Here I am, pushing my way into a new novel, and like all project beginnings it takes quite a degree of commitment to stay focused, when there is a lot of white space on the screen and not nearly enough little black letters. In my writing, there is strength in numbers, as I tend to write more than I need and then winnow it down in the rewriting process. I also didn’t like being at school when there weren’t enough people around, like in the afternoon when most folks had left, so maybe I just feel more comfortable in crowds than the average person.
And even so, I have my limits. Some things, like the persistent plucking of an errant guitar string, will get on my nerves after not too long a time. Too bad the inept musician lives right upstairs.
It begins at seemingly random intervals, first with the drop-dragging of equipment from one of his living room to the little alcove that is off to the side, which is precisely above my writing desk. He’ll test the volume with the G string—not a chord, mind you, for he hasn’t gone anywhere near the idea of strumming multiple strings at a time yet—and then it’s full swing for at least half an hour. G, G, G, G, F, F, F, F, E, E, E, E. It seems to be the worst way to practice, unless he’s trying to train himself to remember where the string is and which fret to hit. It reminds me a little of my high school typing class. I can still hear the teacher, Miss Radice, clucking out at us, “SDS space LKL space DFD space KJK space.” While it turns out that typing was the single most important class I took in high school, it certainly wasn’t enjoyable.
Neither is the string plucker’s melodies, nor the way they float through the subfloor into my apartment. I suppose this year’s bad guitarist is just last year’s boundary-less college students who used to traipse across our back lawn on their way to and from class. And although the water in the pipes is loud and wakes me up at night, it’s not nearly as bad as when it rained in our kitchen from the shower upstairs.
I’ve taken to playing iTunes loudly when he starts flicking the cords, almost like a magical ward against his brutal deconstruction of music. I’ll put on electronica because that seems to create the least amount of cognitive dissonance, and then I can continue writing. Or I’ll leave the apartment and go write for a couple of hours and leave him to his study. Perhaps I should be kinder but I feel like if he can shell out the money for an electric guitar and an amp, he can pay for some cheap guitar lessons, instead of trying to peck his way into capability. Because the step after SDS space LKL is to string letters together to form words, sentences, paragraphs, grand thought.
Or gripe. Same difference.