I met Jimmy in an art class of all places. He didn’t take music for his creative elective. Oh no. He would spend the rest of his adult life in and out of various, failing bands, but when we were in high school he chose to take art for his freshman elective.
He was awful.
Jimmy scratched and fumbled and drew yin yang signs for his final project. I met him when I was in my element, and I laughed and laughed and laughed at his misfortune because he always could laugh at himself.
I’ll never understand why he was more understanding toward me when I crossed the borders and came into his world.
Years later, when we were lovers, we were convinced that the thing to do was to perform in our high school pop concert together. I think he was convinced -- I was just falsely enthused. I was awful. He played his guitar and I backed him on my battered viola, playing the music he’d transcribed from an accordion piece. When I was frustrated he told me it was ok. When I was terrible he taught me to shift.
It wasn’t until many years after that I realized that his telling me that the notes were just components of a chord was just like me telling him about the form in a still life, or about the shadow that makes a woman’s face. That we were both crossing into places we couldn’t master – only sit back and enjoy, and try to learn enough to be able to sympathize.
I pushed him too far once in our drawing class. I pushed him too far and he lashed out almost violently. That’s when I found out at last that his laughs were an attempt at self-defense, and that he was there because he wanted to learn. That his painful scribblings were really his best and that they were far more painful to him than to look at. That he was so very afraid to try.
That maybe he was trying for me.
We learned to live in our parallel worlds. We learned that parallel worlds never cross, but they look lovely from the other side. I drew a self-portrait and made it a present. One day, he wrote me a song. We learned so much in those years -- more than I would have ever imagined, as a boy who couldn’t shade and a tone-deaf girl with a bow.