On August 13, 1979, classical guitarist Andres Segovia returned to perform in Montevideo, Uruguay, where, decades earlier, he’d lived in exile from the Spanish Civil War. His concert that night did not live up to the high standards Segovia maintained even in his very old age.
Tonight he will open with Weiss. Segovia’s Weiss.
After, Bach. Tchaikovsky. The boy from the theater, he had come, taken Don Andre’s program, his only copy. The owners would reproduce it for the audience. The boy said they would return the Maestro’s copy.
But they have not returned it. Have they returned it? The audience, the men, their wives at front are standing, clapping, they have seen him at the curtain. Don Andres will go on now. He does not have his copy of the program, but he knows what to perform. How could he not know?
After Tchaikovsky, he will offer them Castelnuovo-Tedesco, then, after the pause he will end with Ponce. How can he not end with Ponce in his city?
He cannot end with Ponce. He must end with Tarrega. The proper order, even if it offends. You end with the most important. With the origins. Like Segovia.
They are waiting, standing, clapping, so he continues. His legs are tired, but they are strong enough to shuffle, the dark wood under his feet worn to light patches, grainy, grooved in a path to the seat the theater set for Maestro, the footstool his plain wooden box. And the audience claps.
He should have let them set his guitar out, but Don Andres said he would carry it, he is not that old, and it is in his hand, he will carry it out, always. In his other hand, a copy of the program, his copy. When had they returned it?
He nods. The faces in the audience, the clapping. He lifts the neck of the guitar until he feels the muscles in his shoulders. He salutes the people of this city with a gesture, an offer, the front of this instrument given the Maestro by Manuel, who had given another guitar, a first guitar to young Segovia, a real guitar when Don Andres had no money to pay. That a true gift.
The first guitar in a museum now, its wood dulled in patches where Don Andres’ arm had worn away the polish. Rimes of salted sweat on the upper bout. The curators insisting that nothing be wiped off. Segovia didn’t care. It is an instrument. Segovia makes the instrument sing.
Purdrwn. Don do tteetle deeta dittle dawwn.
Let them have it. Let them have the Hauser. Let them have all the guitars but the one in his hand.
But the President’s box is empty, with not one face or any hands applauding, only chairs upholstered in deep red and drapes pulled aside by tassels the shade of sunflowers, and Don Andres wonders as his feet scuff by the stool, why the empty box, why Aparicio hasn’t come. It is impossible he does not know of the concert, Segovia’s first in the capital upon his return, finally his return, and everyone knows, everyone is in attendance who should be in attendance, though Don Andres now looks at the dim of the hall, wondering who he should see there that he does not, and he wonders if Aparicio received the note sent by Segovia himself, an invitation from one old friend to another. It is not possible it was not delivered. Maybe there is an emergency, Don Andres thinks, though they would all know of such a thing, if there were an emergency, whatever it might be? Segovia bows, considers the sound of clapping as it winds through the auditorium, imagines he hears whispers, his name on lips. Maybe Aparicio means to say the work of a president is more important than even the music of an old friend, an old man who now lowers himself to the stool, considers using his guitar as a support but knows not to, waves off the assistant the theater assigned him. Segovia can sit, sits, is sitting now, ready to tune.
Homm. Hom. Hommm.
The woman hasn’t hemmed the cuffs of Don Andres’ coat, not as he likes. They rustle against his shirtsleeves, cufflinks. He pulls them higher, knowing they will fall again above the strings. He will watch, measure, make sure they do not touch. But will they get this right ever? Don Andres thinks in his coffin the coat will finally rest as it should—though then he thinks not.
Himm. Him. Himmm.
His nails he let Paquita polish. He should have cared for them himself, this night, but there was little time, and guests in the dressing room to see Segovia, to pay respects, some, most, he had not seen for tens on tens of years, and he did not find the cloth for polishing, only Paquita could, and it felt fine to have his hands in hers as she smoothed the nails. Not like a chore. But not Paquita. It was not Paquita this time.
But Don Andres is not alone. How many times in his life has Don Andres been alone? He has been alone.
Don Andres is not alone now.
Heemm. Heem. Heemmm.
Though his friend has not come. Godfather to his son. Aparicio the country’s most important man now.
Don Andres has performed for kings and queens, presidents. The world over Segovia.
Hinng. Hing. Hinnng. Hinnng Hommm.
Don Andres should not have returned here. With the people around him this afternoon he did not feel it, but now in front of the audience, now he feels it. Ghosts. Don Andres imagines he might see them in the back of the room, watching. There. And there. And there, and he lowers his head. He does not want to see them. He wants to see Aparicio, but he has not come.
Deengg. Deeng. Deenggg.
He does not want to see his wife, his daughter. His daughter is gone. His wife. He will see them again someday, but not tonight.
Beemm. Beem. Beemmm.
He can raise his head again, Don Andres thinks he can, and see nothing in the back of the room. Though the eyes of the audience. They still clap, but they know. What do they know?
What do they want from the Maestro?
He must concentrate on the sounds under his fingers. The crowd hushed. The rosewood under his arm. Clear his mind and let his body feel time. His breath. Every moment has a pulse. The rhythm in right now. Segovia must enter into it, and begin.
Don Andres knows this music as he knows himself.
Still he is thinking. Still he sees the space of the auditorium, the high ceiling and curved walls, and smells the soap rising in heat off bodies.
He hears a stifled cough. Don Andres can hear cloth rubbing against skin against cloth. Breathing. Eyelids opening and closing.
If he could will it all to fade, he would, but it is not a matter of will but of spirit.
This a matter of spirits he should not think but he does.
Begin before the hush turns to confusion.
About Segovia. In his eighty-sixth year.