It had been such a long day. The drive home had made it seem even longer, winding my way through traffic for more than an hour. I pulled my car up to the house and gathered my things to climb out. My quickly wilting hand picked rose was in one hand, my keys, phone, purse, and little blue pine tree berries in another.
About the time I closed my car door with my hip, the sound reached me. I closed my eyes and listened as I heard someone up the street play the guitar with a gentle touch to a soft melody. Somewhere in the distance, a kid called for his mom to read him a bedtime story. The birds sang the day away. People went inside turning out their porch lights as they went. The man and the music played on in the most beautiful melody I’ve heard in such a painfully long time. It’s amazing, all the memories that can come from just a simple sound.
Daddy learned to play the guitar while I lived in Arkansas as a kid. I use to play with his guitar if ever he left it where I could reach it. I remember him playing "Home on the Range" so sweetly. I don’t think I really paid attention to the sounds of a guitar before he played for me. Ever since then, the sound has always brought back memories of my childhood, of my father playing guitar for his children.
A friend in Arkansas named Jeff tried to teach me to play guitar. Stevie RayVaughn blasted through my speakers for the first time when my roommate gave me a CD of his. I was dancing to the Guitar solo in "Freebird" by Lynard Skynard with Eric in Arkansas shortly after meeting my dear lifelong friend Robert. Another friend, Terry, played for me the first time I went to his house. The Guitar is a powerful instrument. It can take you back in time in mere seconds, transporting you to a world that no longer exists but in memories.
Terry – what an interesting character he was. Terry Ray Day was his name. When I first met Terry, he was the very most popular guy in school. He had one particular spot in the hallway where he always sat with his friends. He had long, rebellious red hair and vivid green eyes. When he stood up, he towered over me at about six foot four inches, and was still only in the 11th grade. Everyone in school knew who Terry was.
Even back in High School I loved to walk a lot. There wasn’t a while lot other than art that could keep me in my seat. At lunch I would roam the halls, usually alone since I didn’t have many friends. One day I wandered into Terry’s neighborhood. I felt really self-concious as I walked in front this popular guy and all of his friends. I felt the eyes of his friends looking me over and judging me, as was usual for me in those days. I was a social outcast in most circles, and this one wasn’t an exception. Some of them would laugh and joke to themselves and eachother.
"Hey look, it’s Nerd Girl."
"Shut up," Terry spoke over them. Shocked, I looked straight down at my feet, awaiting the verbal assault that was sure to follow, aimed at me. He was the coolest kid in school – surely he would want to out do the guys who worshiped him. I walked faster.
"Dude, she’s a nerd. We all call her Nerd Girl in Chemistry."
"Shut up," Terry repeated. "What’s your name," he asked me.
"Amanda," I replied without looking up.
"Well, Amanda, why don’t you come over here and sit with us a while. You know, kinda prove these idiots wrong," he thumbed at his posse of assorted jackasses. A few of them looked like they really didn’t like the idea of Nerd Girl sitting there, while others looked like vultures about to swoop in for the finish. All Terry had to do was give the guys an odd look, and they wiped the looks off their faces and cleared a spot for me to sit next to Terry.
I wound my way through the small crowd and had a seat, turning brighter red as I went. I didn’t know what I thought I was doing – the most unpopular girl in school was sitting with the very most popular guy? There were certain protocols that were to be followed. I was ignoring all of them. It was well known that Terry didn’t have a girlfriend, and hand’t had one in over a year. When asked why, he just responded that he hand’t found a girl that could hold his interest for long enough.
Terry began asking me questions. At first I was very quiet with my answers, terrified of what the general reaction of the crowd around us would be. I felt like I was being interrogated at first. Slowly I came to realize he was genuinely interested, and finally, I forgot the crowd completely.
"Where are you from?"
"Everywhere," I blushed.
"Where were you born?"
"Germany," I blushed harder.
"No," I hung my head.
"No? Why were you born there?"
"My Dad was in the military."
"Really? Cool! Where all have you lived then?"
As I rattled off the places I had been, the crowd faded out of my mind, though to them I was suddenly the center of attention. Terry asked me what each place was like, since most of the group had never been out side of the Utah borders. Everyone leaned in close when I started talking about California. Pretty soon everyone was asking me questions, and I was no longer Nerd Girl to them. Suddenly I was almost cool.
"Was it hot?"
"Did it ever snow?"
"How long were you there?"
"Ever go to Hollywood?"
"What’s L.A. like?"
"Have you been to Disney Land?"
"Ever seen any famous people?"
"Were you ever on T.V?"
The bell suddenly rang and we all went our separate ways to class, but a new aire surrounded me in the halls at school the rest of the day. People whispered, but didn’t giggle anymore. Something had happened.
"That’s the girl Terry Day wanted to sit with him," I overheard once and smiled to myself. "She lived in California," I heard another say. "I bet she knows a movie star."
"Amanda," Terry called out when he saw me the next day, "we saved you a spot." Sure enough, he didn’t have to give any funny looks. Everyone cleared a path to a spot right next to Terry, who had saved it specifically hoping I would show up. I waded through the crowd, for once being able to smile at the faces there, that welcoming sea of their anticipation smiling back. After all, I still had questions to answer. Mom taught me that making people wait was rude.
I went back to the group every day at lunchtime for a long time after that. People didn’t laugh at me in the halls anymore, I didn’t get spit balls in my hair in class anymore. I even started to care about my clothes and the style of my hair a bit more too. After a few weeks, Terry reached out and held my hand one day. A few glances were all we got. That day Terry walked me to class and kissed me before I went in. There was another shift in whispers, and people didn’t mind sitting next to me, or even having to work with me on projects after that.
One day, Terry invited me to his house after school. He was the first really genuine person I had known for some time, and I trusted Terry. It was not misplaced. That afternoon, after sitting on his porch swing and eating ice creams while staring down the view at Riverdale’s main road, he pulled out his guitar and played a while.
Terry played what was popular at the time; a Metalica song, Megadeath, ACDC, and others. He completely surprised me when he began playing a Classical piece I knew. It was beautiful! He played one after another, some I had never heard before. I loved it! It suddenly dawned on me… long hair, rebellious look, and classical music? He was once an outcast, just like me.
It wasn’t too much longer after that the world and life forced us into opposite directions, but Terry Ray Day made a lasting impact on my life with words and music that I’m certainly not soon to forget. I stood outside that night, listening to the guitar with my eyes closed, hearing Terry’s heart tell me that someone out there understood me. After such a horrible week, after feeling like I would never be OK again, I was miraculously reminded by the wilting rose, the four pine berries, and anonymous guitar music, that I wasn’t alone after all.
That was the last night I ever walked back through the door of that home I hated to the people I couldn’t stand.
I broke free the next day... and I was never alone again.