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Finding Myself in This Guitar

The heavy wooden door swung open smoothly on oiled hinges, a portal to another world. There was no hint of hesitation in me as I stepped eagerly through the doorway, my eyes already bouncing from item to item.

At first, I noticed only disjointed pieces of each: the richness of the wood, the bright gleam glinting off silver and gold hardware, the graceful shape of the neck and body. It was several minutes before I could curb my enthusiasm enough to take in the distinct beauties adorning the walls around me.

And then I picked one up.

My fingers plucked gently, tenderly at the strings. My attention was immediately caught by the exquisite art form in the crook of my arms. It commanded, and as the muted notes trembled in the air, I fell in love.

Smooth strings slid pleasantly under my fingertips, and I was home.

The first time I picked up a guitar, the first time I strummed the chords, something clicked. When I plucked at the strings to entice quavering, clear notes into the silence, the sound resonated strongly inside me. It was as if I was plucking not at the cold steel strings of a guitar, but at my very heartstrings.

Playing this instrument is not something that comes easily to me. It is challenging and frustrating, and sometimes I doubt whether I truly enjoy playing it at all. When I first started, my wrist wouldn’t bend properly, my fingers refused to move in the manner I requested. My fingers were soft, and the strings bit remorselessly into them. It seemed to me that my guitar was a living creature, defying me to tame it, to turn its steely screeches and buzzing growls into some semblance of music. Several times, when the strings bit too hard or the strain against my still-weak wrist and fingers felt as if it might snap my bones, I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry, wanted to close the guitar up in its case and never look at it again to punish it for the unnecessary stress and aggravation it had caused me. It wasn’t the guitar I was mad at. I was disappointed in myself, in my seeming inability to achieve the proper form. Driven by determination and refusal to allow the perverse beast to defeat me, I returned to the grueling task day after day. I make sacrifices to subdue it, and even when I despaired of ever befriending it, I forced myself to keep working at it. Slowly, ever so slowly, it stopped biting me. My fingers had developed tough calluses that refused to yield to the sharp metal strings. The daily struggle strengthened me. Eventually, it didn’t hurt to play anymore. I faced the beast and came out a victor.

Now, my guitar is my close friend. It listens to me, gives voice to the feelings I cannot describe in words. The strings bend beneath my fingers without complaint. Pliant but firm, flexible but strong, the strings never break beneath my demanding fingertips. It is what I have had to be, what I still wish to be. From a young age, I have been forced to submit to forces beyond my control. If my life is the string of a guitar, then many fingers have pressed up against me, bent me past points that might have snapped a lesser person. One finger of neglect, one finger of sexual abuse, one finger of social rejection, one finger of grief. Yet without fingers to play them, the strings would be silent. It takes a little pressure to make a beautiful sound.

This guitar tells me about myself. When I play, I hear its voice. It tells me things, reveals truths about life and love and sorrow and loss. The notes tell me who I am and what I need. When I listen to the interaction of strings and fingers, I understand myself. They are my thoughts, spoken from another mouth, so that I might hear and understand. When the guitar is sad, it is because I am sad. When I can find no way to comprehend my own emotions, my guitar explains them. I never realized I was lost, but bit by bit, I’m finding myself in this guitar.

Guitar is a part of me, and it always will be. Someday, when I’m old and gray, my stiff, wrinkled fingers will curl around the neck, settle onto the strings confidently. The pick rests comfortably, reassuringly in my other hand. I drag the plastic tool across the cool strings. Warm, content notes fill the air. The strings vibrate, and the movement translates to the guitar itself. It trembles against me, joyfully rejoicing the life behind us and the life still to come. Smooth strings slide pleasantly under my fingertips, and I’m home.





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