I’ve just finished getting dressed after a spontaneous midday shower and I’m ready to get to work on my latest column. I’m going to write about my birthday and how I had to prepare Maurice for his night without me and how I missed him so much I couldn’t sleep. I enter my work room. The computer is on, a blank word document is already open. All I have to do is turn to my right, walk a couple of steps, and sit down at the desk. Then I can start writing.
I’m just inside the door and I pause. I stop. I look at the guitar case with my guitar zipped up inside leaning against the sofa bed. Suddenly I don’t want to write, I don’t feel like writing. Suddenly I decide I’m going to play my guitar instead. I’m still feeling messed up from the memory I wrote about yesterday and I’m not ready to write anything just yet. I’d rather lose myself. I’d rather wash the emotions away with music and the sound of my own voice. I reach for the guitar case, unzip it, carefully lift out the shiny red guitar I used to call Sallie. The ie spelling was always important to me, I could hear the difference in the way it was spoken. Sallie. My old friend.
I run my fingers over the strings, playing each one individually, hoping it’s not too far out of tune. I hate tuning. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do, it’s just the top E string that needs adjusting. I wind the tuning key, tighter and tighter and tighter, playing the string over and over and over until it sounds okay, until it sounds good. Okay, it sounds good. The fingers of my left hand automatically move into position. I press down on the strings, strum them with my right hand and the G chord rings out. I always start with G.
I’m sitting down now, the guitar resting across my knees, my heart beating steadily, my hands perched confidently. The baby is asleep. The girls are at school. My husband is at work. I’m alone and it’s quiet and that means I can sing. I can sing as hard and as loud as I want to. I can sing without fear.
I start with an original, a song I wrote so many years ago, a song that only works when there’s great emotion behind it. I open my mouth and a voice pours out of me and I have to look way up to the ceiling because it’s up and it’s out and it’s me. It’s me. I play the whole thing and I remember it all, all the words, all the chords, and as my voice flies out and away I remember…
I’m in my bedroom with Gecko. He’s come over for band practice. His keyboard is here and it’s plugged in and he’s balancing it on his lap on my bed. I’m sitting on my computer chair with my guitar. We’ve got incense burning and the door shut and it feels all warm and magical in here. My bedroom is alive with colour; photos and plants and fabrics and feathers, a million different textures, a million things to look at. I love my bedroom.
We’re tired of all our usual songs, sick to bloody death of Butterfly Girl, and we want to do something new. Gecko’s looking over my Moving Planet poem, the poem I wrote after our first acid trip together, and he’s playing around on the keyboard and suddenly he has a melody. I don’t know how he does it. It’s one thing to group a few chords together, but it’s something else entirely to come up with a complete song the way he does. I look at Gecko and he’s already lost, he’s deep in the music, his fingers are everywhere, his eyes half-closed and dreamy, his body swaying from side to side. I watch him play and I’m feeling useless. I know my capabilities and I know I’m the weakest link. I feel like a phony, sitting here silently, clutching a guitar that I have no idea how to fully utilize. I feel like a failure.
Gecko plays on, unaware of his surroundings, unaware that I’m sitting here stupidly, and all of a sudden something happens to me. Something changes. The incense and the magic and the music all hit me at once, and suddenly I know exactly what to do. Suddenly I know exactly how to sing. I open my mouth and the first note emerges and it’s a voice I’ve never heard before. Gecko looks up and we look at each other and I know that it’s a voice he’s never heard either. The voice is raw and haunting and beautiful and clean and it’s filling the room. It fills the room and it doesn’t stop. It keeps coming and keeps growing and keeps filling us and it’s magic. It’s real life magic. It’s real.
We get to the end of the song and we stop. The voice stops. The keyboard stops. The song is over. We look at each other and we’re silent. The song is still ringing in our ears. The song is still bouncing around the ceiling. The song is still playing in the tapestries. We look at each other. We do not speak. We look. Wow.
We pretended nothing had happened until later on that night. We went to a party and we stood outside because the music they had playing was so ugly and flat, and finally we admitted to each other that there had been magic in that moment.
Never again was I able to sing that song the way I did that night. It was magic.