The world seemed like it was about to burst. She sat on her boulder. Her garments trailed in the wind. Honestly, I sat there for some time scared, just awkwardly holding the guitar and hoping my hand didn’t shake too hard against it. Like a painting, she never moved, just waited. Finally with some great act of will I went to hit a chord. The tendons or muscles in my hand actually hurt as I tried, such an awful nonmusical muffle came forth. Without a word everything shifted.
I was now walking through a forest. It was freezing. There was frost on the trees and the ground. I knew that I was running from something but I wasn’t sure what. I heard its deep breathes coming up from the side, like a race car raging, passing on the left, worse then that though. I blacked out with its chunky teeth lodged in my throat. Then it was back on the block. My shitty guitar in my hands and her sitting unwavering.
“Coward,” she said.
So it goes, I’ve heard them say. I think she may have even said something like that too, in between these nightmare rounds. After a supremely lucid one which involved my own sweet children, I suddenly remembered my chords and songs quite well. Not that it mattered though, because I still sucked at guitar.
Somewhere in there, we got locked in on the Animal’s song “House of the Rising Son.” This is the sort of beginner’s guitar song that I am working with. I know it’s not much but I had been pursuing guitar as a hobby, as a fun thing to do when I had an extra minute, nothing to worry about, right?
She was on something else. She seemed to take offense to my weakness, and her offense made me offended by my own ineptitude too. I started to cherish those moments as I sat there, waiting to try my first Am chord, when I could sort of analyze the whole situation a bit more. More than anything, I was mad at myself for not practicing more. I mean the song, the version I knew anyway, consisted of four chords, played in a finger style, with a very basic, repetitive picking pattern. If I could have just practiced more, maybe I could have snuck past all this.
It was fifty or so notes and over a week before I ever got past the first chord. The things I saw in that space I will not go into detail here. I wish I could say a word on self-censorship, but I assume we don’t have much time for that here either. Just let the dear reader be warned that the Muse is armed with the darkest most potent nightmares you could imagine. I believe there is a realm of science here which needs to be studied. I’m not sure about this. Though it does seem part of the purposes of this blog, to create public record of these events, so that perhaps in the future brighter minds than mine can put it all together.
Here’s my take though. I’m beginning to think that for every positive artistic stroke, a speckle of dark dust is created is created in its wake. To mix metaphors, this dust is the proverbial eggs shells of the omelet. This dust forms doubt, depression and disease. The more you create, the more it build ups around you, waiting to be dealt with, recycled hopefully, I guess. Some people seem to kick up so much dust it goes and hides in a closest and collects. And then a microdust organism forms and it grows. And then it learns to eat the doubt dust too. Then a whole multilayered ecosystem forms in this protoplasmic imaginative juice. After that, its anyone’s guess what happens. For me, it showed up as a woman in the basement who tortures me because of my whack guitar skills.
And oh how she could rant. Her voice was like the most awful PA system you could imagine, in which one minute could be pleasant, but then in another breath become ear piercing. It could come in so loud and clear that it just sliced right through the space between your ears. Other times it became so hollow, and full of the wind around it, that you could loose track of it. “Pathetic, a toddler could be trained to play better. No, a baby monkey.” I told her I had never been trained, just watched a couple youtube videos. “Of course, that sounds about right with the trash you’ve demonstrated. No, feel no need Mr. McMulin to explain your failures to me. I have seen an ocean of your level of talent. Disgusting, imbecilic, this whole thing is wasted on your type. Try again Mr. McMulin. Try to get those chubby, greasy hands to hit the right spot, above the fret there? You do know what a fret is Mr. McMulin? Also, it would be good if your ring finger could touch a string at some point. Or, if you could just hold the basic structure of the chord though a single measure. Oh, we have so much to do Mr. McMulin!”
I brought up writing, in between attempts, in between nightmares, asked if I could be challenged in that. That was a bad idea. The whole world went black, and an icy wind whipped up, and a storm rolled in. There was nothing I could do it seemed, but sit on the rock and take it. Rain ran down my guitar. It got so cold my hands froze up and I dropped it. It floated away, sliding down the frozen plane.
My god, I cannot tell you how cold it was, or how terrifying it was to watch that storm come in all around us, and the lightening as it tore strips out of the sky. It belittled me in the truest sense of that word. Her voice became that place and she moaned in rage. “Never Mr. McMulin. Never, never, never. You will never write a word in my presence, ever. You may have jacked some of the lower dregs of my bounty, but you will never be a great writer Mr. McMulin, never. Do you understand that? The fantasy you had of writing was your illness, understand? Was your grand act of cognitive dissonance, as the spooks put it today? Your A-minor chord is insufferable. A sentence and you would be dead before the first vowel.”
I really tried that night, but she just isn’t having it. The nightmares show how frustrated she’s becoming. Its just over the top things lately, drowning in leeches, being drawn and quartered, set on bonfire like a witch. It’s the bonfire that really got me. I sense her there lurking in the crowd that huddles around. She’s smirking when its all over and I’m back on the boulder. “Begin,” she demands.
I go to start, but the words popped out before I could stop them, “how long?”
“How long what Mr. McMulin?”
“How long will this continue?”
“I assumed that’s what you meant,” she said. “I just wanted to see if your communication skills go beyond simple grunts. How long is up to you to, Sir?”
“I’m ready to stop,” I say.
“Well, then go ahead” she says. Her statuesque arms bended and made a move of slicing her throat. She was telling me to kill myself. The fucking bitch…I’m sorry for the vulgarity dear reader. But after the last few weeks of torture I was at my wits end. I don’t know why exactly but I have to say despite a strong current of pessimism that runs through my heart I find the thought of suicide offensively stupid. I don’t mean my words to give offense to anyone who has been effected by suicide. My heart goes out to you, but all I am saying is for me that is not an option. I am so scared of death that the idea of volunteering for it just seems impossible. Especially now, relatively young, three kids, great wife and life.
More what I am trying to get at here, is she sort of really pissed me off with that, you know? Like I was nothing to her, a nuisance you could say, that she would be better off without having to regularly torture me. For the first time in weeks I found myself wondering if I could fight her somehow? Frankly, I couldn’t even see how to get down off the boulder, but still I wished I had some something to blast her with.
The world began to crackle and pop. This is the sign that I am about to wake up. She doesn’t seem to notice but keeps ranting. “Proceed Mr. McMulin. Make your futile attempt. Shall we stay with the Animals? Or would you like to try Bad Moon Rising again, you have had some success there?”
I hear what sounds like helicopters approaching from behind me. Like a jet engine maybe too. I love the thought that a bunch of heroes are going to roll up and save me from this woman. At least get me off this rock. I come to with my two year playing with his Ironman action-figure beside me. I hear my wife brushing her teeth in the other room.
I carry the shiver of that place. It’s instantly contrasted with the warmth of my cozy bed. An elaborate dream, my rational mind screams, but my body still trails that cold.