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In a corner of my living room, next to the tall bookcase, is a Norman B20 Folk guitar. Being a folk guitar, it’s a little smaller than the average guitar. It’s petite and curvy, and it sings.
I was 28. I had just left my husband. I was skinny and hot. I was a single mother. I was broke and lonely and easy. I found myself some new company.
I met him on the internet. He was a former Army Ranger with a sad look in his eyes. He was recently single too, so we had something to talk about. We would lie on his new IKEA bed in his new apartment while he went on and on about how perfect his ex-wife was before she kicked him out. I would cry about how awful my ex-husband was before I left him. Then we would fuck.
He loved to hear me sing. He took me to my first open-mic night at The Rainbow, where I played guitar barefoot because they had a sign that said Jimi Hendrix used to play there. It was dirty. It was dark. It was a dive, a cave. It was our place.
He said things to me like, “You would be stunning if you had your teeth fixed,” or “When I watch you sing, it’s the only time I love you,” or, “This isn’t a relationship. I don’t want a relationship,” or “I don’t need another friend.” I just nodded when he said those things like that was all okay. I was quiet.
He gave me backhanded gifts. He just happened to buy the wrong computer sound card. “Oh, now you can record yourself.” A pile of flowers would lie in a heap on his countertop. “My mom gave me these flowers, but I don’t want them, do you want to take them home?” I refused them.
He told me his totem animal was a raven. I wrote a song about a raven that pecks out my heart during a lightning storm. I played it for him. He thought it was cool. He even knew that he was the villain. I played it at open-mics all the time until I grew tired of it.
One night, on our way to another open-mic, he suggested I play his Norman instead of my own guitar. This was okay with me because his was better. Afterward, he gave it to me, telling me he was getting himself a new one like another pretend cast-off. I kept it. It fit me.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of having a big sticker made with the words, “I screwed an asshole for six months, and all I got was this stupid guitar.” I would stick it over the wood grain on the back, my own private joke. Like a souvenir of a bad vacation.
I abused that guitar like I abused myself. I marred the unfinished surface with scratches. I didn’t care when my toddler spilled his milk on it. I even accidentally backed over it in my car once. It survived, protected by the hard case.
I refused to let him change the strings for me, or tune it. I can do these things for myself, thank you.
He broke up with me through an email. It said he had been seeing a girl who looked like Ashley Judd for the last three weeks and wanted her instead. A couple of days later, he called me to say he’s coming over. I opened the door for him and let him in.
I wrote lots of songs in that time. I wrote a couple of happy songs, but mostly I wrote songs that made me feel better. Note by note, the phosphor-bronze wires transformed pain into sound waves that bounced off the walls before dissipating. I wrote therapy for my screwed up life.
Why would I keep this guitar? Why didn’t it end up in some after-boyfriend bonfire? Why would I keep something that seems to represent a time in my life I would rather forget? Because it doesn’t. It doesn’t remind me of his cruelty. It reminds me of a barroom of drunken applause. I keep it because it’s mine, bought and paid for. It’s me. It’s petite and curvy and it sings.