Best of Freshman Writing

Volume 17

Table of Contents

Christopher Young 

Bradley Neighoff 

Chelsea Hafner 

Chelsea Hartzman 

Madelyn Koch 

Kristy Offenback 

Cody Bressler 

Emily Brown 

Ebony Ford 

Steve Hamel 

Daniel MacIntosh 

Chris Watts 

Matt McClure 

Kyley Mickle 

Shatisha Diggs 

Taylor Bury 

Joanna Evans 

Alyssa Gradus 

Cindy MacIntosh 

Abbey Miklitsch

Lisa Morrison

Hailey Schuchart

John Ritenour

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Copyright © 2012 The Pennsylvania State University

This page created and maintained by Jim Manis

Last updateded July 2, 2012.

Taylor Bury
English 15
PSU – York

What You Find in a Deli

Pluck, hammer-on, pluck, change chords. Slide down five frets, hammer-on again. Chord change then … then … shoot. I dropped my hand from the neck of the guitar, extending and bending my fingers a couple times. Learning “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman had looked simple enough, but after an hour of playing, or should I say attempting to play, I still couldn’t seem to master the pattern. The man in the YouTube tutorial must have realized my dismay, nicely suggesting for any beginners watching to just use some easy chords. I studied my left-hand fingertips, raw with deep, red, almost permanent indentations, and considered taking up his offer. However, I wasn’t in this for a cop-out. I shook my hand out one last time before placing it back on the fret board, like it was the very first time.
    The spring of 2010 was filled with promise, a lead to summer, and of course, rain. Rain that, on this particular day, I was hiding from under a canopy outside a local deli. Despite the downpour that made me think the skies would never become clear again, an anomaly in Cape May, I didn’t mind sitting outside in the fairly warm and muggy air. A soft whoosh came from cars passing by every once in awhile, softly spraying water onto the already soaked sidewalk. Behind me, I heard the slow hiss of a bus pulling up to the station, letting a few passengers out onto the solid ground. I didn’t take much notice, besides a fleeting hope that not all of them would race to the comfort of the deli. Up until that point I had the outside area to myself, and I didn’t feel like sharing my company with the noisy and obnoxious people trying to escape from Atlantic City.
    However, one couple, a younger man and an older woman, seemed to stand apart from the rest. Both had large suitcases lugging behind them and guitar cases on their backs. As they meandered their way up to the area across from where I was sitting, they were laughing without a care in the world. My curiosity towards them trumped any reservations I had before, and I caught myself studying them. As they ducked under the rain-free canopy, the woman went inside to order while the man flopped down onto the benches, along with the rest of their things. His hair seemed to copy the mood—long, fiery red, and completely untamed like he had spent a week in the woods. I caught a whiff of patchouli, which didn’t come as quite a surprise. It was at that point I realized the man was staring at me, while I was staring at him. I could feel the uncontrollable heat rising to my cheeks, and I knew without a doubt they must have looked flaming. He seemed oblivious, however, and just gave me an easy smile.
    “Hi,” he said smoothly. “I’m Trevor. How goes it?”
    “Uh, good I guess,” I replied, then quickly thought of a reason for my staring. “That’s a pretty cool guitar case you have there.” Despite just coming up with it, I actually meant what I said. Stickers of all different shapes and colors covered the entire front but still let some faded and worn leather show through slim cracks. The sides of the lid were fraying a bit, most likely from constantly opening, shutting, and banging into various walls and doorways. It was the type of case that, even without asking, you knew had traveled to a lot of places over many years.
    “Do you play?” he asked, suddenly sitting up with an excited expression on his face. I had to think about it for a minute. Did I actually play? I had gotten a guitar for my fifteenth birthday, but with a couple of futile attempts at learning chords, I had given up easily. I told myself I would come back to it, but the business of my days served as a barrier. Right at that moment actually, it was sitting in a case in the corner of my bedroom, three hours away.
    “I have one,” I finally admitted. “I can’t play it, though.”
    “Nonsense!” he exclaimed, reaching to unlatch the woman’s guitar case. “Everybody can play guitar. It’s just a matter of learning.” Before I knew it, the instrument was in my lap and a leather strap fell over my shoulder. The wood was faded and well worn-in, with scratches, dents and all. I pressed my fingers to the cold, metallic strings and pushed them to the surface of the wooden fret board, giving them a lingering strum. The movement was effortless, and the strings seemed to crawl into my fingers as the vibrating slowed to a dull hum. It was magic, pure and sweet magic. By the look on his face, Trevor knew the feeling.
    “Okay, now for some chords,” he exclaimed, as the woman finally exited the deli. “Melissa, this girl’s hooked on your guitar!” She took one look at us and let out a hearty laugh, filling the empty space. A small twinkle contrasted her dark eyes.
    “She’s a good one,” Melissa responded with a small smile, not making it clear if she was talking about me, or her lovely prodigy of an instrument. Trevor, meanwhile, had taken out his guitar, which carried the same worn-in look as Melissa’s. He started playing some chords slowly, allowing me to mimic the placement of his fingers and the slow flick of the wrist as he brushed his hand over the strings. After a couple of practice rounds, I felt like an expert, even adding some extra strums. Trevor took this as a cue to show off some of his talents, and would start an array of insane finger picking after every chord I played. We were jamming and people in the deli were staring, but I didn’t notice. I didn’t care. I was having too much fun experiencing a musical bond with a complete and utter stranger.
    After a couple of more rounds of our back and forth, I lifted the strap over my head and handed the guitar back to the rightful owner, as reluctant as I was. Melissa’s silver dreads swung over her shoulder as she met my reach midway, and she still had on that small smile.
    By that point, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and my parents had come outside, waiting for me to come along so we could head back to our hometown. I said my goodbyes and a thank you, before turning into the rain. Melissa caught me before I could go, though, handing me a card. “Burningit Atbothends” was scrawled in the upper right-hand corner, along with an email address.
    “That’s our band,” she said, as I studied the card. “And my email. Check us out, and let me know how you’re doing. You have a guitar at home?”
    “Yeah,” I mumbled, now feeling guilty. At this rate, my poor guitar was probably collecting dust on the surface.
    “Can I give you some advice?” she said, resting her hand on my shoulder and raising her eyebrow. She didn’t wait for my answer, though. “Take it as you will, but remember this. You can’t play the music when the guitar is locked in a case.” With that, she lifted her hand and gave me a small wave. I did the same, before turning and heading into the drizzle towards the comfort of the car. As I stepped in, my mom turned to look at me.
    “Taylor, I had no idea you could actually play guitar,” she said with some amazement. I glanced at the card again before tucking it into my back pocket, my fingers still buzzing from the vibrations of the strings. Neither did I, Mom. Neither did I.

Taylor Bury's essay appears here with her express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without her express written permission.