My papa talk, your papa talk

He’s my age, maybe a little older. We’re a few feet apart in a tightly packed subway car, 8:45. He’s aged a lot in appearance since the last time I saw him, at the sandbox with our infants. I’m looking at him and it doesn’t seem like he remembers that, nor certainly not the brief time we spent playing music together many years ago.

He was young and full of confidence, creative rage and ego; with a giant crown of keratin-rich hair. Later his baby softened his heart and his voice. Now he looks nearly the same as his handbag, which has that overly distressed look that people will pay more for to avoid the actual time, work and experience in creating.

He wears fatherhood on the outside the way I feel it on the inside. That’s not even fair; I know the challenges he faces must be of a magnitude beyond what I can understand. I can understand when it nearly breaks you and you feel tired and alone; in a tunnel opposite the light end.

Maybe he does recognize me, and the forced intimacy of the rush hour run-in is too awkward to bear. He turns away just a bit to avoid direct eye contact. Maybe this is just a bad, sleepless week.

We weren’t ever friends; there was always some kind of transactional relationship that kept us from being peers exactly. I was a guest player or a customer. A sexual rival or a cultural one.

I don’t what his situation is now, only that he had a child with a beautiful, ironic name that belied the struggles to come, or perhaps called those struggles out. So I don’t know exactly what to silently wish him.

I recall that loud warehouse gig where we were all flying in sound for a moment in the middle of the night, lower my head and turn up one corner of my mouth. There may be another time when we meet in the quiet and I can greet him and say his child’s name to him; likely so.

Author: elmahboob

Bruce A. Russell, aka Ibrahim El Mahboob, is a composer and self-taught pianist. He studied at York University with James Tenney and Phillip Werren. He has composed music for the Madawaska String Quartet, McMaster Dancers and Modern Times Stage Company. He was host of Radio Music Gallery, and has written for Musicworks. His interests are in postminimalism, music of the African diaspora, and the intersections of technology, media and popular culture. Bruce lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.

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