Chapter 8: The Dulcimer
Sandy wipes tears from her eyes. She has been emotional for the last two days. She remembers Juanita talking about how women her age go through menopause. Maybe hormones are affecting her, but she thinks it is the loneliness. So sad to be aging and realizing you never had real love. It isn’t so bad for her, she thinks, because she has never believed in romantic love. She has never bought into that crap. Her parents hadn’t really been in love and seemed to think of marriage more as a business partnership. She hadn’t been raised to believe in the myth of the one true love. She is sad for the man who believes, who tries to find love, who seeks for it still even though he is growing old. To believe and want it so badly is the real tragedy. If you never believe, you never have to miss what you don’t have.
Sandy has written a new song. She was having trouble getting her voice as low as it should go. If she was a bass or a baritone, but she was not. Initially she hadn’t reacted to the words in the song or hurried to write them down. She is no longer shocked when she wakes up with a poem or song in her head. She enjoys the half asleep and half-awake feeling as she reads the words on the blue screen. She knows when she is fully awake she will be well rested and will remember the words. This time as she reads the words, she imagines a man from behind wrapping his arms around her. She does not see him but knows that he is good looking. He is tall. His arms are strong. She leans back and puts her weight fully against his body. He lifts her hair and rubs his scruffy beard against the back of her neck. Sandy had never been intimate with a man who had a beard. She had always thought she wouldn’t like it, but it does not irritate. It…she cannot come up with the words. It doesn’t matter. She won’t be describing it to anyone. Just live in the moment. Her thoughts return to the words on the screen and her voice in her head gets louder.
She cannot get the sound of her voice in her head as deep as it needed to be for this song. This song is definitely from a man’s perspective. He is a man about her age. He is a handsome, strong, rugged man; a man who believes in love. He is a man who wants love more than anything else. He is such a pleasant man in her brain that she thinks to herself that he cannot be real. She must have made him up as she slept. This must be her version of the fairy tale Prince. As he holds her it is sensual, but not really sexual. It feels, maybe, as if it is after sex. She thinks of the word in the song: bliss. It is bliss. It is more bliss than she has ever known, but how could she have made him up to seem so real. She wants him to hold onto her a little while longer. She feels him loosening his arms. He keeps one arm around her. She sees out of her peripheral vision his other arm bringing up a cowboy hat and feels it brush her hair as he puts it on his head. She notes the brown hair on the arm and imagines running her hand over his forearm and feeling the hair. The arm still around her lets go and he is gone. She wants to turn around to look after him, but cannot. She reads the screen one more time before the dream is over. Upon awakening, she sits up and writes down the words and the notes to the song.
Bliss, she thinks, bliss. She looks at the words she has written down. What an odd word. She has never felt bliss except for this fleeting moment in her dream. She has never searched for bliss. She has had orgasms, excitement, happiness, but never bliss. She remembers a friend of hers used to compare pizza and sex. Both, when they are good, are really good and both, when they are bad, are still good. Why search for bliss when any moron would tell you it either didn’t exist or was really fleeting?
The problem is that for the last two days, whenever she thinks of the song, her heart hurts for this man she made up. He tried, she knows, to find bliss within his wife’s arms, but she was not his soulmate. Now he is old and still wandering and still wants to believe in this myth. In his own way, he has never stopped looking. Then, she would start to cry, because she is so sad for him. Damn.
She tried using the app on her tablet to record the song, but she isn’t feeling satisfied. She needs an instrument. She knows she can’t afford a piano, but didn’t they have cheaper keyboards now? This is why she is sitting in her 2007 Chevrolet Impala in front of an instrument store having a good, long cry. If she can stop crying, she can go in and look for some type of cheap instrument, so she can play this damn, sad song.
