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Guest Writer

The instrument
by Felicia Aguilar

ove has a funny way of blinding you. It shields your eyes but leaves your heart open and vulnerable, bleeding, raw and bruised. And it screams with an urgency: Grab him before he's too far gone!

And that's what I did. I grabbed hold of him so fast that I forgot to let him breathe.

He played at the Twilight every weekend. I lived the next block over, in apartment 4B on Main, and I always heard the haunting guitar wafting in through my open windows. I had seen him once or twice before, never up close, but always holding the ragged guitar. It wasn't until I heard the music that the spell was cast.

In my mind, I could see his fingers plucking gently away. Many nights I lay awake strangely comforted by those eerie sounds. They were unlike anything I had ever heard, sent chills down my back and made the hair curl at the nape of my neck. I wanted to know those hands.

Soon I became obsessed, though something held me back. Maybe it was intuition or the nervous butterflied excitement growing in my stomach at the thought of meeting him, touching him. Those hands.

So I waited, months, until I could get up the courage. It was a Friday night when I walked into the Twilight wearing a facade of bravado and sauntered to the very front where I could see him so clearly – face, hands, all of him not meeting my expectations but surpassing them by far. He sat center stage, jeans frayed at the knees, a black fedora on his head and a silly grin across his face because it seemed to me that he knew he looked so very out of place.

We made eye contact; he plucked me out from the idle crowd and melted me into a puddle. But I showed no sign of his impact on me or on my body. I watched, mesmerized, as his fingers played magic on that guitar.

I continued going to the Twilight every night that I knew he would be there. I memorized his schedule. I had no excuses, I needed to be there. And always, I was up front. Every time he managed to melt inside me with those haunting tunes.

One day my loyalty to him and his music finally won. I remember in perfect detail, standing by the window in the darkly lit hallway, staring out at the pregnant moon. Suddenly, I sensed him there. But it was more than just his presence; I smelled him. I smelled the sultry scent of the wind after a harsh rainfall.

"I love a full moon," he said, nearly pressing up against me. "Something so beautiful and haunting."

I turned to him then, saw him up close for the first time, without that beautiful worn-out guitar in his hands. His hands seemed awkward, limp at his sides and I wanted to cradle them, protect them from the crowd.

"Yes," I said. "Nights like these, you can go out and do something crazy, and blame it on the moon."

He came closer and maybe it was intuition or a sixth sense, but warning signals rang in my head: back away, they said, get away while you can. I'm still not sure who those signals were meant for.

But I didn't listen. And it was in those moments of uncertainty and excitement that I had the courage to reach out. Grabbing his hand and placing it in my own, I traced a finger down his knuckle, over the hard ridge of skin and bone and looked deep into his eyes.

And that was when it happened. Something clicked and we found ourselves upstairs, wild in my tangled bed sheets. I often ask myself now if I regret that first evening with him, wonder if it set a precedent for all the nights to come. Regret is a funny thing, though. It burrows under your skin and eats you up inside if you allow it to, so I refuse. I refuse to regret any of it.

The nights were warm as he began spending them in my bed. Nights turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Some parts were perfect. Only with him was I free to be myself, free to be the woman who allows him to undress her, the woman who dances naked as he strums his fingers across the guitar strings. He wrote songs for me. I became his muse, his instrument. He cast the guitar aside and it was me he wanted, only me.

No one predicted a downfall but I guess you could say it was inevitable. I was accustomed to change, used to people walking out of my life. Only this is what made it seem all the more tragic: I could never actually foresee that I would be the one to cause him to walk away.

I think I wanted to see how far I could go. I wanted to see how far I could take him without him turning his back on me and walking out on me in disgust. I guess in a way I also wanted to hurt him, leave him broken and tattered on the floor as he had done to me many times before.

I wanted him to regret all the phone numbers I would eventually find lying crumpled by the telephone, all the strange women in the club who so casually walked up to him and threw their arms around his neck, the busy bees of the bars that looked at me with contempt and disgust. I wanted to know what happened the night I threw a plate against the wall as he walked out the door.

He said it was jealousy but I knew them to be more than "just friends." I was tired of being lied to, tired of screaming myself to sleep on the cold wooden floor every night. I became tired of his music and the hordes of women whom he cast his spell upon. I was tired of being one of those women. I wanted to take away the one thing that I knew he loved so much. Those hands that I wanted to protect in the beginning, I wanted to destroy in the end.

But when my lips closed down around that fleshy part of his hand and I bit down hard and I laughed as the blood trickled down my chin, I knew I had gone too far. He screamed, recoiling and then cradling his useless finger. After his panting subsided, he stared at me wide-eyed, not with disgust or even anger, but with a kind of sadness and regret that I had never seen in him before.

"This is it," he said, softly. "I can't do this anymore ... I love you, but you're sick and you need help and I can't be the one to give it to you."

Oh, but before I had been cherub-like and innocent and I wouldn't hurt a fly. And when I used to playfully bite, he would grunt and chuckle later and say, "Oh, so you're just my little minx then, huh?"

I had never done this, not like this where I left him bloody and torn, the abrasion to his skin already beginning to swell. Because, you see, he had never seen that side of me before: this blackened, rotten core of me. I had never grown ugly in his presence, because up until that point, he had only wanted to see the glow of our first night together and he was feeling the highs of every nightly escapade after that.

But, after all he had put me through, it was fair.

I don't resent the fact that he couldn't bring himself to stay during the lows. And as he gathered his clothes, a few belongings (like that worn-out guitar he loved so much – something I now know that he loved more than he could ever possibly love me), I convinced myself that I never really loved him. Pure physical release, that's what he was. Smoky-gray eyes that blossomed into an electric blue as the streetlights reflected off of them, or as he ran his fingers through my hair, or when he was inside of me, as he grabbed my hips.

I can't forget the way he used to touch me, though, those fingers running across my body, reading me as if I were composed of Braille. He touched me the way he would play the guitar: tenderly, delicately, knowing he had complete control. I miss his scent, too, like rain on a Monday morning. I never wanted to leave the comfort of that scent, the warm comfort like that of those tangled sheets we spent so many days and nights and days curled up in.

Sometimes I catch myself humming one of his tunes and I grow sad. I never hear his melodies wafting in through my open window anymore. He doesn't play at the Twilight anymore.

The Twilight doesn't exist. It is nothing but a hollow cavity, standing lonely, still darkened by the ash. Seven people died that night, unable to break open the doors. Their screams were heard as the fire engulfed them. Later that night, the firemen were witness to a mass of charred limbs near the doorways.

Some said it was a random arson, or that the owner did it for the insurance money. Some blame it on the full moon that reigned over the city that night.

Find more from Felicia in our archives.

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