6136

Lynne Parry-Griffiths is currently undertaking the MA in Creative Writing.

I was one of the first. Crafted in a decade of excess, I gleamed and swaggered with hand-sculpted arrogance, a prize few but the over-indulged would ever attain. Seventeen inches wide and with a four-inch deep, golden-edged body, sparkling chrome, pearl block fretboard inlays, maple neck and solid spruce archtop, I was perfection.

Pleasured by yellow-stained fingers I was never really loved until I saw his strangely knowing stare. A relatively new arrival in the adult world, he was scrawny, a ridiculous undercut with a scarlet lick, the usual array of acne and a scowl. When he pushed the door and stepped inside, his head was cocked slightly as if inhaling the unsung music about him.

‘That Falcon, she an original?’ An adolescent nasal mumble.

‘Yes.’

‘What year?’

’55.’

‘She one of the first?’

‘Look, it’s an expensive piece of kit, don’t waste my time. You can look at it, but it’s out of your league.’

‘How much?’ Unfazed by the man’s brusqueness the boy held his ground, his eyes searing my curves.

‘You won’t be able to afford it.’

‘She’s not an it,’ he insisted. ‘Try me.’

The man sighed impatiently, and goggled when the boy peeled off a wad of bills.

The boy grinned. ‘I’ve got my own plec.’

He was surprisingly strong. Fitting me into his bony hip, fingers flying across my neck with the caress of a lover, he made me moan with ecstasy. Take me home, I begged as he stroked his way through an array of chords.

He would always be different. Beneath the cigarettes, girls, pills, parties, little packets of white powder, the shiny, shiny needles, I was his. He loved me, not those stupid giggling girls, a different one each night. The damply dissatisfied exchange done, he’d roll off, grunting. No matter how many of them shrieked how he’d used them, he’d throw their clothes towards the door, light up another cigarette and reach for me.

Boys like mine held the future in their narrow little fingers; gone were the sharp suits, DA haircuts, and greasy quiffs I’d first known. He pranced about in baggy shorts, His face rarely condescending to smile, a cigarette clamped between his lips. As he grew to man he put on some muscle, daubed his upper arms with the obligatory tattoos and rid himself of the undercut. And he loved me. Loved me. Once, an over officious airline employee tried to tell him there was no seat on his flight for me, he was very sorry but there’d been an overbooking and… The official didn’t even get the chance to finish before he’d started meltdown. I wasn’t cargo, I was a vintage musical instrument, irreplaceable, and they had to find me a seat. Didn’t the asshole understand that?

I suppose they’d seen it, heard it all before; he was just another overindulged brat, and if he didn’t calm down they’d have him arrested. As a global commodity they could survive well enough without his patronage. But whatever he’d swallowed, sniffed or injected, it ignited. Machine-gunned obscenities, fists and feet smashing whatever he could reach, scratching his beautiful fingers scarlet. It took four men to subdue him in the end, cuffing those perfect hands and yanking him away still screeching.

He was lucky this time, they didn’t find anything illegal on him, nor stuffed in my case, but of course it spattered the news. They let him out in a few hours, money buys the best legal advice and he had plenty of it, but his pissed-off child features still daubed the morning editions and breakfast shows. They shouted how he was a rare talent in a world of lip-synching; a young man obsessed with weaving notes, practising chords and riffs until his fingers bled. What they carefully concealed was that his appetite for the little packets of powder was beginning to replace the music.

When the perennial groupie had choked for the final time, he’d show her the door, a chemically-enhanced grin replacing the beatific smile, pick me up, and rest his head against my neck until he passed out. The world still adored him but he hated them for it. He refused all interviews, grunted at those who hung about the stadium doors; even the hot stink of meaningless sex lost its allure. There were still days when his brain cleared and the new-blistered hands trailed over my frame, the fingers stroking my neck and fretboard as if he were lamenting what he used to be. Occasionally he’d be sober enough to play and I wept out my chords. He rarely bothered to dress anymore and I could feel him pressed hard against my back, the sweat seeping into my body, marking me as his. We still soared and we moaned and I screamed the notes he pricked until he could no longer control us.

When it came, the beginning of his end was typically abrupt.

‘I’m going home. I don’t want to do this anymore.’

The others were stunned, twenty thousand tickets snarling impatiently and he wouldn’t play. They’d always accepted he could be difficult, but this stank of closure. None of them spoke to him off stage anymore; he detested them and they thought he was an egotistical little shit.

‘Get your sorry ass out there. There’s people out there who’ve paid good money to see us. Not you, us, you arrogant little bastard.’

‘Tell them.’

‘Tell them what? That you’re fucking mad?’

‘If you like. I don’t care. I want to go home.’

Fists swung, sneakered feet bit until their frantic manager pulled the band from the curled creature they’d once invited to play. So they let him go home and that’s where he stayed, just another burn-out, killing himself slowly as the world began to forget.

Days slumped into monotony, he stopped eating, preferring the harsh sting of vodka and burnt powder. Occasionally he’d gaze at me with increasingly glazed eyes, crooning how he still loved me because I never let him down. Tired of his comatose condition, the stench of addiction heavy on his skin, they left him to rot. No one loved my beautiful manchild anymore, a smackhead, pothead, crackhead junkie who smeared blood along his walls and talked to demons.

The money smouldered in the flame of freebasing and filthy dealers, rat like men whose eyes settled on the grubby notes he handed them. One by one he pawned or sold his discs, awards, even his furniture, clothes, books. All he had for his twentysome years were a handful of scratched CDs, a stained sofa and his guitars, dust smeared, our hearts cracking for the boy who’d been but was now too lost to care. Naively I overlooked my value: an original 6136 would still fetch more than a handful of fixes, and he knew it.

When I felt his dry fingers begin to stroke me, not caring if my dirt clung to his weeping skin, I knew. I didn’t need to see the tears or hear the broken breaths as he fitted me against his hip, the sharp bones biting. But he couldn’t play now; his nails were little more than bloody stumps and the plec wouldn’t steady itself between them. Eventually he cried himself towards a form of sobriety, laid me in my case, a lover closing a coffin.

Before he handed me to the unseen man, probably another of those who offered him the smallest price for desperation, he paused.

‘She’s an original ’55 6136. She’s made me so happy, but I need the money. I have to have money. Take her.’ The sobs were beginning to break in his throat as the man handed him a pile of stained bills. Stuffing them clumsily into the filthy coat he wrapped about his wasted body, he hunched his shoulders and shuffled away, footsteps fading.