Guitar Lessons

by Doreen F.

I have always preferred singing to playing any instrument; therefore I have never taken classes to learn an instrument. I did get vocal coaching for some time, though, but I always regarded it as a hobby and mainly used my voice for winning “Sing Star”- Competitions at parties.

We were a musical family, so it was no surprise when my little sister, Amy, started taking guitar lessons. The main motivation to that was, however, provided by her best friend who had started taking guitar lessons the year before. For one, Amy had always been quite competitive and always wanted to prove she was as good as anybody else. And she always wanted to impress me. The other reason for taking guitar lessons was that her friend had told her about the really cute teacher she had.

So it was no surprise that after her first guitar lesson she had already developed a major crush on Alan, her guitar teacher. At dinner that evening she told my parents all about him. Being only 14, 8 years younger than me, she had now reached an age where boys and men started to become interesting.

“Alan has been playing in a band since high school and they sometimes play at festivals. He’s awesome and plays like a god. He promised me to teach me to play just like “Greenday” and other bands. Isn’t that fantastic? Did I mention that he’s really cute?”

From now on every Thursday she would spend the whole evening telling us about Alan. My mom met him once, when picking her up, and she was also very impressed.

“He’s a nice young man.”

As you can imagine I started getting a bit annoyed at hearing about the famous Alan every Thursday with my sister’s eyes sparkling when she mentioned his name. I had to admit, however, that all the talk about Alan had made me curious.

Time passed and I continued with my studies. During my holidays, which were always a little longer than my sister’s at school, my mom asked me to pick Amy up from her guitar lesson. Finally I would get to meet the famous Alan. I expected some nerd in dreadlocks pretending to be a rock star. Strange as it was, I was getting a little nervous when I was time to pick up Amy. I stood outside the classroom and listened. I could clearly distinguish my sister’s play from Alan’s. I had to admit that it sounded good. When the lesson was over, Amy opened the door. “Shirley, come on you have to meet Alan”, she said and pulled me back into the room. Actually she had to pull really hard because my feet were suddenly not obeying my commands.

Alan was slim, but muscular, with about average height, with light brown curly hair. He looked quite nice, but not really special at the first glance.

“Hi, you must be Shirley. I’ve heard quite a lot about you. I’m Alan.”

“Yes, I know, Amy’s been talking about you ever since her first lesson.”

“I must have made quite an impression.”

“I guess so. Even my mom’s been very pleased to meet you. Now, why don’t you impress me?” I said with a challenging smile.

“I’d love to, but I can’t today. There’s a band meeting later tonight and before that I have an appointment for university I really have to keep.”

“Ah, so you’re a student as well. Nobody mentioned that. They were so busy talking about your skills and other features.”

“Yeah, well, Amy never told me you were also very sarcastic.”

“Yeah, well, it happens from time to time. But I won’t keep you any longer. Amy, let’s go.”

What was that all about, I wondered when we arrived back home. Why had I been so sarcastic? What was wrong with me? Alan did seem nice, but somehow we have been communicating at different levels. Amy did in fact ask me why I had not been nice to Alan. But he hadn’t been nice either. He seemed so sure of himself and that was a feature that never brought out the best in me. To Amy I said, “Sorry, but I’m having a bad day today. Do apologize to Alan next week, okay?” That said and done I did not think much more about Alan anymore until the following week, when my sister told me that Alan’s band would probably split up, since their lead singer had left the band because she was moving to another city. I said I felt sorry for him. And as soon as my words were out, my sister said, “I thought so too and I told him what a great singer you were.”

“You did what? Well, I’m sure he wouldn’t hear any of that.”

“No, actually he asked me to give him your number. He said he would call you tonight and that you should come to their band meeting and audition.”

My parents immediately thought it was a great idea because they had always thought that I was wasting my talent by not doing anything with my voice.

“Okay, thanks for asking me. I’ll go there, but just for the sake of a happy family.”

A little later my phone rang and Alan asked if I wanted to come. I had already decided that I would give it a try. He offered to pick me up, since parking was very scarce in the area of their studio.

I put on casual clothes and some make-up. I did not want to make a bad impression on the other band members and especially Alan, since we had not had a really good start.

When the doorbell rang, my sister answered and led Alan into our house, while I was running down the stairs. I nearly fell, when I caught a glimpse of Alan. He was wearing glasses and looked much more attractive than last time. What a change! I put on my shoes and we left. During our drive I was watching Alan. We were talking about music general and our studies. The drive did not last long and we found a place to park the car. I had assumed that Alan only needed his glasses for driving, but he kept them on.

