“Her Hands” by James E. Guin

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While enjoying an afternoon in a café, a man falls in love with a guitarist’s hands.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Her Hands” by James E. Guin

With the precision, the premeditation, and the control of a spider crawling from limb to limb spinning its web, I can still see her left hand gliding across the flat neck of the guitar. Relaxed, barely moving like the arm of a record player her right hand plucked the guitar’s six strings. She was an artist held prisoner in her own world, but allowing outsiders a voyeuristic glimpse.

Playing Bach with ease, her music floated through the café like the assorted aroma of the various coffee beans and tea leaves in display bins behind the counter. Each movement opened with a melody interrupted by another and yet another. The string of melodies bounced around until becoming intertwined to the point that I couldn’t tell the first from the last. Her entire body rocked with the continuous motion of Bach’s music, but her hands steadily danced along the strings.

I looked around the intimate cafe setting while her music shot webs in the air. A middle-aged man dressed in relaxed-fit jeans and a blue untucked polo shirt typed on his laptop; a young man in black dress pants and a wrinkle free burgundy dress shirt ordered more, more, and more on his iPhone; two young ladies both wearing hippie skirts and flower covered blouses talked about God knows what; and a teenager with a red shirt and khaki pants ate his sandwich and chips and stared out the window into oblivion.

How could anyone not listen to this genius playing guitar in the corner? I thought.

A flurry of notes suspended out of Bach’s final chord seguing into a set of Spanish pieces. Her right hand fingers flung across the strings with passion that hit some primitive spot within my subconscious. The machine-gun-like rhythms took me to a forgotten place where the cultural etiquette of this modern cafe did not exist.

As if to return my mind lightly to the present, she ended with a piece of nontraditional music. Dissonant with raw emotions, it spoke to me like the words of a poem that at first makes no sense, but haunts you until you know the poet’s heart. I understood its disjointed melodies and rhythms.

She held out the final chord until it was scarcely audible and then wrapped her right hand around the neck of the guitar, moved away from the microphone, rose from her chair in the corner, and walked through the kitchen door.

The noisy, unwelcomed silence hit me like the release of a long kiss. I looked around the café. Rubbing his forehead, the middle-aged man stared into his laptop screen; the young man had placed his iPhone on the table and punched at the screen with his index finger; the two young ladies wearing hippie skirts were walking out the door; and the teenager who stared out the window into oblivion was no longer there. Past his empty seat, leaves flew in the afternoon wind and brushed across peoples’ faces as they walked up and down the sidewalk outside of the cafe.

The kitchen door swung open, and she drifted toward me. For a few seconds I couldn’t breathe. Her right hand fingers wrapped around a tea cup handle and her left hand placed under a sandwich plate, she stopped short, placed her food and tea cup on the table next to mine, pulled out a light brown wooden chair, and sat down.

Through my peripheral vision and periodic glances, she did not act like she noticed me. But I felt like she was aware of my presence, like she was listening to me.

Compelled to speak, but not knowing what to say, I could only comment, “Beautiful playing.”

Brushing her left hand across her shoulder blade length hair, she said, “Thank you,” and returned to eating her sandwich.

After she finished eating, I asked, “Have you been playing long?”

And then realized how stupid a question I had asked. Although I didn’t know her exact age, mid to late thirties, I expected someone of her caliber had played guitar forever and at the minimum practiced several hours a day.

She placed her elbows on the table, touched her right hand with her left hand, turned her head toward me, and said, “As long as I can remember.”

Eager to redeem my present state of embarrassment, I said, “You are very good. I love listening to your music. I could listen all day.”

I was expecting a curt thank you and a smile.

“I can tell when someone appreciates my playing,” she said and her chin sank gently into the center of her intertwined fingers.

“How?” I asked.

“I could tell from the opening and closing, and the shifting back and forth of your eyes, the directions your head moved, and the way your body swayed while I was playing,” she said.

Lifting her chin from its relaxed position, she said, “I have to play again.”

She rose from her chair, and her hands lightly pushed it underneath the table. She picked up her empty plate and tea cup, and returned to the kitchen.

With her hand wrapped around the neck of the guitar, she emerged from the kitchen.

The lights in the café seemed to brighten when she sat down to perform. I looked out the windows. It was dark. A new crowd ordered, sat, drank, and ate around me.

On the opposite side a man my age, younger or older, sat listening to the music her hands made. At times he closed his eyes, but when they were open, his eyes shifted back and forth, and followed each movement of her left hand on the fret-board.

James E. Guin’s fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Romance Flash, Perihelion Online Science Fiction Magazine, and Alternate Hilarities Anthology Volume 1. He received an Honorable Mention in the Second Quarter of the 2014 L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. James can be found on Twitter, Facebook or at jameseguin.wordpress.com


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  1. Enjoyed your story, Zeke.

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