Celest is my babe’s guitar. If you ask him about her, he’d mention things like the length of her neck, the tension of her strings, the acoustic wonder brought about by her sound holes, etc.
I’m a piano girl. I don’t know about those things. So let me just say that Celest is a shiny black beauty with deep tones and a teeny buzz.
I’ve always wanted to play the guitar. Acoustic. Nylon. Steel is ok, I guess, but they hurt like hoot. I love the acoustic guitar’s mellow and, compared to the piano, soft tones. I love that you play it close to your body, as if embracing it and whispering to it secrets that you would only tell your diary or very best friend.
I was a freshman in college when my dad bought me my first guitar. It wasn’t a good one since it was the cheapest he could get. He believed my interest in it was a passing phase and ordered me to stick to piano. But I badgered him and he relented. I came home one day to find the very heavy, very painful steel stringed-guitar wrapped in paper in my room. I appreciated my father even more for that cheap guitar because he got it for me even though he didn’t have to. So I had to learn how to play. I had to show him he was wrong about the passing phase thing. It was summer so I had all the time to practice. My fingers, and I’m not at all exaggerating here, would have bled if it hadn’t been for the callouses that formed almost immediately to protect them. My back, neck, and shoulders hurt. I woke up in pain with my hands frozen like gnarled roots. Again, I am not exaggerating.
Then summer ended and it was time again for school. Piano was my concentration (which had more weight than a minor subject) and I was pretty serious about it, too. But my teacher was shocked. “What happened to your left hand?” She said it was playing awkwardly and heavily. She eyed it suspiciously and discovered the callouses at the tips. “Aha! You’ve been playing guitar!” She said it like I committed a mortal sin. She demanded that I stop playing guitar, “that is if you’re really serious about piano…” So I made a choice. I had to. My left hand was never as good as my right but she put up a good fight and was getting there. But guitar developed tension in her that made her pound the keys like a big bumbling buffoon. The callouses made her fingers slip from the keys, and, worse, they made faint clacking sounds as she played. So that evening I came home from piano lesson, I told my dad I had to stop playing and propped my guitar against the wall until it gathered dust.
Then, after years of countless wonderful distractions, my piano started gathering dust as well. I no longer practiced 7-12 hours a day. In fact, 7-12 hours became my year’s worth of playing. During this time, I rediscovered the guitar. I had long given away my first guitar, the one with no name. But a fellow I knew was looking to unload his barely-touched Yamaha C30, a beginners nylon acoustic guitar, and I bought it. I call her Lizzie and I gave her a feather necklace to make her wholly mine. She’s on her way to Georgia as I write.
I’m no rockstar who enjoys dangling his guitar while parading onstage. I play the guitar as an introvert thing, almost a loner thing. Give me an empty room, a guitar, and a little sunshine streaming in through the window, and I can stay there and play the whole day, or until my fingers bleed.
It takes me a while, though, to sing while playing the guitar. Always, I start out singing ‘whisperingly’. Hahaha. Its soft strains embarrasses my voice and I always croak and choke, sputter like a car that’s been left alone for a long time. I’ve gotten used to hiding behind my piano, physically and vocally, when I sing. Singing with the guitar exposes my ears to vocal nuances and flaws I wouldn’t hear if I were singing with the piano. My voice is more naked and, therefore, as embarrassed as a woman who realizes she’s been walking around the mall without a bra and walks on as if nothing’s missing to make the best of it. I know the feeling from experience.
She and I have gotten acquainted long before I met her. In fact, I helped my babe choose a name for her after he bought her. But our friendship started when I was online one day and miserably missing my piano. Typing on the laptop keyboard reminded me of tinkering with Mildred’s keys (Oh, how I miss my clavinova!). From the other room, I could almost feel Celest say, “hey”. Yes. Nothing witty or wise. Just… “hey”. But she said it in a snazzy-friendly way, like cool and kindly stranger who takes pity on you because she notices you’re a bit sad. So I trudged towards her and played the two songs I remembered from my short guitar venture. Her strings really hurt and my fingertips doubled their size after a couple of minutes. My back started aching after ten and my neck straining after 20. But, boy-o-boy, was I happy. I played those two songs all afternoon.
Actually, I’m getting a little tired of them.
It’s time to learn something new.