he blew at blowing
He was just listening to the radio. Not thinking about anything in particular and humming along to the Blues Traveler song. Humming and listening and then hearing and then absorbing and then freezing in his tracks. Listening without a care in the world up until the part of the song where the harmonica starts to play.
Harmmmmmonica. The sound of it.
Sweet merciful heavens, he used to play the harmonica and then he’s freezing. Frozen by douche chills head to foot. A douchsicle.
Where was this compassionate God when he used to play harmonica? He remembers despite not wanting to, flashbacks like little tremors in his head. His old friends, the guitar players, seeing him coming and rushing to stand and throw their guitars into their cases and flee before he could make his way over. Fumbling in his pocket to grab his harmonica before they could depart.
Harmonica from the Greek harm (to ruin) and onica (people’s enjoyment of music). He sees them now so clearly, the faces recoiling in disgust and annoyance. Why didn’t he see them then? What twisted influence did the harmonica have over him that made him blind to the effects of his exhaling and sucking and twisting his tongue but mostly his sucking? Such was his level of sucking that he sucked the very irony out of sucking at sucking.
He remembers buying a large harmonica (as if the small ones didn’t do enough damage) that was double sided. Different keys. One side he would play when he wanted to sound as if a elk was being violated in the rectum by a wire brush, the other for when he wanted to sound like the same elk having his testicles stepped upon by a steel-toed boot. Better know in the mouth harp community as the keys of c and d.
Of everyone who had the misfortune of being within earshot of his wind instrument it was the guitarists for whom he felt the most regret. His friends who had toiled for years to get to the place where they could squat under a tree or sit on some steps and pluck away at some folk song and have pretty girls gather like moths at the flame to bat their eyes and sigh long sighs and his friends would play and the sun would shine down and the birds would respectfully clam up and all was right in the universe.
And then he would come rattling forward with his pockets filled with harmonicas. By that time he had half a dozen of different makes and models as if someone would have a preferences what caliber bullet they wanted shot into their skull.
The Blues Traveler song went on and on and the memories tormented him like lapping waves, eager to thrust themselves upon him the moment the last flashback retreated.
His friends the guitarists, and they were his friends which made the memories that much more painful, would try and play songs where there was no hint of an opportunity for a harmonica part. They would hurry through bridges and skip entire sections or make up words or talk or stop playing all together until the danger of him starting in on a harp would pass. He would sit patiently like a musical sociopath suggesting Neil Young songs with harmonica parts and the assembled females would wrinkle their noses and make it known to everyone but him, only because of the mania that somehow took hold of him and made him oblivious to the obvious dislike of any noise even resembling a harmonica shown by others, that they disliked the harmonica and the terrible effects it had on any song that had the bad luck to be on the receiving end of such accompaniment. He heard them now, why didn’t he at the time? In his head he heard it all as clear as a bell. They would wonder aloud if he knew that little spit bubbles were forming on the other side of his harmonica and if he didn’t quit playing they were going to have to throw up behind a nearby tree. He would smile after a particularly noxious harmonica solo, without realizing that he’d cut his lip somewhere in the middle of repeatedly slamming the little steel instrument against his mouth and his teeth would all be red and his lips swollen and chaffed, and then wonder why none of the girls would try to slide up close and ask him about his influences and how often he practiced to become as good as he was.
Finally John Popper finished up Run Around and he was able to break free from the terrible trance and exhale. He hadn’t touched a harmonica in ten years but he felt a little tingle run up and down his spine at the thought of just how stupid he must have looked playing one. He saw it all so clear now. Only old black men look cool playing harmonicas.
That’s when Middle of the Road by The Pretenders started. He wasn’t getting off that easy this time.