I had just gotten back to Pointer after doing some book signings up in Allentown Pennsylvania. The night was still young, but I didn’t feel like dropping in on Brian and his family. After spending hours talking and signing books I felt like having some alone time. So I headed downtown to where my club awaited.
Being a Thursday night, I knew it wouldn’t be open to the public so it was a safe bet I’d have the place to myself. After quietly leaving my car near Doctor Jack’s office, I walked the streets for a while in order to stretch my legs. It felt good.
I never knew being an author could be so tiring at times. Oh the late nights writing suit me fine, but ever since I signed a few deals with Hollywood, my presence has been in demand. Meetings, lectures, book signings, and personal appearances have kept me busy lately. So not having to be anywhere in particular and being able to wander a bit is very relaxing.
But as I drew close to the alleyway that led to my club, I spotted a familiar figure lingering nearby.
It was Teddy, one of my regular customers. He’s a nice kid who I helped out a few weeks ago when one of the jocks tried to bully him for asking a cheerleader to dance. I put a stop to things rather quickly, especially when I realized he suffered from Fibromyalgia. Ever since that night I’ve felt a kind of kinship towards him.
Although I never got a diagnosis, I know I shared his affliction when I was even younger than him. The constant pain left me tired and unsteady at times. But I was labeled ‘lazy’ and ‘clumsy’ by many, including my father. So I had to learn to hide my constant discomfort and fight my body’s tendency to not want to cooperate at times. I don’t think my father ever realized how much work I put in to just trying to appear to be normal. My mother on on the other hand knew better as did my little sister Isabella who often asked that I accompany her places to read to her. Being so young and blessed with eyes like an angel’s, Father barely ever refused her requests thus getting me out from under his watchful eye.
It wasn’t that he was cruel, I think he simply believed that being firm with me would lead to my becoming a ‘real’ man down the road. The idea of disappointing him always haunted me, which was part of the reason why I joined the Which is part of the reason I joined the 7th West Virginia Volunteer Regiment when the Civil War started. The day I appeared before him and mother in uniform for the first time I could see the pride in his eyes.
But I also saw something else, fear. This is probably what led to his pulling me close, something he rarely did with me and said, “I know how much you hurt sometimes and that your body can betray you. They say this’ll be over before Christmas, so don’t be foolhardy. Come back in one piece and know I’m always going to be proud of you, my son.”
Oh how I would’ve loved to have heard those words so much sooner, but just hearing them once was more than enough.
Looking at Teddy I knew he could use some words of comfort as well. His shoulders were slumped and in his face was a trace of tiredness I knew only too well.
After a brief greeting I invited him inside the club. He seemed surprised but was more than willing to accept my invitation. We both knew the seats were comfortable and that the place would be nice and quiet.
Soon we were sitting quietly near my piano, chatting away. He was now dating Tina, a member of the cheerleading squad. She wasn’t the one he’d been asking to dance when the trouble started, but she had been on hand and had helped him up after I intervened. Like him, she too suffers from Fibromyalgia, but that was not the reason he was alone tonight. She had gone out of town to visit relatives, leaving him with time on his hands.
“So what brought you out this way?” I asked him. “You knew the club wouldn’t be open tonight.”
“Nothing,” he replied, a little too quickly. “I was just in the neighborhood and needed to take a moment to rest when you saw me.”
He was hurting. That much I was sure of. But he also wasn’t telling me everything. I decided to dig a little deeper. “You know, when my Fibro was acting up I didn’t always feel like taking long walks.”
Teddy gives me an odd look, but says nothing.
“And I know you live all the way over on the other side of town,” I continued.
This time I saw realization sink in and his shoulders sagged. “Okay, I came all the way over here to try and get to the music store before it closed, but I didn’t make it.”
By this time my curiosity was aroused. “What were you going to get there? Sheet music?”
“No a guitar,” he tells me. “I’ve been getting lessons from one of my cousins for years now and I’ve gotten really good. But I only really get to practice when I can borrow his or at school. But I can’t take the ones from school home with me. So I saved my money and was going to finally get my own, but my Fibro slowed me down and… well, you know the rest.”
I was both impressed and a little confused by his determination to get the instrument. “You came all this way, even though you were hurting like hell to buy that guitar? How come? Why was it so important to you?”
He looked away from me and stared down at his hands. “When I play, I lose myself in the music and I can forget the pain for a while. I don’t feel like a loser or a lame-o,” he replied quietly.
“I know what you mean,” I told him and stood up. Wandering over to my piano I continued, “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat here and just cut loose so I could become lost in the music. The same thing happens when I’m dancing as well. I can forget whatever’s bothering me and with that respite my mind can clear itself for a time. Then, when I’ve finished, I feel recharged. Invigorated and ready to face whatever’s coming.”
My fingers brushed the white keys ever so gently. This piano and I were old friends. It had been given to me by Jimmy Durante, the great Schnozzola himself, as a gift some years ago and I treasured it. His charitable nature extended way beyond his friends. I remembered all the work he did for boys, girls and teens all over.
Just then I heard his voice as if it was coming from behind me saying those immortal words, “Do it for the kids.”
Without a second thought, I asked Teddy to stay put while I went down into the storage area. After a brief search I found what I was looking for and came back with a guitar cases. It had belonged to one of my many nephews who had given up playing after less than a year and had gone onto working on cars instead.
Opening the case I pulled the instrument out. It looked as new as I remembered.
Teddy gasped and came over to take a closer look. “Oh man, it’s a Gibson! And it’s in mint condition.”
Smiling, I handed it to him and said, “See if it’s still in tune.”
It wasn’t, but my companion quickly fixed rectified the problem. He had a good ear and definitely knew his stuff. Soon he was treating me to a display of his skills that held me in awe. I’ve learned to play a number of instruments over the decades, but I’d never mastered the guitar. Harps, keyboards, violin and a couple of wind instruments were my limit.
But Teddy knew exactly what he was doing. Watching his fingers flying up and down the guitar’s neck and picking those strings was a marvel to behold. He played for an hour and then we talked until it was time for him to go home. I sent the guitar with him on ‘permanent’ loan. To say he was grateful would be an understatement. But I knew it would do better in his hands than just sitting in the storage room. Especially since I knew it would help him through those difficult times when the Fibro was getting too much.
I don’t feel those pains anymore of course. My condition freed me from the shackles of Fibromyalgia and a great many other infirmities. But I never forgot what it felt like, or how even a small respite of any kind could mean so much.