First line from “Fault Lines a Memoir” by Meena Alexander.
What would it mean for one such as I to pick up a mirror and try to see his face in it?
In times of solitude, when my eyes are willing and my mind ready I am able to peek into the encased abyss that is I. Having lived now for eighteen years, what has my experiences, relationships, and my own mental and physical struggle to get somewhere, anywhere, conjured up to?
Was that heart elating yet heart crushing teenage infatuation, which felt extremely close to what I thought was love, a waste of time? Was getting drunker than drunk and watching friends get higher than high mere insolence and stupidity of youth? Was refusing and walking away from my God – the creator of the grandiose, the creative, the meticulous – utter foolishness? Was my return to Him inevitable? Was my discovery of the beauty and brilliance of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie, and Elliot Smith only a refusal from me to not conform and be outside of the crowd? Was my revelation of the feeling of empowerment to control emotions, ideas, and love that came from a guitar the result of disillusionment and loneliness? I think back upon my memories for all its glory and its many disappointments and am forced to feel that there must be something tying it all together – some glue, some wire, maybe someone. And by having the vignettes of my life connected and relate to each other like how the dark distance of a middle C note and the 6th octave B note are connected by the C major scale, then am I only able to begin to tell you or tell myself who I am and what I have become and hopefully will become in the caverns of tomorrow and finally offer whoever willing to listen, the song that has come out of me and still has still yet to reach the double bar line. Because when one listens to a piece of music, individual notes are of no significance – it is when the notes are brought together in the mind or on a sheet of paper that the beauty of it all makes sense.
Though I wish “I” was as simple as just adjoining the things that have been in contact with me and then view the created object from afar, it is not so. I am not simply just defined by the notes on the lined page which guides me from measure to measure – the highs, the lows, and the time in between. But I am also delineated by the potential and possibilities that “I” represents. I once heard it explained like this:
“I equals all the ‘ifs’ over time. The ‘ifs,’ those are the possibilities, that’s infinite for all of us – everyday there are just millions of them. Time – that’s finite for each of us, no question there. Maybe if you divide the choices (the ifs) by the amount of time you have, the real ‘I’ can emerge depending on those choices.”
This idea that I am not just made of the choices that I have chosen, but also the choices I have not chosen has confused me. I am not merely just the joyful song you hear that is coming out of me, but I am also the dirge that can be potentially played. Can this be? That “I” is not just me, the individual in the present, but also the potential of the me to come? That my future – with my hopes of being a bona fide songwriter, writer, and human being – though still unwritten, is also the “I?”
So what is it that I see in the mirror?
I see the sweat and ambitions of a meticulous craftsman who has chosen to use various types of woods – mahogany, koa, rosewood, maple, ebony. I see hints of the fine curves that have taken eighteen long years to manifest from ridged edges and splinters, as a result of His adamant work and desire for perfection in me. I feel tensions growing, growing, growing as time passes and the strings that defines me attempts to tune into harmony with each other and eventually go out of tune and attempt to retune and again go out of tune, etc. I see the craftsman’s eyes watching and his hands caressing in full admiration of His art. Then I see and begin to hear the craftsman playing his piece of work, producing a composition so epic it touches upon the full spectrum of emotions – the crescendos of joy – the decrescendos of devastations – and the fermatas of contentment. Every new measure He plays is unfamiliar to me and requires me to adjust in order to produce the best sounds. The upcoming measures are unknown to me, compelling me to fully depend on Him to continue playing and play what is sound. And though some strings are unable to cope with the strain and snap while others bend out of tune, and furthermore the neck bends away forcing all chaos, He has been patient and has re-stringed, retuned, and re-assembled His piece of art and still – He continues to play –