His fingers worked the neck of the guitar. His other hand moved the strings to create the sound his ears wanted to hear. Both hands worked in unison and to the untrained listener the master’s work was excellent. James was pursuing the guitar with the passion to be a master. He was not easy to satisfy even though the only person he had to please was himself. His right hand came across the strings and made a noise not at all pleasant. His face contorted and his eyes closed. James had been working in the dark for hours. “It had to be perfect, it had to be right.” He kept telling himself.
He had left his bed early to work on his music. His wife understood, to a certain point. She loved him, but not his guitar. She encouraged him and supported him. Now the rounded curves of the instrument had taken on a new shape. The guitar had become a wedge shape between them that divided their marriage. She awoke when he did and she knew his fingertips were going to hold the guitar instead of her. She knew he would be in his music room until it was time for him to go to work. The funny thing she thought is that James was a sales person for an insurance firm, not a musician. He didn’t even belong to a band.
Kate came into the music room with a cup of hot coffee for James. He looked at her in mid song and gave her a disappointed look. “Don’t you knock?” He said. “Now I have to start over!” Kate set the coffee down on a table and walked out. It was getting harder and harder to even look at him when he was in that mood. As she closed the door to his “music room” she heard him picking away at the guitar strings. She frowned as she walked back to the kitchen for her cup of coffee. Their marriage was so perfect until he had lost the big account. They had been married for almost ten years. They had been best friends for almost twenty. Their marriage was that of friends and lovers more than husband and wife. Even though all that had changed in the last year, Kate still had hope.
She could not even say the name of the sale he had let slip through his fingers. Now he was compensating for that loss. He had engrossed himself in that instrument. Losing the “big” sale had definitely changed things. She felt like she was being taken for granted now.
James put the guitar in its carrying case and prepared himself for work. He showered and donned his suit and tie. He had to hurry or he was going to be late again to work. He had just wanted to get that extra practice in. Driving down the highway he looked in the rearview mirror and for a brief instant he thought he saw Kate’s car. That was not possible as she would already be at work now. Seeing the car made him think of her. All his time was being spent on his new passion, but she would understand. In James’s mind she would always support him. She always had, why should things change now?
James spent the day in the office and did not accomplish much. He worked on a sale that was half the value of the one he had lost last year. There it was again, “that sale” always seemed to creep up again. He crushed a sheet of paper into a ball and threw into the trash can. As the paper hit the trash can his boss walked in. “James, good shot.” He said. “When are you going to get out on the court again?” He asked. James said, “Soon boss, soon.” His boss winked at him and closed the door as he walked out. James balled up another sheet of paper and shot it at the basket. “Missed!” He said out loud. James balled a few more and worked on his shot. He stopped in mid shot and realized what he was doing.
It wasn’t about missing the trash can or losing the big sale. James remembered back to his high school days. He was so competitive that he had played football and basketball. He was the star quarterback and high scoring point guard. Kate had been the prettiest cheerleader and his homecoming queen. Everyone had said they looked perfect together. Indeed everyone was right. Their looks and athleticism made them a striking couple. But somehow Kate had become more than just a pretty girl. She was there when he threw the game losing interception. She had been there when he missed that game winning free throw. He really missed her even though she was at home for him every day.
Emotions were running through James’s head. She had tried to be there for him on the evening he had lost the “big” sale. Everyone had told him he was not perfect. He just did not want to hear that. If he could have landed the “big” deal it would have made up for that pass or that shot back in school. James sat at the table and put both his hands over his face. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the darkness for a few seconds. Then the sound came to him. It was his guitar calling him. He removed his hands from his face and put them behind his head and leaned back in his chair.
Someone had told him that a guitar is something that you can do alone. No one can make you be a bad player. If you work hard enough at it, you can be perfect. Yes, the guitar was a perfect instrument for James. He could play it alone in the dark and no one could tell him how good or bad he was. Yes, he was the master of his own domain when he was in his music room. James closed his eyes and pretended to play his guitar as he leaned back in his chair. A smile cracked his lips. “Here was James, playing the perfect air guitar.” He said in a whisper to himself.