It takes thirty minutes for Sandy to gain her composure, apply fresh make-up and go inside the store. A tall man with long grey hair in a ponytail walks over to her. He is wearing jeans, a buttoned Western style shirt and a leather vest. Sandy isn’t sure she even knows enough yet to talk to a salesclerk. She tells him she simply wants to browse. He takes off his wire rimmed glasses and looks at her kindly. He isn’t concerned about trying to sell her anything. He has been watching her cry in the car. Damn, Sandy thinks. She sees now that from the cash register he had a full view of her in the car. She tells him she is fine. He continues to look at her kindly. Sandy tells him again that she is fine. She just wrote this really sad song. From the impression on his face, Sandy thinks that he doesn’t believe her. He assures her he believes she is a songwriter and wrote a sad song. He puts his glasses back on and shrugs. Why not? They have a lot of would be songwriters come into the store. He doesn’t believe that it is not her that is sad. Why would she have written a sad song unless she was sad? Then, it must be a really sad song to make her sit in the car and cry. When he says that the song must be really sad, Sandy feels her eyes fill up with tears again. The sales clerk introduces himself as Adam and asks her if she wants some water. He tells her he is a really good listener. Sandy shakes her head. Is it a breakup or divorce? She tells him no. He hands her a tissue to dry her eyes. Sandy tells Adam that the man in her song has never found a soulmate. Adam looks confused. Sandy quickly composes herself and tells him that she is just looking for a keyboard. She is just needing a cheap keyboard.
Adam quickly turns into a professional sales person. Sandy reminds him she needs a cheap keyboard, but Adam now thinks she is a serious songwriter. He tells her she doesn’t want to go too cheap because she will just be back in a month looking for something better. Might as well spend the money now on something that will meet her needs. Sandy thinks this man has never been a single mother. Money is never plentiful. Sandy is trying to calculate what she thinks she can reasonably pull out of the vehicle repair emergency fund given her car’s age. She has just paid for Isadora’s flamenco dance lessons and there would be other costs associated with these lessons such as costumes. Isadora’s needs are always the priority. Sandy lives frugally and there is still never enough money. She is already feeling guilty about splurging on herself. Really, buying an instrument because she is suddenly a songwriter (having written a total of two songs) seems like a luxury she shouldn’t really splurge on.
Adam is showing her a $300 instrument and stressing how versatile it is for the price. He assures her it is the smartest buy. Sandy doesn’t see a keyboard for what she can actually afford. She blurts out, “What would you have for under sixty bucks? Really, tell me the instruments in your store for under $60 bucks.” Adam is a little taken aback and goes to the cash register. He looks at a list of instruments on a stock inventory list. He reads off to her: a recorder, a harmonica, a triangle, a bongo, a ukulele or a dulcimer. “A what?” she asks. Adam pulls a cheap looking, tear-drop shaped instrument from a cupboard. He explains a guy who lives in the more isolated East side of the Sandia Mountains had brought this instrument in and sold it. He made it himself. He sold it because he had children who were hungry. Adam said the store owner had felt sorry for him and gave him $35. He could sell it to her for $50. It is within her price range. Sandy has never heard of the instrument before. “How would I learn to play it?” she asks. Adam suggests starting by seeing if there are online videos and then maybe a mail order book. They didn’t carry any books or music for the dulcimer. They simply didn’t have much traffic for dulcimer song books.
Sandy doesn’t want a ukulele. It reminded her too much of Tiny Tim. With a recorder or harmonica she couldn’t sing. A bongo and a triangle are ridiculous. Guess she is going to learn to play a dulcimer. Adam says he feels protective towards her and reminds her that the sale would be final. Why not think about it at least overnight? No one else is going to buy it, he assures her.
Sandy picks up the instrument. There is something about its tear shape that seems appropriate given the tears her song has inspired. She thinks of the story of the man who made it having to sell it to feed his children. This seems like a good omen given her own lack of finances. As she holds it longer, she thinks there is something romantic about this instrument. It is the type of instrument a person looking for bliss might play. The man she has made up (the tall, strong, rugged, handsome man with the beard) would play this instrument. She will take it.
She pays and Adam hands her the receipt. He asks her if she is sure she is ok? He will feel bad if she left still upset about whatever is bothering her. Now that he is through “selling”, he is once again looking at her kindly. She tells him she is fine. He walks from around the cash register to stand next to her. He leans his head towards her and smiles. He tells her she is a beautiful woman. Could he have her phone number? Sandy is accustomed to simply brushing off this type of attention. She thinks about what Juanita said to her. She thinks about not wanting to perish in an arrogant self-reliance. She looks at him a little more critically. He is probably a couple of years older than she is. Possibly he might be fifty or close to it. He likes music. He is sensitive and kind. All of those are good traits. He is not particularly handsome, but in a life mate would she need that? Even though he is dressed Western style, she doesn’t think he is a cowboy. Definitely more of the Hippie type; also so prominent in Albuquerque. She thinks why not and gives him her number.