-By Michael Collins-
Esperanza sat alone in the silent confines of the attic, gracefully slowly strumming her father’s guitar. An arpeggiated G chord rose from the strings, filling the empty silence with the ghost of a melody.
Memories overcame her as she remembered her father, sitting with her and playing her songs. She had only been a child then. She had loved her father with all of her heart, but memories were all she had of him now. The memories, and his guitar.
Esparanza’s father had been killed in a car accident when she was only eleven years old. It had been over six years since he died, but the lonely Spanish-American girl was still grieving over the loss.
Her mother had tried to comfort her, relive the pain, but there was nothing she could do, nothing she could say. Time showed no difference: the years had only driven Esperanza further from her mother. She seemed so mediocre, so average, when compared to the immense love of her father.
“Hey, Es!” a male voice from below startled her from her thoughts, as if a siren had blared in her head.
“I know you’re up there, your mom said so!” It was the young, optimistic voice of her best friend Rodriguez. She wished he could be like him: handsome, happy, unashamed of his feelings. Esperanza, on the other hand, was unattractive, reserved, quite often depressed. The only comfort she had was a good song playing on the radio, and the company of Rodriguez.
She didn’t reply; she wasn’t willing to break the tranquility with her voice. She only wanted to sit alone in the attic, with the sound of the guitar, the lingering remnants of the chord.
However, her solitude was broken by Rodriguez appearing in the doorway.
“Hey, Es,” he said. He was the only one who shortened her name. He’d called her that ever since he first met her, two years ago.
“Hi, Rodriguez.” She began to put the guitar back in the case, sighing mournfully.
“Hey, hold on!” Rodriguez walked closer to her and bent over to inspect the instrument with a musician’s eye. “Where’d you get this? It’s a real good one.”
Esperanza suddenly felt a surge of alarm, as she realized he would want to play it. Rodriguez was a guitarist himself, a skilled and graceful player. He had used to play songs for a local Spanish folk band before his guitar was stolen, a year ago. His parents had bought him the instrument as a gift when he was young, and the loss had hurt Rodriguez immensely. His family, although not as poverty-ridden as her own, could still not afford to replace the instrument. He hadn’t been as happy lately, after that had happened.
Esperanza thought about what she could say to dissuade him from playing it. “No..It’s just an old one someone left in the attic. It’s not that great…” She placed it in the case.
“Hey…” Esperanza thought, annoyed, that he had picked up a habit for the word from his American friends. “Would you mind letting me play it? Just for a minute? Por favor?”
It felt as if her entire heart cried out “NO!” and her soul flung itself from her body to protect her beloved father’s guitar. On second thought, she began to feel guilty, and that
she shouldn’t be greedy. But her heart overpowered her mind. This was her father’s guitar, and now hers; It was more special to her than anything else in the world. She wouldn’t even let her own mother handle it. She felt as if all the memories of her father were embodied in this guitar, and if anyone touched it, those special times would be tainted. She wished Rodriguez could play it, but she couldn’t deny how she felt.
“Es? Are you okay?” Esperanza realized she had not replied.
“I’m sorry…but…I don’t want you to touch it.”
When she saw the hurt look on his face, she realized that the way she had worded it was terrible. “I’m sorry…I mean, I meant to say—“
“What do you mean? I’m not going to hurt it. I’ve handled guitars before.”
Esperanza wanted nothing more than for him to play the guitar. But another side of herself couldn’t bear for him to even look at it.
“I... don’t want you to play it.”
“So, you don’t trust me? Is that why? I just said I’d—“
“It’s not that. It’s just—“
“I haven’t played a song in over a year. I get depressed when I hear a song I like because I know I can’t play it myself. You don’t know how much it means to me…”
She should have felt sorry for him, but his words set her heart aflame.
“You don’t know how much it means to me!”
“So you don’t care about me.”
“I’m not going to let you play it, alright?! Is that too hard to understand? Just forget it, okay?”
“Are you calling me stupid? That’s why you won’t even let me look at it. You think I’m stupid!”
“Rodriguez…No…” Tears welled up in her eyes, but she tried to hide them with her hands. “Just leave me alone, please?”
“No. I’m not going to. Friends don’t ‘leave each other alone’. Here. I’ll show you I can handle it!” With this, he quickly knelt down by the case, places his fingers on the frame, and pulled it out. “See!” he showed her in triumph as she cried out and grabbed for the instrument. As he pulled it to him she threw her arms out, trying to get a grasp on the frame.
Instead, her flailing hands caught the strings, near the head, and she pulled, not knowing what she was doing, only that she had to get the guitar back. The force of the pull snapped the head of the guitar. The strings broke with a loud twang as the broken guitar fell into her lap.
“Noooo!” Esperanza cried, flinging her head into her hands.
“I’m sorry…” Rodriguez was shocked.
Esperanza looked at him, her face one of pure misery. “Get OUT! Get out of my house! Right now! I never want to see you again!”
“I said GET OUT! Right NOW!” The last came out as a scream.
As Esperanza’s mother came into the attic, running to the girl to find out what was wrong, Rodriguez walked to the door, turned to look at her one last time, then left and shut the door, leaving Esperanza to her tears in the darkness.
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