I used to tell people I could play the guitar. It wasn’t really a lie in my head. I could play if I wanted to, just not well or in tempo. I did have a guitar though, a shiny black acoustic one that gave my bedroom decor the edge it needed. It sat in the corner sandwiched between my bookcase and a window, partially draped with window curtains. My parents gave it to me when I was 9. I’m 21 now, and the guitar still sits in that same corner locked in its dust-ridden case.
I don’t tell people I can play anymore, but the guitar sometimes finds its way into my conversations, at least in some sense. It reminds me of home—not my literal house or my bedroom, but the feeling of home, of growing up.
I remember the day I found it sitting underneath our Christmas tree next to an identically wrapped package. That year, I really wanted a computer because I was sick of making cardboard ones with my grade-school friend. Contorting cardboard and cutting out tiny pieces of construction paper for keyboard letters was, as it turned out, exhausting and fruitless; no matter how many hours and days we spent transforming a size-10 shoebox (I’ve always had big feet) into a laptop, the end product never functioned quite right. We couldn’t figure out how to connect to the Internet.
A guitar wasn’t the laptop I asked for, but it was nice. When my sister and I ripped apart the paper on each of our gifts, we marveled at the guitar boxes and promised ourselves right then and there that we would become musical geniuses. We would learn everything there was to know about guitars and become the next Carlos Santana, only a Puerto Rican twosome version.
We didn’t become the next Carlos Santana. I guess there’s still time, but I think it’s safe to say that goal will never come to fruition. I’m OK with that, as is my sister. She also has the guitar in her room, although its case has a little less dust covering it. When she comes home, we remind ourselves of the time around when we first got our presents, of when we were young and dared to dream big and didn’t give a fuck.
There was that time we opened shop, our windows served as the counter and the passersby on the street as our customers. One of those Toys R Us math toys was our cash register, but we never had real cash. The items we pretended to sell were real though—stained T-shirts, Ferbees with missing eyes, cut-off jean shorts, an eclectic collection of doll shoes without their pairs. There was that time we took turns somersaulting off the top bunk onto the zebra-printed comforter on the bed below. Neither of us has ever broken a bone, much to our parents’ surprise, but we had some scrapes and bruises to take pride in. Then there was that time we set up camp in our living room with our matching “Anastasia” tents. The second half of our legs stuck out and rested on the bare hardwood, tripping anyone who walked with his head up. We were both tall for our age. The only thing more difficult than pitching tents was making s’mores at night. Since we had no sticks or leaves or dirt or lighters on our campsite, we had to stretch our imaginations until the gas stove became a campfire. It worked well, both in melting marshmallows and driving my mom crazy with concern for our safety (we never asked for permission before igniting the fire).
Eventually we lost the math toy and got separate bedrooms and outgrew the tents even more. And now we have an electric stove. As our parents weren’t fond of snapping photos, those guitars sit in our rooms as one of the few physical reminders of a simpler time. My parents resolved to grow old in that house, which is lucky for me because it would strange to see the guitar sitting in any other corner shrouded in the dust of a different bedroom.
Tatiana Baez is a writer in New York. She still doesn’t consider herself a grown-up, but she likes to pretend she is.