Ruby’s head is down.
His hair is covering his sunglasses which are covering his eyes. He appears to be nursing a cigarette and a jack & coke but if we watch carefully he is replacing each repeatedly. His movements are so fluid we barely notice the cigarettes moving from pack to hand to mouth to ashtray. It just seems to rest in his mouth perpetually.
The conversation is pivoting and everyone at the table shifts position. Ruby remains still. Under his hair and sunglasses we can glean that he is not looking at anybody. He is not reacting. Everybody wonders whether he’s paying attention. We have all heard him recite a conversation word for word years after it occurred when we thought he wasn’t paying attention or was asleep. But we just don’t trust it. We have known from past experience that behind those dark glasses Ruby is present. Ruby is here, now. But he isn’t participating. For all of his silence his presence screams. He is thinking through a projector but his thoughts are made of emotions. There are no words.
There is some joking going on. Everyone cackles. Ruby doesn’t budge. Then a clever line. Under his hair Ruby’s lips dissolve into a grin. He is listening after all.
Realizing the reaction he has displayed, Ruby adjusts his position. He spreads his knees wide into a masculine territorial stance, claiming control, abandoning his previous distance and epicine posture.
He lights his next cigarette with enough deliberation to be noticed. Clearly he communicates angst. What did we say wrong? Is it that we managed to squeeze a grin out of him, or having too much fun while he is displeased? Ruby is not a man of many words but he is a man of many needs. His defense – what some refer to as his attitude – is “I don’t need anyone” “I don’t need anything.” And that stirs the silence.
But he is constantly filling needs. Smoking, drinking. Remaining still only to make a statement through the very shifting of his legs. Ruby doesn’t care. Ruby cares. Ruby doesn’t care. Ruby cares. Ruby is only at peace when he is doing something with his hands.
After the position shift he looks around the room. With his head still & hair down it’s hard to see his eyes shifting but I know he’s looking for something. I deliver. I can’t suggest a guitar. I can’t hand it to him. He will resist. “I don’t need this.” “I don’t need anything.” But his cigarettes are almost gone and his tension is almost cold. I know he needs it, and I know how to deliver it to him. I glance at the guitar on the wall behind him, subtly. Then I look away. Ruby doesn’t need to check for it. Now that I’ve looked in its direction, he remembers what is there, what he saw when he first walked in. He has everything memorized. With his back turned he knows what kind of guitar it is, what color, what type of strings, possibly what year it was made, and which rockstars have been most known for using that kind of guitar. He wants it, but he doesn’t want to make any requests. But the rest is up to him.
I resume conversation. I don’t trust Ruby to know what he needs but once he figures that out I can trust he will find a way to get it.
As we talk, he casually fakes oblivion, and unassumingly stands up, stretches, focuses on the guitar. His fingers are aching for it and my nerves are preparing. He might just noodle and practice scales. He might plug in and rip our hearts out. One never knows. But my heart is of no concern to me. If Ruby is satisfied momentarily – I will be at peace. I will have the chance to let my emotions wander. My emotions, my thoughts, my body language, will be in tune with the music but it will not be slavery. I will volunteer myself to the will of the music before it begins and as it moves me, controls and enslaves me, I will know that it’s a choice I made. I may feel I lack the power to unmake that choice at any time. I could leave the room, but that might hurt Ruby, confuse him. And I would never want to cause him any unnecessary confusion. But I know I have made the choice to let the music take me.
The only thing that enslaves me, erodes my will to refuse, captures me with force I can’t resist and never had the choice to resist, is Ruby’s body. His hair. His jeans. His lips. These enslave me, but the music allows me to abandon the idea of resistance. It offers a purpose, a focus for my vulnerability. A motion that everyone in the room shares. Ruby’s body has many women in a fix but at that moment, I was the only one in the room and it enslaved me, and I had to bear the brunt of its power alone.