When we got to the studio the other two band members were already there and Alan introduced me. Then they played some of their songs and gave me the text and I sang along as soon as I knew the melody.

“Wow.”

“That’s amazing.”

“You’re great.”

“Thanks, you have nice songs. Do you write the lyrics yourselves?”

“Alan’s our song writer.”

“Great.”

“So, Shirley, would you at least play two or three concerts with us? The problem is we’re already booked and if we cancel, it costs a lot of money.”

“Ok, I’ll give it a try, if you want to.”

“Good. The next concert is on Friday next week. Do you think you can manage to know all the lyrics by then? We’ll give you a CD with the recordings of our songs and Alan will have an extra session with you, as soon as you know all the lyrics.”

“That works for me.”

We did some rehearsing, but not much, since I had to learn the lyrics first. But we sat down and talked for a while and Jay and Ben, the other band members seemed quite nice to me. I felt really comfortable. After a while everyone was getting tired. Alan took me home by car and we had a really nice ride together.

At my parents’ house we arranged that we would meet again for a rehearsal on Sunday.

Over the next two days I learned all the lyrics and melodies of their songs. And I also added some suggestions to enhance the lyrics, although I was not sure how Alan would react to that. On Sunday afternoon we met at Alan’s place. He was wearing glasses again and I looking at him made me feel nervous. The rehearsal was great and I felt really confident about our concert on Friday. I had always had the gift to be able to learn lyrics really fast. During one of our breaks I decided to ask Alan, what he thought about my suggestions for the lyrics. He was flabbergasted and said I was a real talent. In the afternoon we had a coffee break and we sat down on the huge blue couch.

“I’m so glad you were willing to help us.”

“You can praise me after the concert. I’m really nervous about it. Are there going to be many people?”

“I don’t know, but I think it will be rather crowded.”

“So it’s good that I don’t have stage fright.”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

Before dinner I left and we decided to have our last rehearsal on Thursday after Amy’s guitar lesson in the studio.

Over next days I studied really hard, as I did not want to disappoint the band members, especially Alan. We had been talking quite a bit and I had discovered that we similar views on various topics.

Our rehearsal on Thursday went real fine and afterwards we went to a pub. Alan had once again picked me up. And once again he was wearing glasses. The pub was very nice and we sat down in one of the booths. When Alan went to the toilet, Jay and Ben bent over to me.

“You know, Shirley, Alan has not been his real self for a while, but since he met you, he’s the old Alan again.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know, but he had let himself go after his girlfriend had left him. He didn’t write any new songs and his heart wasn’t in his work.”

“Well, I’m glad I’m of such a positive influence for him.”

“Yeah, we’re too. You’re his new muse… oh, here he comes.”

“Hey, I hope you haven’t been telling Shirley all my dirty secrets and now she’s about to leave the band.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t be scared away so easily. Besides, we were just discussing, if we should order another round.”

“Great, are you gonna pay.”

“Alright.”

I got up and ordered another round. It took some time because the pub was quite busy. When I got back to our table carrying the drinks Alan had taken off his glasses and put them on the table.

“Guys, could you give me a hand, I’m not a waitress.”

They took their drinks and I sat down beside Alan again. The bar had some TV screens and they were showing a tennis match in one of them. That was another reason why it had taken me longer than expected to get the drinks. I started watching the match and didn’t really notice it was my turn to order.

“What took you so long, Shirley?” Ben wanted to know.

“Well, I got side-tracked watching the tennis match Nadal – Ferderer. It was quite an exciting game.”

I did not pay much attention to the match, though, for the rest of the evening. The guys were no tennis enthusiast like me and I wanted to participate in their conversation. Only when we were going to leave, Alan decided to put his glasses back on. While we had been in the pub it hard started raining so we quickly headed back to Alan’s car. Once inside the windscreen was fogging up due to the humidity. Nevertheless we started to make our way back home. The air-conditioning quickly cleared the screen. I noticed that Alan, who so far had been a very safe driver, seemed seemed very focused on the street and hardly talked.

“What’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?”

“What? No, it’s just that my vision’s not so great when it’s dark and raining. I wish I had put my contacts in today, it’s better when I wear them, but then they’re not so comfortable most of the time.”

“I see. I would offer to drive, but I’ve had too much to drink to be a safe driver tonight. But I can warn you in case I see something that I think you don’t.”

“Okay, sounds great.”

We got home without a problem and I said goodbye to Alan with a peck on the cheek. We arranged that I would pick him up for our concert on the next day.

