Several Ways of Seeing The Guitar Player

It must have been the first summer we lived here, all hot and damp, keeping our curtains and doors closed so that we could stare at our infant until he made sense. Oh, how we sweated, all of us.

I was upstairs in our bedroom with the bathroom window open and over the sound of our fan I heard music. It danced through the night like fireflies. A spark here and there, a surge, then a coast of sweet, amplified acoustic guitar noodling.

“What’s that?” I probably said to SA. He probably shrugged.

It happened over several more nights, and we finally figured out it was one of our neighbours in the apartment building across from us, on his second floor balcony, or in a room with an open window. Who could tell — there were no lights, he never stood to take a bow. How did we even know it was a man? We assumed.

He doesn’t play every night, but most of them. My neighbour friend lives below his apartment and says he plays her to sleep. She told me there had been a complaint to the Strata Council about his guitar playing. I am hoping nothing will come of that.

Sitting in my living room between the open front door and the living room window, I am surrounded by sound; flies buzzing against the screen, the hum of our computers, the shush of cars outside. In the lulls between those noises come the high strings of his guitar and then the low, full call of it across the evening air.

It saturates the night. It makes the black more inky. Over five years, it has come to define summer, for me.

I was chatting with my neighbour on the sidewalk one day a couple of weeks ago and we finally saw the guitar player. He was a small, thin, white man with a few days worth of stubble across his cheeks and chin, and a receding hairline. He had on a nice pair of pants and a short sleeved, checkered shirt and he carried a briefcase. He looked like a guidance counselor, or an accountant with a heart of gold.

He passed us and said hello, then went in the front door of the apartment building.

“Is that him?” said my neighbour.
“Who,” I said.
“HIM!” she said, nodding at the second floor balcony.

Seconds later we saw the flicker of blinds inside that apartment and the schwick-hiss of the French doors opening to the balcony.

“It IS him,” she whispered loudly.
“I guess so,” I said.

Here are some of the ways I have pictured the guitar player: as a thick, swarthy man with long, wavy hair, perched on a wooden stool, hunched over a 12-string guitar.

As an old hippy with brown, bare feet and leather anklets, whose toes spread wide in completely different directions, simultaneously, while he played.

As a 40-something guy with a long, shaggy beard, short hair, eyeglasses perched halfway down his nose, old rock show t-shirts and faded jeans, a thin, grey cat sitting at his feet, staring at moths.

Not as a regular guy in a button-down shirt who takes the bus to work, though. Never have I pictured him as that.

It reminded me to appreciate that we are all extraordinary, whether or not we recognize each other. There is some wonderful gift you’re imparting. Even if I don’t know you’re the one imparting it.

It is so very Wizard of Oz, sometimes.

Thank you, guitar guy, for your gift. And for never playing Stairway to Heaven.

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