It was perhaps an odd — yet understandable — friendship. He was 30 years her senior, old enough to be her dad. Yet she was glad he wasn’t, as her track record with father-daughter relationships was abysmal, fraught with conflict and misunderstanding.
She knew he understood from the moment she really started to pay attention to his lyrics. Even the ones that weren’t profoundly personal still carried a quality that allowed the listener, if they read between the lines and paid attention to the nuances of language and tone and breath, to construct an idea of who he was. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak, but it was there for those who were willing to listen closely.
She wrote to him when she was 18 or 19, a long letter crafted carefully one night at her desk in the dark (save for a lamp) as she listened to an old cassette tape that her dad used to keep in the truck. It took several hours, a time period over the course of which the lined paper acquired many scratched-out words and splotches of blurred ink from the warm, salty tears that inevitably came with composing something so charged. She recalled there being a container of fruit-on-the-bottom fat-free sugar-free blueberry yoghurt on the desk next to her, frozen rock-hard in the freezer for several hours and eaten carefully with a plastic knife so as to make it last as long as possible. She felt both ridiculous and giddy about the letter, spilling thoughts and feelings onto the paper that she’d never shared with anyone before, confident that he’d somehow understand them.
She never sent it. Partly because she didn’t have an address, but also because who on earth sent something like that to someone they’d never met in person?
It was about six or seven years later, a day after her 25th birthday, when the friendship became real. Eventually she told him about her letter, albeit not in detail because it still seemed a little odd. She’d been right, though; he understood. It was the sort of understanding shared by those who’d lost pieces of themselves somewhere along the way, and had tried in vain to fill the holes with slow, well-intentioned self-destruction. Often too many words didn’t seem necessary, and she didn’t like to burden him with them anyway. The hugs and the “Hey, kiddo,” kept her going. And the music, of course. Always the music. She liked to imagine that someday she’d plant ‘A Row of Small Trees’ of her own.