I was really nervous, but I decided to play it cool and when I picked up Alan on Friday evening, I could tell that he seemed a bit nervous as well. And he was not wearing his glasses. It was odd for me, since I had only once before seen him without glasses apart from the time in the pub. To me he looked much better with glasses, but I could hardly tell him that straight away without blushing. Just thinking about it made me blush. But it was too dark for Alan to see that.

We reached the location for our concert and while the boys fine-tuned their instruments I went through all the lyrics again and made some vocal exercises. Then there was the sound check and in no time at all we were waiting back stage while the room was getting packed with people.

“You didn’t tell me that there’d be so many people.”

“If we did, you’d have been nervous all along and wouldn’t have agreed to sing, would you?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t have much of a choice now. I can’t leave you now.”

“Exactly.”

Finally the concert was about to begin in five minutes, when I saw that Alan was looking uncomfortably and rubbing his eye.

“Are you okay?”

“There’s something in my eye, but I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“Are you sure?”

“I never play in glasses and there’s no reason to start now.”

He put some eye drops into his eye and about one minute later we had to go on stage.

What a feeling! The audience was cheering, when we walked up. The boys took their instruments and started playing. I took the microphone and after one deep breath I started singing our opening song. The audience screamed in delight and everything was great. After our first song the other band members introduced me as their new lead singer and then we sang a couple of other songs. It was fantastic. I had never felt like that before.

Then there was a 15-minute break. I was extremely thirsty after all the singing. We sat down backstage for a few minutes. Again, Alan’s contact lenses were irritating him. He re-wetted them and then we went out again. The audience was great and we played the other songs we had planned. When the main programme was over, they wanted an encore. We assembled for a minute. This had not been planned. I didn’t know any other songs they had written. So we decided to play one evergreen in the end and Alan said he’d sing one song before that. The others were as surprised as I was. I was curious. So Alan took the microphone and his guitar and sat down on one of the chairs. We were standing in the background.

“This is a new song. I just finished it yesterday and since neither of the band members has seen or heard it before, I’ll play it to you. It’s about a hard time that I’ve been through lately after my break-up and how I met someone who helped me recover. This song is for you, Shirley”

With that he started playing and singing a truly beautiful love song. Ben had quickly produced some lighters which we were moving to the melody of the song. The song was about a love that had been lost and a lover completely devastated by this loss. Everything was dark and empty until a shining star crossed his way and gave his life sense and joy.

It went like this:

Oh, before I met you

Everything was black

I was desperate and lonely,

Never thought my life made sense,

But then one day I met you and suddenly I knew

Life meant to be full of joy

Oh, you brought me back

Oh, you brought me back

You brought me back

All the fun and love that I’d missed all this time

‘cause you take me as I am

And you make me feel greater than I’ve felt all my life.

And even though sometimes I appear to be blind,

You accept me as I am

And then, yeah, then

Then I really know who I am

I was really touched by the song and I even cried a little. Alan had a husky voice and the song was some kind of rock song changing between slow and fast depending on the line. The song was great and when it was over the audience was silent for a moment before they applauded. We reassembled and played one more song before we thanked our great audience and went backstage.

I got changed and met the boys a few minutes later. Alan was not there yet.

“Wow, that was awesome. I’ve never felt like this before!”

“You were great, Shirley, we’d never have managed without you.”

Alan came in wearing glasses now and said, “You were amazing.”

“So were you. Your song was so powerful, so emotional and touching. Wow, I don’t know what to say.”

“Let’s go celebrate, shall we?”

“Of course.”

We went to a bar close to where the concert had taken place. We had a great time and stayed until we had to leave because we were the last guests.

Alan and I walked to my car and when we were inside, I had to ask.

“So, uhm, you dedicated the song to me, right?”

“Yeah and everything I said in the song is true. I had a really bad break-up and before I met you, I was living in a dark cloud. I didn’t write a single song during this time and now you brought me back.”

“Wow, I don’t know what to say.”

“There’s no need to say anything.”

“But I’m really touched by the song.”

“Well, I just want you to be my friend, a real friend.”

“And if it turns out to be more than just friendship?”

“I don’t really mind, do you?”

“No, absolutely not. I really like you a lot, Alan.”

“I like you very much, Shirley.”

“And there’s one thing I’ve got to tell you.”

“What? Don’t tell me you’re engaged, your sister said you’re not.” Alan smiled.

“No, I’m not, Amy’s right. But what I wanted to say is that I think you look really gorgeous right now. And you look great in glasses.”

I was glad the car was still parked, so I leaned over and kissed him.

After that Alan invited me to spend the night with him.

Doreen F. September 2008

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