Tonight, after a surprise early-release from work and a fabulous dinner with former coworkers of years past, I headed back towards home from downtown Boston by way of Park Street. It was quiet and muggy in the underground station, and by the lack of people standing around, I correctly guessed that I had just missed my train. A beautiful, familiar tune began to fill the air. The college-aged musician producing it was sitting on the floor next to a collection cube with a paper sign. “Textbooks: $479”, it read. I was his only audience for the duration of the song, and I nodded along in melodic familiarity.
When he finished, I clapped. He smiled. “That was great. What is the name of that song?” I asked.
“Spanish Romance,” he replied.
“I’ve never known the name of that song my entire life. Thank you for that. What are you going to school for?” I inquired.
“Political science,” he said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out $7 to add to his cube. $472 to go for next semester.
I began to think about my sister. She once was a bright-eyed, civics-minded student. She did it much to the chagrin of our extended family, with legitimate worries on how her studies in government would pay the bills. They did make her a living. She proved them wrong.
As a teenager, she decided she wanted to learn guitar. Inheriting a vintage Yamaha on permanent loan from our aunt, she took a few lessons and proceeded to self-teach her way to competence. As she was fumbling through fundamentals, she loved to play the beginning of Spanish Romance frequently. I do not think she ever finished learning it, though. There were too many tunes to play, and those eventually turned into many beautiful tunes she wrote. I would always rap loudly on the wall that connected our rooms when I heard certain songs being played for the umpteenth time, but I could never do it when she played Spanish Romance. I always had a soft spot in my heart for that song, even though she or my aunt would never finish it for whatever reason. I only realized I had never heard the end of the song when I ran into the buskers at Park Street or Harvard Square, playing the dulcet resolution of the major-tonal second section, and the recapitulation of the minor-tonal first section. I had been left in the dark past the beginning of the song for years.
I turned to the young busker. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” I said. “You’re great at it, and it sure as hell beats a more normal way to earn money for books.” He thanked me, and asked me if I had anything in particular I wanted to hear. I shook my head, and he went through a repertoire of classical guitar and popular rock songs until my train arrived.
She is going back to school in a few weeks too, for another graduate degree after winning another prestigious fellowship. We are so proud of her. And just last weekend, in Riverside Park, the love of her life gave her what could be called her second-most important ring, set with a beautiful, character-filled black diamond. Things will never be the same again, but at the same time, they will only be better. I can be assured of that by the fact that her spark of never-ending curiosity is still bright, so bright that it has given her soulmate the same inspiration and fervor for life that she has. They are a fantastic pair.
I don’t know if she’ll ever finish Spanish Romance, because she is moving on to bigger, more important things, but perhaps maybe I will.