A few days ago, I learned the first four chords to “Wonderwall” on the guitar. This is different from actually learning the entire song, of course. That would be harder, and require chord formations my fumbling, amateur hands have yet to master. But the first four chords are surprisingly gratifying to play. I play them on a loop. I sing the first two verses of the song on repeat. I love that song. I don’t care if it’s tired. I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now. Goddamn, that line gives my heart a goose. The directness. The fire of it.
I’ve been playing guitar for a few months now. I’ve been up and down with it. I get hugely frustrated, but sometimes I feel like a superhero: My hands make music. I quit piano when I was 8 years old and never looked back. I sat and nodded and smiled while my high school boyfriend mastered the bass. But I’ve never had the courage or the patience or the time or the humility to learn an instrument.
Now that I am learning, I feel a sadness that more people don’t do it. Sometimes I get indignant about this: Playing an instrument should be mandatory in schools! Throw out the algebra textbooks and let’s all learn Tom Petty songs! But in all honesty, learning to play music has cracked open the experience of listening to music, something I have loved deeply for many years but which I spoke about in fog and shadow. Now I can hear a G-chord. A G-chord! I know that an F-chord is hard, and an E-minor chord is very easy, and Beatles songs seem like the simplest things in the world but they’re not at all. They’re little jewel boxes of sound.
I bring this up today because recently, a story I wrote was published on the Morning News website. I wrote it two and a half years ago for a bound, print-only compilation, and it is very much a stamp of that moment in my life: Heartbroken over Nick, drinking all the time, obsessing, finding hope in song – in particular, a song by Oasis called “Don’t Go Away.” It’s weird that the story just went up, because the specific emotion feels distant, but the repetitive behavior is so current. I listen to the same songs over and over again, and I suppose I always will. I am full of longing and wish. I suppose I always will be.
When you’re struggling with a song on the guitar, the best thing to do is play that part over and over again. “Loop it,” my friend Mary says. “Loop that sucker.” We learn through repetition.
Do I repeat myself? So I repeat myself.