As I opened the door, I couldn’t believe the sound that hit my ears – Gretel! My Gretsch, my thrown-down-the-stairs-broken show guitar, and she actually sounded good! Chris sat facing me, playing “Love Song” by the Cure. As I stood there, he kept playing, then started singing. I wanted to run at him, hug him and thank him with all the exuberant joy I felt at the possibility of having my own guitar back, but I could tell he’d practiced, that he wanted to sing to me.
He had a sweet voice, untrained but shower-practiced – if he fell a little flat sometimes, I blamed the song. Somehow I hadn’t realized what a long song it was – I continued standing at the door, since he’d left no way to get to a chair without bumping into the guitar or the amp. The smile on my face started feeling a little frozen, while still the song continued. Was he going to do every verse? I appreciated the gesture, for sure, but I was excited to get my Gretsch – I didn’t need another serenade. “You make me feel like I am clean again. However far away, I will always love you…” yes, yes yes, very nice, I thought impatiently, then immediately hated myself for being such a mean spirit.
As he wound down, I reached for the excitement I’d felt when I walked in – definitely dampened, but that was probably for the best – at least I could restrain myself from knocking him down! I smiled big and genuine.
“Wow, thanks! I mean, thanks! How…you got her fixed? I didn’t know…I mean, I left her there…she was smashed – I didn’t think…”
His face softened with shy pride, excited to tell the story now that he’d had his surprise.
“I went back and grabbed it once you were safe in the car. I thought, just in case. I brought it with us. I asked at three places, the first two said it would be cheaper to get you a new one, but I knew…about your dad…so I kept trying, and the third guy said he’d see what he could do, and here’s what he could do! It’s not perfect, but nothing that affects the playing, just a bit of…it wasn’t as bad as it looked, the breaks were clean, some new parts…well, you’ll see…”
He stumbled, stupidly shy. I felt tender seeing this side of him. All this time, I thought he was being grumpy with me about little things, but at the same time, he was thinking about me, taking care of what was important, getting me the very guitar I needed to play the show he didn’t think I should be playing. He was a good man.
“You are such a good man,” I spoke my thought aloud. I saved us both the embarrassment of each others’ eyes by throwing my arms around him. Unfortunately, he still held the guitar, making our embrace more awkward than heartfelt. I took her from him, meaning to put her aside so I could hug him properly, but once I had my hands on that guitar, I felt glued – I couldn’t put her down without playing, I just physically couldn’t. Chris, the room, all life receded as my fingers found their holds. Strangely, no old standbys came to mind – my hands chose to strum the opening bars of Aching Bones by Trix n’ Traces. I had my guitar back! She sounded great! I felt something close to peace, something bordering on ecstasy, wave over me. Something right had finally clicked in a way nothing had since the day I told Ethan I was leaving. For the first time, I felt more solid than just a leaf blowing on the wind, like I had a purpose and my purpose was right here, in the music. I couldn’t believe what a difference I felt, holding my own guitar, so familiar, so mine.
I found tears streaming down my face. Chris’ face fell in disappointment and confusion.
“Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
I blubbered and blundered my way through an explanation. “I’m just…so…happy to have her back! You have no idea, nothing’s been right, I’m just no good with that stupid Gibson…or maybe I’m just no good! But you did this, and I didn’t know…and you got her fixed, I have her back…”
Relief spread across his features.
“You’re crying because you’re happy? You’re so strange, Christine.”
“That’s why you love me,” I joked, our standing joke.