Solemn Notes

Posted: June 26, 2013 by Ankur in Writes...
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 “And when I look back, I wonder why, you let it all slip awaaaay, yeaaa …” rest of the words faded away, giving way to the shrilling notes of the guitar solo that  followed.  And instantly, he became oblivious to everything else. His aching eardrums, the furious sun and that long and lonely road all slipped into ignorance in that moment when he had ears and consciousness solely for the intricate and impossibly fast string of high, shrieking notes which he simultaneously played in his mind on his imaginary electric guitar. He felt the familiar surge of pulse when the notes flowed in a crescendo to reach that peak when the music almost seemed alive to him. He was almost rushing by the time he reached his home, eager to pick up his guitar and recreate the addictive magic that he was listening to on his way back home.

It was then that like always, the spell seemed to vanish. When he placed his sore fingertips over the strings of his guitar and experienced that sudden stab of pain he knew would hit him. After all, he was yet a rookie, his finger-tips were still too soft and his control still too clumsy to manage a progression of barre chords or a solo like the ones he himself worshipped. As he started practising the progression, fumbling over the chords and feeling his hand muscles begin to ache, he started thinking. He thought about the little he had learnt and the enormous lessons he had yet to begin. But he kept practising and began to feel bit more in rhythm every time he played the progression.

Thus went his evening, the way it did most of the time now, practising with his guitar, playing chords and notes. He made progress of course, his strumming became more uniform, his transitions between chords more smooth. But these little milestones were separated by long paths of monotonous practise. Perhaps they were not so long as he thought; you need to have some degree of patience. But how could he be patient? How could he possibly be with that malignant tumour in his … No, he would not think about it. He could not think about it. Because every time he did, all he could feel was utter desperation and fear. Fear that his hand might stop strumming sooner than he wanted it to. Fear that he may die with his desire to play those lightning fast solos still unfulfilled. From the outside he might have looked like a hero, racing against time to be like the rock stars he worshipped. Ignoring the inevitable halt his cancer would put on his existence. But he did not feel heroic at all. His body was failing him, his illness was eating into his physical and emotional strength. There were days when his fumbling fingers gave way to furious desperation. When he could not play as well as he would have liked to. Doctors had given him maximum 5 months. Too small a time for his impossible dreams. But he dared not believe that. Why did he feel so compelled to learn, he could not tell. It was not even a compulsion that he felt. Rather, it was something really vital to him. Ironical as it was, he was afraid of failure like one would be afraid of death. So he practised, to play better, and faster.

His illness, his fast approaching end and his desperation slowly drew him crazy. And that craziness aided him. On the slightest hint of progress made, his imagination soared right up to its limits and in that moment, he was confident of his ability to reach there, when his fingers would be dancing on the fret-board of his guitar, the amplifiers wailing out a harsh melody. So complete was his imagination that he would pour out more and more vigour from his withering body and not even notice the effort that he had to make. All he could feel was that familiar surge of pulse when he bended and released frantically on a high note. His practises intensified to the extent of a trance sort of state when he would lose memory of time, hunger or sleep. His crazed mind pushed him to practise harder, the resulting pace of progress feeding more and more hopes to his madness.

His fingers grew faster and bolder, playing with such speed and accuracy that he could not help but laugh out in delight. His madness had paid off. All that mattered at that moment was the solo of November rain he played. Not his cancer, not even the frightening skeleton he was reduced to, all that mattered was the long, wailing note that he played, the moaning of amplifier as he released the note, the life he had given to his music. The melancholy notes saddened him so much more than his own state. It did not even matter when his knees failed him and he slipped to the floor, for he had played to his satisfaction. Even his failing consciousness could not scare him. And the last thing he could feel were the lyrics, “nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.” And everything faded into darkness. 

Akash Singh

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