My phone chimed, signaling a text. It was Josh. I had been putting him off for over a week. I might as well get it over with. I texted him back and told him he could come over.
I walked down the hall and stopped at the last door on the left. A weight settled over me. I took a deep breath and then another. With a heavy sigh, I pushed the door open and entered Nick’s room.
Nick had called it his “music cave,” where he played and wrote music. Sometimes his band would come over and jam in there. After he died, I had spent very little time in that room. I avoided it to be honest. The memories were too much, the wounds were too fresh. The room was just too… him. He had spent so much time holed up in there with his guitar that you could almost still feel his creative spirit.
The guitar. It was right where he left it, in its case leaning against the wall. It had been Nick’s prized possession. He had been teaching me to play it but I hadn’t touched it since his death. When Josh asked me if he could buy it, my first instinct was to jump at the chance to get rid of it. Maybe I needed to get rid of all of these things. Try to start moving on. The thought of that seemed overwhelming. Cleaning out, moving on… well, that was a finality that I wasn’t ready for.
I ran my fingers over the case, remembering the feel of it. I gently laid it on the floor, popped the hinges and opened it. It really was a beautiful guitar. He bought it because it was the best, even though it took him a long time to save enough money for it. I was shocked when he let me use it during our lessons. But he offered it willingly and he was quite patient as I struggled through the frets and chords. Always patient. Patient, loving hands that would cover mine and guide them along the strings.
I closed the case quickly. Too many memories. Too much pain.
I went to his desk, thinking he had some picks in a drawer that I could give to Josh. His desk was a mess. There were papers and notes everywhere. I opened a drawer and began to rummage. No picks. I opened the second drawer and stopped short. I pulled my hand back as if it had been struck. I may have stopped breathing for a beat. In the second drawer was his writing notebook. It was full of pages and pages of song lyrics that he had been working on. He had taken that thing with him everywhere. It had been like an extension of him. Seeing it laying there was like a punch in the gut. Next to the notebook, was a small box. The box was full of paper. I realized that they were all notes that I had written to him over the years, back before everything was email or text. Little handwritten notes. We used to leave them all over the house for each other. Some were just a simple “I love you” and others were full-page pledges of love and devotion and hopes for the future. He had folded up nearly every damn one of them and crammed them in the little box. As I pulled them out I could tell that they were weathered, that they had been folded and unfolded many times. Oh my God. Overcome, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
The doorbell rang. Josh. Dazed, I shuffled to the door. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He was a little thinner but he still had his gorgeous long hair. His face was a little drawn, his eyes were sad. His eyes widened a little when he saw me and I realized that I must look like a hot mess… wet, puffy eyes and still clutching the little box of notes like it was made of gold. He took a step toward me and embraced me tightly. He rubbed my back and held me. I cried even harder. He murmured in my ear, “I miss him too.”
We stood like that for several minutes. He finally released me and I wiped my face with my hand in an unsuccessful attempt to pull myself together. He was on the verge of tears too.
“Sooooooo,” he said, letting out a heavy sigh, “I’m guessing that you aren’t going to sell me that guitar today.” His voice was light and teasing, trying to lighten the mood.
I smiled but I doubt it reached my eyes. “Josh, I just don’t think I can.”
He nodded. “Its okay. I thought as much.” He studied me for a second. “Can I see it?”
“Sure.” I stepped aside and he entered the foyer. I shut the door behind him. He was already headed down the hallway and toward Nick’s room. He had spent a lot of hours in that room, too – working on music and the occasional night sleeping on the couch after a big fight with Angie.
He stopped when he entered the room. He looked at me and I could tell he was also having a hard time keeping his emotions in check. The air in the room was so heavy, as if the memories hung there like a mist.
He went over to the guitar and ran his fingers down its length. “May I?”
He sat down with it and began strumming chords, tuning it as he went. It was nice to see it in the hands of a skilled musician again. He began to play random songs. We sang. We talked. We shared memories. At least an hour went by. He finally laid the guitar back in its case and ran his hands through his hair. The music had calmed him but he still seemed like a burdened man.
I went to the desk and pulled out the writing notebook and handed it to him. “Here. I’d like you to have this.”
He looked at me like I was giving him the keys to the kingdom. “Are you sure? Don’t you want it?”
I gave him a sad smile. “No, I think you should take it. He’s got a lot of stuff in there. Maybe you could work out some songs. He’d want you to have it.”
He hugged it to his chest and stood up. “Thanks.” He found my gaze and held it. “Really, thank you.”
“Thank you for coming by. It was nice to hear music in this room again. And it was nice to see you. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own grief that I forget that other people loved him too… that they are grieving him too.”
He hugged me again. “Any time,” he said with a smile. “And when you decide to pick up where you left off with those guitar lessons, call me, okay?”
As we reached the front door, he studied me for a moment and said, “Oh yeah… Angie was asking about you. She was thinking of having a girls’ night, just the two of you. Would you be up for that?” I saw hope in his eyes, trying to nudge me back into the social circle from which I had withdrawn.
I breathed out a sigh. “Yeah. That sounds good actually. Tell her to call or text me.”
He gave me a big smile and turned and left, hugging the notebook to his chest the whole way.