“If you had to give up either socks or gloves,” I asked Celia last year, “which would you sacrifice?”
“If I had to?” she said. We watched a moth tap against a bank’s lighted clock. Finally, she looked at me. “Socks. I could still wear shoes against the cold.”
“If you could fly to Mars,” I said, “but you had to stay forever, would you go?”
Celia is a year older than I am and significantly taller. She fell on a patch of ice in March and broke her tailbone. “And I don’t even have a tail,” she said, and that was all it took for me to fall in love. If only I could make her feel the same.
Still I queried. “Okay: meat or vegetables, you have to stop eating one of the two. Which do you forego?”
Now I’m taking lessons in classical guitar from a man called Senhor Pereira, and there is something in his voice that tells me he is good at what he does. My progress is slow, but as I learn to hook my fingers on the strings, to pluck and tap against the balsam, Senhor Pereira clucks his tongue and hums along.
“What do you want from the guitar?” he asked the day I met him.
“To make a girl fall in love with me.”
He shook his head. “This,” he said, “I cannot do.”
“Well, I guess I’ll settle for Flamenco.”
“Good,” said Senhor Pereira. “This is how we hold the guitar against our knee—”
“Senhor Pereira,” I interrupted, “what is the purpose of music?”
He looked up to the ceiling. “I don’t know,” he said after a moment. “Really, I do not know.”
I do, though. This I know the answer to, but I’m not telling Celia or Senhor Pereira. This I know, but I’m not telling anyone at all.