When you first meet them, they will be charming. They play an instrument, or they can sing, or both, and that makes them godly in your eyes. Girls always want to date musicians. The idea of dating a musician is romantic in itself. You imagine they will write songs for you and sing them to you before you go to sleep. You imagine that when you get into a fight, they’ll travel great distances to find you, station themselves outside your bedroom window, and sing to you until you forgive them. You’ve imagined these things forever, ever since you were younger and wishing for love, and when you meet someone worthy of these tasks you think, huh. You look at their baby face, their soft or calloused fingers, their toned arms, and think, I could date a musician.
You’ll see them play a show, and that’s when you really fall. Their performance seems like it’s entirely for you, and in that moment it could be, even if everyone else in the audience feels the same way. It still could be just for you. Their voice carries across the club or bar that they’re playing at, and when they hit that note… Your heart has found a home in that note. They sit at that piano or they work that stage, and when they’re finished, they come back to you. Everyone wants to talk to them, praise them, connect with them, but they come back to you. Musicians will make you feel special that way, when they come back to you.
They are so witty. Whether it’s onstage into the microphone or in bed into your hair, they always seem to know what to say. They are a musician, good with words, lyrics, music, things that sound beautiful and still make sense at the same time. Wit and charm are what they do best. You’ve never met someone who seems to get you at every moment like this. Even if they don’t, they’re always willing to talk it through, to learn your side. They care about you. They say the things you want and need to hear. They will probably never not be witty. They have to be, for when they’re rocking Madison Square Garden someday, and for the people they need to charm to get there.
They are busy. You are busy too, but somehow musician busy is different than regular person busy, you’ve learned. They have sessions and practices, producers and band mates. Their time is precious, yet often they are late. Every time they are late, you are waiting, minutes, even hours, and they always apologize every time. They apologize until you are laughing and you’re not sure how they did that, get you to forgive before your heart really had a chance to feel it. They always manage to fit you in somehow. You grab Chinese food after their recording session and before their music theory class, and you hold hands over the free tea on the table, which is almost all the two of you can afford. Musicians are not rich, yet. They sing along to the top 40 wafting through the room, and you feel lucky. You think, I could stay with a musician.
Their love of words and music is infectious. Even the text messages they send you are lyrical. You talk for hours on the phone when you can’t be together (musicians travel a lot, you know), and your housemates give you weird looks when they notice someone’s singing to you over speaker phone as you work. They say they want to write a song for you. They write two. They sing about your eyes, your passion, and everything you never noticed about yourself before. They are a cliché of a musician and you love every second of it, for now. The two of you write a song together, about wars and human nature, coming up with lyrics and growing closer by the note. They lay in bed next to you, singing to you as their hand strokes your shoulder, and you know, I think I could love a musician.
You hang out with them backstage and chat up their “people.” Their drummer, their manager, their publicist, their assistant’s girlfriend’s mom. You can hold a conversation (your musician wouldn’t be with you if you couldn’t) and you think these people all like you. These people see how happy you make your musician, how you instantly calm them when a mic isn’t working or a space isn’t ready or they’re late for an important gig. When your musician goes off to do an interview or hang out with an attractive former pop star, you stay with their people, who talk to you, who offer you a drink, who are learning to love you. You hope they’ll tell your musician, hey, you should love her, too.
They are popular. Everyone wants their attention, and they give it, person by person, day after day. You are a priority when it works, but it doesn’t always. You can’t always be first pick. You are understanding about this. They are a musician, and if they want to be successful, this is how it has to be. They have to belong to everyone, even if you want them to belong to just you. There are moments when they do. There are moments when you are walking through the city at night linking arms, or laughing at the stupidest thing until you can’t breathe, and you know that no one but you gets these moments. You know that, at least a little bit, they belong to you.
You watch them onstage one night, a crowded room cheering them on, and suddenly you get the urge to hold them. This is your musician. When it’s over, you head to the backstage entrance and can say with certainty, “I’m with the musician.” You emerge into their zone and they hug you as the band smiles knowingly. They tell you to wait a second while they take care of something, and they disappear back through the stage curtain. You’re peaking through the thick red curtain, watching them work the crowd, and you think, I know I love this musician.
They can be flighty. They are traveling all the time, playing a show in Boston on Tuesday and then leaving for a writing session in Nashville on Friday. No matter how all over the place you seem to be, they always seem to be worse. They belong to their music, they belong to their cities — they don’t belong to you, not completely. Never completely. Maybe someday? They need someone who can understand that they won’t always be home. Someone who can say, it’s okay, I’ll see you soon. You can do that, if they want you to. It will hurt, it will always hurt, but life hurts sometimes, you’re learning, and they will always be back. If they want you to, you’ll be waiting, outside of Grand Central, in a café, outside a city park, on the edge of their bed — if they want you to. You hope they will come back, but somewhere inside you think, I could lose this musician.
They will have admirers. There will always be other people who want them. They are attractive and good with words, and they can talk their way into anyone’s life. You love this about them. It’s how they got you. But it’s hard to watch when you’re swooning over their big finish, and the girl across the table from you is too. Maybe she’s also a musician. Maybe they decide they’ll write a song together. Collaboration is good — it’s how things happen. It’s how things progress. In the music sense, of course. That’s what you tell yourself, over and over, as she stares at your musician.
They will start to get successful. More than just a handful of people will know their name. They will start to have less and less time. Their texts will get more sporadic, less personal. And who knows when they’ll respond. They are so busy. She’s so pretty. They have songs to write, songs that you will cry to. Even if no one knows their name yet, it feels as if they’re practically Michael Jackson with the lack of time they have. Maybe these times come in waves. Maybe it’ll end soon. Or maybe they’ll suddenly actually be just like Michael Jackson and never have a free moment again. You never know with a musician. Will they still make time for you? Will you fade into the background, just another friend they used to have, until you find your way into a spotlight as bright as theirs? You guess, you suppose, it depends on the musician.
The shows will start to feel different. He says, wait a minute, and he goes to find her. He goes back to her.
If they leave, they will leave you hard, and yet they will still know exactly what to say. Anguish was a word you could never take seriously until you realized it was real. That’s what you’re in when you look at them and know it could be over. You will feel as emotional as all of the songs they’ve ever written, and they will stay composed. Show ready. You get ready to say goodbye. You leave first, they say, because I don’t want to walk away from you. Their words sound like song lyrics, always. They always know what to say. They will leave because it’s too hard. They will leave because you don’t get it. Maybe they will be with the other musician, the one they wrote a song with. Maybe that’s what she wants. Maybe though, maybe they won’t leave — or at least, not forever.
In one life, your musician will love you forever. They will get famous, and people will worship them, and they will worship you for all the years that you’ve been there. They will have houses in Los Angeles, New York, Hawaii, and they will fly you to all of them for one-night sleepovers and cuddle sessions. They will be the world’s inspiration, and you will be theirs.
In one life, your musician will leave. They will find someone they think can handle it better — someone who doesn’t care as deeply, love as hard. Someone they can leave for weeks on end who doesn’t care. Maybe this is what a musician needs. Maybe this is what they all need. And maybe, it’s not.
Your heart will always know the answer — what it’s like to love a musician.