my name was on the case

i was learning guitar, mostly, because she thought i could. soon, my dad would gift her his beloved gibson, a fatality that would come right before the end. but we didn’t know that yet. our favorite thing to do was go barreling down PCH late at night, after hours, when malibu is both empty and finally full of something meaningful.

“you can play guitar you know, it’ll click one day like magic — like that guy clark song,” she said that night. she said that, or something like it, something that led to the realization that i didn’t know who she was talking about, something that made her realize i hadn’t heard “the guitar.”

so then she’s trying to steer her massive SUV down past zumirez, fiddling with her iPod and alternating between muttering in her molasses drawl about having to do everything herself and shrill giggling that she’s the one who gets to show him to me. then, the song comes on. we give it silence, electric. she spoke to me only by leaning into every curve as we thunder along that legendary highway, ocean dark and deep at the side.

later, when things got ugly with my dad, i’d drink in “hemmingway’s whiskey” like it really was a liquid. “bad enough for him, bad enough for me,” she’d say then. by the next year she’d gone back to alabama and everything got too tangled. i like to think about her playing my dad’s old guitar. sometimes i wish i could tell her what’s happened since — i’d love to hear her southern exclamations that aren’t quite swear words but function much better than them. but she’s gone, and now guy clark is too.

sometimes nothin works, sometimes nothin shines.

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