The guitar, Mr. Potter, chooses the guitarist
I swear J.K. Rowling must have purchased a guitar at some point during her life, because shopping for one is exactly like shopping for a wand.
Imagine a wooden room, crowded from top to bottom with rows and rows of acoustic guitars suspended by pegs. They’re so closely packed, that it’s nearly impossible to take one down without knocking it into another. The guitars come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. There are are top heavy guitars, bottom heavy guitars, thin necked guitars, thick necked guitars, guitars honed from dark wood, guitars honed from light wood, red guitars, blue guitars, pointy guitars, curvy guitars, even guitars embellished with biblical icons.
This is one room. Branching off from this room are several smaller rooms, like walk in closets, where the incredibly expensive guitars are kept— the ones you feel breathless just to look at, because not only are they gorgeous, you know they must sound like slices of heaven. Some of these guitars are brand new, just shipped from Canada, Hawaii, Brazil. Some of them have long, mysterious histories, maybe multiple owners, and you know which ones they are. Something about them is smiling, battle scarred and wise.
You are standing in the main room, so quiet and yet so full of sound, and every guitar is the face of a person who might become your friend. Will it be that one? you wonder, looking at a pale guitar with a black pick guard and a half moon hole. How about that one? That one? This one, here, displayed on a stand on the ground? There’s no way of telling until you play it, and even then, there are choices. All you can be sure of is that there has to be a spiritual connection. It has to understand you, and you have to understand it back.
The guitar, Mr. Potter, chooses the guitarist.
One of the first guitars you play is a pretty Canadian redwood that your dad likes. It sounds like a laughing girl. The next is a boxy maplewood that sounds like sunlight glittering over an ocean. Neither seems quite right— tempting, but unsatisfying.
You return to the wall, and after a hazy stretch of overwhelmed indecision, hunger, and disappointment, a face in the crowd stands out to you. It’s black— glossy and reflective— with a sunburst of brilliant, fire colored wood fading into the edges of the bottom bulb. You ask the man working the register to help you take it down. You sit on your crate. You play it. It’s neck is thinner than you’re used to, but there’s something nice about this. It’s guarded, this guitar. It doesn’t want to let you in too soon, because it wants someone patient enough to want to understand it. You can relate to this. It’s almost like a past self. You’re holding yourself as a teenager, and you’re telling that self that no matter what you’re going through, it’s going to be ok. Your heart is a light emanating out of darkness, and listen, you sound so pretty, so bright.
I wish I could say I bought this guitar immediately. The truth is, my dad sat with me on his own crate swapping it back and forth for almost an hour with a second contender— a light spruce that was easy to play, sounded great, was on sale, and sold more frequently than any other guitar in the store. I almost bought it. It was plain, but hey, that didn’t matter, did it? It seemed friendly. Then I held the black guitar again, and the arms of my soul (assuming, for this moment, that souls have arms) reached out immediately to cradle it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to let it go, but it took me a stupidly long amount of time to realize that this meant there could only be one option.
I also wish I could say that once I bought it, I didn’t consider returning it. I thought maybe my reaction had been overly emotional, inspired by an empty stomach and an irrational impulse. It took two days, and an hour with the house to myself, to realize I had made the right choice. Even once it belonged to me financially, that guitar evaded my attempts to talk to it, like someone shy who has possibly been through some abuse (it is used, and there are scratches when you tilt the black wood in the upper left hand curve to the light) but I can’t tell you how perfectly it fits beneath my fingers now, how beautiful it sounds, and how easily it plays. I took it as it was, and I like to think it takes me as I am, too.