I was singing at the time.
I am getting used to her “hold it” as she tightens the focus and adjusts her shutter speed. I am beginning to learn to breathe down through my chest so that its expansion doesn’t ruin my pose. At the time i was just on Walnut street, though, with my extra black dress shirts slung over my shoulder.
So far Elise has mostly taken my picture while i’ve been playing guitar, or reaching for my guitar, or relaxing after having played my guitar. Last night was just me and the shirts, and a single red tie. Somehow the thought of it was a little threatening, as if i’m not worth photographing while i’m not running through my rock-star routine – which comes through alright in photographs even if it doesn’t sound up to par in person.
I needed to feel worthy of her photographs, and so i had my demo playing on my headphones during my walk to her room. I was really listening hard – wrapping my mind not around the lyrics and the guitars that are so familiar to be but around the arrangements that sprung up in the studio… the subtle changes i made to the songs on the fly that created the solid front they produced on the record rather than the random chance that they might turn out well when i play them live. I was wrapping my mind around the concept that i am worth listening to beyond the immediacy of my rhyming and strumming.
Somewhere inside of that thought i began to sing… not singing along with my record, but singing with it; adding harmony where i was too naive to place it when it was recorded, adding subtle changes in lyrics to deepen the songs that weren’t fully realized at the time. Just singing… singing out, singing loud …to songs that no one else on the street knew at all.
I’ve learned to turn off my peripheral vision in moments like that so as to ignore the bemused glances i draw from passers by, but i could hardly ignore the rumpled man on his ten speed bike keeping pace beside me. I am a jaded Philadelphian at best, and a guardedly hostile one at worst, and so when he motioned for me to take off my headphones i was hardly expecting anything other than him asking for directions or money. Possibly both. I slowed down a little, almost maliciously, since he would have an even tougher time maintaining balance on two wheels at such a slow speed. I offered him my attention.
“You should be a singer.”
Headphones back on, speed increased, and by the time he was out of my peripheral vision again i had paused just long enough to realize that i had said what i said not to put him off, but because i meant it. I was listening to honest proof that i am a singer, and was singing along. I am a singer.
Half a block later he waved again for me to take off my headphones. “I didn’t mean to be smart with you or anything, i just think you have a nice voice. You should sing.”
I replied with just as much ease as the first time: “I know. It’s just… that i am. I do. But, thank you.”
I am miles away right now, but she’s got my essence on paper right in front of her face.