We’d known each other, worked together in the record store, for nearly six months already. By the time she came to my apartment, we’d been dating a few weeks.
She knew, of course that I played guitar, and she knew, of course, that I worshiped Gordon Lightfoot. When she asked me to play guitar for her, the first time this request would be made, I think she might have guessed that I’d play a Lightfoot tune or two.
I did. Actually I think I played four or five. I snuck in a Neil Young song, “Helpless,” but I pretty much dedicated the entire set to my hero.
“The first time I saw you,” she said, “was at the Gordon Lightfoot concert.”
This had been happenstance. I’d not known her yet, but because she’d worked for the record store before, and because our district manager was hoping to lure her back into the fold, he’d given her a couple of tickets for the Lightfoot concert at the Dane County Coliseum.
I’d taken a friend of mine, who’d also come to the University of Wisconsin from the University of Hawai‘i for the graduate program in English. He was still working on his PhD. I’d stopped with the MA and gone to work at the record store. If I’d had three tickets, I would have invited his wife to join us.
“When I saw you with that Japanese man, I thought you were a gay couple.”
I laughed. I would have to tell my friend that one. I think he’d think it was amusing. Maybe.
“As I hope you now know,” I said, “I am not. Hence my finally asking you out.”
She sighed. “Yes, right, but I think, if you want to make any progress with the guitar, you’re going to have to start playing less Gordon Lightfoot, and more of everybody else. Diversify, you know?”
I sat there stunned. I felt as if she’d crushed my sacred shrine under her heel.
“Ah, well, perhaps you’re right,” I said, trying my best both to contain my anguish and to make it seem as if I actually agreed with her.
As I mentioned, this was the first time she asked me to play the guitar for her. I should add that this was the last time she asked, and believe me, I never volunteered after that incident.
Looking back on it, I do remember her, well enough at least to recall this little anecdote.
Contrast this with my memory of Gordon Lightfoot.
Not only do I remember him and his songs, but I have a great big poster of his Summertime Dream album cover on my wall.
Gordon Lightfoot lives with me. Others do not.