Find a Conversation
|Wed, 02-21-2001 - 4:03pm|
Josephine Joan Bamberger, conceived at Woodstock, or so her mother tells her, was born 1970 (so she's 30 now), and named for Country Joe and the Fish and Joan Baez. Her mother and childhood friends call her Jo Fish. She was raised in a commune on a farm in Vermont for the first few years of her life, and then she and her parents moved to Boston where her father got his doctoral degree at MIT. Her father left for California when she was ten, to "sell out," according to her mother. Jo and her mother returned to Vermont. Jo discovered that she was musically gifted at an early age, and learned to play flute and violin. She went to school in New York, studying flute, and did a masters in San Francisco, where she resumed a cautious relationship with her father. She became interested in medieval and renaissance music, and moved to Denver with her then boyfriend Bill, where they founded Farnabye's Moonshine, a group specializing in early music and folk crossover.
Her work is the most important thing in her life. She lives alone, and enjoys solitude. She regards the members of Farnabye's Moonshine-Bill, with whom she is still friends and who is now married to their singer Marianne, Paul, and David, the newest member of the group-as her family, although she is still close to her mother. Outside of music, she likes cross-country skiing and reading. She is wary of intimacy, although she enjoys sex, and has no interest in a serious relationship.
Jo is about 5' 6", fairly slender, although secretly convinced that her bottom is too big, has hazel eyes, shoulder-length dark brown hair and fair skin which tends to freckle. She dresses casually, but likes to wear exotic, flowing clothes for performances.
I was in bed with my old flute teacher when the front door buzzer went off.
Normally I wouldn't have bothered to answer it, but I was expecting a Fedex about the Montreal gig, and Stan was at the pontification stage. He made vague tut-tut noises in mid-sentence as I got out of bed, and resumed his monologue, hands folded on his copious, gray-furred chest, as I left the room. I'd heard all his stories before, and he lost none of his pleasure in talking to an indifferent audience. His only objection was that I was walking around with no clothes on. Stan was of the generation which believed that a mistress, even one as occasional as myself, should own a negligee and a pair of fur-trimmed mules for intimate wear around the apartment.
"Yeah?" I said into the speaker.
"It's David. Are you busy?"
"Some. Give me half an hour. I'll meet you in the coffee shop."
"That, I suppose, was your young man," said Stan. "And now you're going to throw me out." He levered himself out of bed, wrapping a sheet around himself so that he resembled a rumpled Roman emperor. "Don't get old, dear, it's no fun."
"You always were an old fart," I said. "And aren't you supposed to be at a rehearsal soon? I expect Jennifer is getting worried about you." This was his latest wife, a wide-eyed flute graduate, even younger than me, who was either disillusioned enough, or naïve enough, to let him out without supervision.
After we'd both showered and I'd packed Stan into a taxi, I walked the few blocks up the street to the local coffee shop, one of the cutesy little businesses which had sprung to life in this recently gentrified neighborhood. It was a gorgeous day; one of those sudden warm spring days you get in Colorado when the temperature shoots up thirty degrees and everyone rushes outside wearing shorts, and spring flowers burst into bloom. David sat at an outside table, violin case and a cup of coffee in front of him, reading the newspaper. He looked up briefly as I arrived and went past him to place my order. Such a pretty man; fine, fair hair just beginning to recede, wide gray eyes, a short, pointed beard I liked to feel brush against my skin.
"Hi," I said, and gave him a gentle kick under the table. "What's up?"
"Hi. Sorry, I didn't realize you had a student on Tuesday afternoons." He started fiddling with a packet of sugar. "I just felt like seeing you, that's all."
"Well, I'm here." I watched him push sugar around on the table with a coffee stirrer, eyes downcast.
"Stan's in town, I see," he said, and looked directly into my eyes for the first time. "How is he?"
"Fine. I'm going to his concert tomorrow." I grab a napkin and scoop up the sugary mess on the table.
"Why, Jo?" he asked. "Why? You don't even bother to deny it."
"Why should I? It's nothing to do with you, David."
"Perhaps it is." In his clipped Boston accent it came out sounding snitty. He folded his arms and stared into his coffee.
"I don't think so." I leaned forward, elbows on the table. "You and I work together. Occasionally we get together after a gig; to relieve tension, was the way you phrased it the first time, David. Remember that? Really romantic. We don't date. We don't have a 'relationship.'" I waggled my fingers in the air, realizing that I hated this particular gesture.
"And you and Stan do?"
I thought about it. "Yes." There's a lot of affection there, an ease with each other, no need for promises or lies, an accumulated sweetness. Stan was the politically incorrect, old-fashioned kind of teacher, a dinosaur who liked to seduce willing young female students. To give him credit, if you weren't interested, he didn't pursue it. Either way, you'd learn a lot from him.
"He's old enough to be your father," David said, and slapped a hand onto the table, making me jump.
"Grandfather. Do the math."
"I'll see you at rehearsal." He stood up, grabbing violin case and newspaper and turned away.
I watched him load his instrument carefully into the back seat of his car and drive off. My coffee was getting cold and the sunlight of this early spring afternoon was beginning to fade. I picked up the cup, and went inside to put a plastic lid on it. When I was back outside I threw the whole thing into the trash, and made my way back home. The crocuses which I had admired earlier were now closing back into opaque, colorless stubs.
Back home, I avoided the bedroom with its unmade bed, and turned the lights on in the studio, fingered the glossy surface of my ebony baroque flute, stroked the satiny pearwood and boxwood of my recorders. Then I lifted my silver flute out of its velvet case, and fitted it together. I played a couple of scales and laid the instrument down on my music stand, not liking how I sounded, not liking how I felt.