I can’t believe that I’m about to say this but is true: I’m jealous of the guitar. I know, sounds crazy, right? I have been wondering what was bothering me after I left a session with poets last Thursday at a McDonalds in Glendale. It’s that damn guitar!
First, let me explain. Every Thursday, George de Aztlan and friends unite in the name of poetry and music at a public McDonald’s located on Central and Millford (500 N Central Av, 2 blocks from the 134) in Spanish. These brave souls stand up and recite poetry like I’ve never seen before, they even sing lovely songs and play their guitar. Everything is cool, everybody has a great time, except for this guy. Oh, no no, no! This guy must think he’s better than anyone else, right? Well, when it came down for me together up and recite my poetry I was a wreck. The words didn’t come out right, everyone looked at me as if I had a monkey taking a dump on my head. Maybe it was just my imagination, maybe it was my head playing tricks with me but that’s what I saw. Everyone was polite enough to clap when I was done after they saw me sweating as if I had run a marathon and finding my seat quicker than you’ve ever seen this guy move.
There. I have stage fright. I am too tired right now to look for the definition or name of that fear but I’m sure I’m not the only one. And I’m sure that I am not the only one that suffer this: there must be a vast majority of poets, writers, actors that all suffer the same. It feels as if every word I speak was purposely being chopped to inaudible pieces, as if I had a translator inside my throat changing every word I was speaking and making it sound garbled, distorted, low and, quite frankly, boring. This became quite clear when I say down and everyone else that followed was wonderful, everyone had so much material than me (I’ve only written a handful of Spanish poems but not that many), had memorized their lines, were able to enunciate clearly every words, every rhyme without missing a beat. These poets have it together. And so I felt inferior, I felt as if my words did not deliver the message, I felt like saying: whatever you just heard and saw you can eliminate it from your memories. ZAP.
Oh, and then there was the guitar. And I saw the panic on everyone as well. Everyone fears a poet with a guitar. What’s interesting is that, while everyone paid attention to the one person speaking, one could still hear the side conversations, people leaving for the bathroom or to make a fake phone call or get another cup of wonderful McDonald’s coffee. Except when the man in the guitar was performing a song. It’s like that fable withthe man and his enchanted flute that came to save a town from a rat infestation. It’s the power of music. The moment this gentleman began to strum his hands through the guitar one could almost see the musical notes floating over his head and hypnotizing every poet in the house, including the clients that were sitting nearby, looking as if we’d lost our minds. It was as if time froze, as if a spell had been cast over us and you could either succumb to it and sing along, or pretend to move your mouth and allow a couple of words here and there escape. The point is that the guitar has that power, that power that this poet fears, that power that I wish to possess.
On my way to my boyfriend’s house last night I was thinking why was I so upset when I left that night. It was a wonderful night, a night of camaderie, jokes, music and laughter. Why was I upset? I mean, that’s what I had come to expect, right? Why was I so damn afraid? The answer came clear as crystal water: I am jealous of the guitar. I know it sounds absurd: how can I be jealous of an instrument, a piece of wood and strings put together to create music, how could I be jealous of an inanimate object that apparently had no threat to me before? The answer was also clear: because you want it. Yup, you heard right, I wanted to be the focus of attention that night, I wanted to be the one that played beautiful music and sang the songs that everyone knows and sings along, feel like Jesse Cook, or Jose Feliciano, or Carlos Santana playing Samba Pa’ Ti or a Gypsy King that has everyone dancing and clapping and singing along. That’s what I wanted to become: a showman. Someone that can literally stop everyone’s conversation and force them to listen, force them to be one with me and my words and my poetry. I wanted that confidence back like I know I had back in High School, back when I wasn’t so concerned with everyone’s opinions of me, back when I could walk onto the stage and own it, back when I was brave enough to let my artistic side out, to let my spirit free, allow my soul to speak through me. And that’s why I was upset, that’s why I couldn’t sleep: I was jealous.
My boyfriend literally laughed when I told him this while drinking a cup of Riesling (or was it the third cup by then? I can’t quite remember) because he wasn’t there to see me crumble in front of an audience of fellow writer and poets. He didn’t see how my knees started to shake, how my voice crackle and broke as I opened my mouth to speak, how much I sweated as I saw everyone stare at me, look through me, judging me, laughing at me or simply ignoring me, which is probably the worst. He wasn’t in my shoes at that embarrassing moment in time that I shall not want to remember for it’s so painful.
Yet, it took this experience to realize that I needed to find my guitar, find that instrument, gimmick, joke that will captured everyone’s attention. I need to find my piano, my own private mic as George carries along with him at all times. I need to find something that will give the confidence that I so desperately need. I need to find my guitar.
©2014 Victor Sotomayor