by Mark Dvorak

The young woman asked if I was a good guitar player when I was her age.

With guitar in hand, I responded with a remembrance of early on trying to learn everything, and of trying to learn everything all at once. I tried to demonstrate to her a few simple skills picked up here and there, then honed over the course of a long passage of time and worry. And at that moment as I played for her, the long passage of which I had just spoken felt suddenly still before me and yet unfolding. It seemed now to be longer than before and more unending than ever, and speaking of it somehow made the reality of it clearer, and in some small way cruel.

I should have told her first that I saved and then spent, all of my money when I was her age, to purchase a Martin D-18, because it sounded so rich and pure and beautiful. And because it was the same model that Fred Holstein played, and because it was the same model that Brownie McGhee played. And I remember driving away from the store with my new D-18 and showing it first to my buddies and then later to my family. I remember leaning it in the corner of my bedroom one night before sleep, just so I could look at it. And just so I knew it would be there in the morning when I awoke.

I should have told her that I learned mostly on my own and that I lived without things then and for a long time after. I read a lot too, and worked at and thought very hard about, writing.

What I should have told her that when I was her age, my waking hours were taken over by an image of being one day able to play music and sing. And that my dreaming hours then were often broken, and that the dark times were filled with sleepless conflict and a sort of trouble that sometimes still lingers.

I should have told her, “What I enjoyed most when I was your age was fishing." And then I should’ve said that I worked at guitar almost every day until my fingertips were sore, and the little muscles all over my hands became weary. I stayed with it until my ears were full and I was tired, and then when I leaned my Martin again in the corner at the end of our time together, I could see how the strings and the frets glowed with the lamplight of my room, and the wood so smooth and new, seemed alive.

And to this day I believe that whatever aliveness was inside of me then, I saw reflected in the glow of those frets and in the shimmer of that wood. I saw it in the strings. I should have told her that. And I should have also told her that that glow is the thing I still look for each time I pick up my guitar to play.


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