On How I Learned Love Through My Fingers

Once upon a time, I had been a part of a long-running, episodic series of failed relationships. For years, new love would blossom with the vibrancy of spring, then fade into the dull, cold winter. With each passing season, my emotions would be understood through hours of reflective composition, crafting an autobiographical assembly of music finished and unfinished, reflecting the intoxicating highs and sobering lows of an emotive young adulthood.

When I was fifteen, I received my first guitar. She was plain, but still beautiful — enticing curves, a stimulating texture, a soft voice, especially when my fingers ran up and down her slender neck. We spent years embraced in a sphere of creative intimacy. Even with all of the measures, words, textures, and structures we composed, and as hard as we tried, there did exist a certain level of goals unfulfilled.

Like a musical polygamist, my first would be joined by others. The wood-and-metal sister-wives were a pinnacle of diversity. Some were fuller-figured, some were more feminine, but each of them, through their unique talents and personalities, would teach me something about emotion and how to compose with it.

The would all teach me love, through my fingers.

When new love entered my life, my guitars and I would channel that warmth into major keys and bright atmosphere. Together, we tread the clouds and grabbed wisps of blue sky. There was a state of obviousness in the music we composed, directed lyrics with easy-to-digest 4/4 harmony. We found it more productive to channel the ghosts of rock albums past, unapologetic in the borrowing an intrepid riff or two from anthemic groups like Boston, Supertramp, or Def Leppard, or in some cases, a few overtly sexual tones from Prince or Morris Day and the Time.

But the good times did not always last. The opium-like high of intimate bliss sometimes gave way to the bleak.

Whenever pinged by loss, my guitars and I would open my chest and remove my heart for examination. We studied the weeping tattoos of names once assumed to be the last, crafting lyrics and chord structures from the pain. We composed tones with unlimited atmosphere, combining distorted measures with ones delayed, echoed, and phased — songs that cried because I could not.

As time elapsed and my heart began to harden, it became easier for us to create tomes of breathy, introverted tunes with cryptic words masking the ever-present monsters dissecting every feeling of remorse, animosity, confusion, and suffering. We became comfortable writing about sorrow, death, and hopelessness.

I became comfortable in my discomfort. As did they. For a long time, our music reflected my choices for intimacy, a foolhardy trade wherein happiness and stability was exchanged for melancholy transience.

Perhaps my guitars and I grew too dependent on that comfort. We no longer walk through darkened forests of scarred trees, instead having opted to enjoy the sunshine, the emerald grass, and the majestic eagles overhead. We also no longer compose, at least like we used to. Happiness has retarded the process, with many more tunes left on the studio floor than ever even remotely realized.

But, my guitars have been wildly influential in my ability to express my emotions. In opening the floodgates and allowing myself to be punch-drunk with these emotions, my guitars and I were able to sift through the extensiveness, finding the root of the emotion among the shipwrecks. I learned to recognize these states of emotional being and ultimately discovered how to navigate them.

Unfortunately, the state of emotional proficiency came at a cost. I am no longer the composer I once was, a shell of the musical craftsman whose fingers so meticulously blended his heart-strings with guitar strings. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily need my fingers to love any longer.