James played his air guitar and ignored his work for a few minutes. He was so enthralled in his music he did not realize his receptionist had opened the door and was standing in the doorway watching him. James quickly settled himself in his chair and looked at her. “I bet your beautiful wife really enjoys it when you play for her.” She told him as she dropped his mail on the desk and walked out. James eyes opened wide. She might as well have thrown the mail in his face. He suddenly realized he had never played a single song for Kate. He had been playing that guitar for almost a year and had never let her listen to him. It’s not that he was bad. Okay, the truth was he was not even good. Hearing the secretary say how beautiful his wife was jarred something in his mind. Kate was better than a guitar. She had curves, long silky hair and made passionate music. There it was, she was perfect! Without practice! How could he have been so blind? James had been trying to overcome losses all his life. The big games, the big sales, who had always been there? The guitar was just another game he wanted to play, just another conquest for him not to lose. Kate was the one perfect thing he had in his life. He had to call her.
James picked up the phone and called her office. “Hi James, Kate is not here. May I take a message?” The voice on the phone said. “Please have her call me.” James said in response. He tried her cell phone. He got no response. Thoughts of how he had been treating her were racing through his mind. Panic started overtaking his heart. What if that was her car I saw this morning? He had not held her in months. Instead he had been admiring the curves of his guitar. Her silken hair had been replaced with the strings of his instrument. There had been no passion from her lips. It had been replaced by “that” guitar! James jumped out of his seat and walked out of his office. “Tell Kate to please call my cell phone ASAP if she calls!” He told his secretary as he walked out.
“How could I have turned my back on something so perfect?” He thought to himself. “I’ve won some and I’ve lost some, but Kate has always been there for me.” James actually said out loud as he climbed in his car. James started the car and drove directly to Kate’s office. As he drove he actually had to second guess himself. He used to know the way by heart. Had it been that long since he had joined her for lunch? James stepped on the accelerator and drove a little faster. His heart was racing. Kate was too beautiful, maybe someone else would see how perfect she was.
A screech of tires and James parked his car. He opened up the back seat and took out his guitar. The case made it easy to carry. He held it by the handle and took long strides toward the offices where Kate worked. With is other hand he looked at his cell phone to make sure he had not missed her call. His long strides carried him to her office door and he walked in and was greeted by her receptionist. “James, I haven’t seen you in years!” She said with a huge smile. “I didn’t know you played the guitar.” James smiled at her in response to the last statement. “I need to see Kate please.” He asked. “She’s not in right now.” She said. James face showed his disappointment. His heart grew heavy. “She’s across the street eating lunch in the park.” She said in response to his facial gesture. “She eats lunch there everyday, didn’t you know?” She asked. “No!” James said as he turned and ran out the door.
James gave up looking professional as he ran across the street in search of his wife. “I must look like a fool,” he thought to himself. He did not stop running until he reached the park. James began to look for Kate on the benches. He was at the point where he was ready to yell her name out loud when he saw her. She was sitting alone on a green bench on the edge of the playground. Her legs were crossed and she was eating a sandwich as she watched children play. He froze in his tracks. The wind was blowing through her hair and the sun was at her back. Her knee length dress enhanced her curves and the heels she wore made her legs look longer.
Yes, she was perfect. Her sight made him want to throw his guitar away on the spot. He felt the weight of guilt pressing down on him. How could he have ignored the most important person in his life? Why had he treated her so badly and replaced her with something as silly as a guitar? He now knew that the instrument was just an excuse he was carrying in order to make himself feel better. On that park bench was the one person who loved him without judgment. Kate never cared about sales, performance reports or money. Her love for him was perfect. She loved him the way he was and now he was ready to admit that and take a new step.
“What are you doing here?” she asked surprisingly. “Are you going to play for me?” Her face instantly turned serious as she looked at his guitar case. James looked at her and felt the pain he had caused. He looked around and spotted a man walking towards them. “Excuse me sir, would you like a guitar?” he asked the stranger. “It’s not perfect but it works fine.” The man looked at James funny as he accepted his gift. The passerby eyed his gift as he continued his walk. James knelt in front of Kate and said, “I know perfect when I see it.”