy, dingy flannel, he hadn’t shaved in weeks, to where sparse splotches of beard had grown just past the point of always being itchy.
With his crusty old guitar resting light across his knees in tattered jeans, he might have passed for a college student from another time.
Jodie had needed the apartment for a meeting.
The results she had to show for her efforts meant there had been no real discussion as to if or why the place would go to her.
So Revy had set out at random to find his muse in nature.
Now slowly thumbing through the faded pages of his shabby PRACTISE notebook, he expected to find nothing.
There was no more 4-for-4 plan.
No more fumbling through others’ patterns and songs.
No more learning names of scales, or what dots and dashes scattered about lines were meant to mean in terms of tone and time.
None of it had ever mattered anyway.
Propping the book down beside him on the bench, Revy did both exactly what he felt like doing and its exact opposite.
He sat still and watched the colored water.
It was time to write a song.
It was always time.
It was way past time.
For however long he could remember, all that had remained in the wake of countless strategies was to reach inside and pull out what would have to be an instant hit . . . to snap fully alive at once and capture everything of the moment, and of his feelings, and of hidden meanings immediately recognizable to an entire generation as their own.
He suddenly realized he had not sung anything since the band’s big final gig.
His mind ambled along to catch up.
No real friendships left within the band, or any lasting fans without.
There was only Revy and his wooden sibling left sitting silent by some nice fake pond.
And was he really afraid to sing for the sake of students cooler than he who might pass by?
Could any of this be considered close to a life he might still want?
What had become of the sheer and naive, beautiful simplicity to how if he didn’t come up with something great (from nothing), then nothing would ever happen?
How many more months and years framed in madness, and now soaked in pill-fueled isolation, could he really hope to redeem with just the right mix of purposeful sound and effortless lyrical…?
He picked up the book again and rifled to a section near the back marked LYRICS.
Then stretching the rumpled page hard beyond open, he returned it to the bench.
What were lyrics supposed to be again?
What did he want to say?
Lost in hazy notions of iffy, unsure messages, Revy began to strum or pluck along lightly, absentmindedly moving a little outside the lengths of his standard windup runs until his guitar’s own lilt reached to join the light, steady lapping of the lake, bringing a soft, transcendent fixed-ness even as ducks and floating leaves all leant to the cheerful voice of dirty strings.
But only background music.
Something to soothe.
But nothing to call forth or show.
Certainly nothing he could sell.
And Revy couldn’t help but hear Dale there with him in the sound, one circling around like an elated tornado as the other kept steady as a boundary line . . . always the perfect blend of pleasant straights and playful jangles.
Not a care in the world, together, outside, as happy as…
Revy’s well-worn, heavy heart became a well logged to the brim once more by its most familiar storm.
Yet with squinting eyes and grimacing lips, he let himself be washed away this time without the usual fight.
And why not?
The band was gone, and Dale would never be back.
Their beloved boyhood dreams seemed doomed to stay forever stuck in versions of past future plans either locked away in Revy’s mind or lost to yellowing pages.
It was his reality, no?
Or maybe there had always been some sort of lingering musical spirit that would allow him certain moments of grace to approach and be merged with.
Maybe it really was poor old Dale’s ghost, drawn out of the grey by the other half of a forgotten favorite tune.
For however long, Revy played. And he wept, a disheveled man with an ugly guitar on a bench at a school near some ducks.