I heard her strum from the next room. I heard the drone strings hum their tune under the melody she picked out. It seemed to be a melancholy song, almost nostalgic- a tango played on a sitar. I liked the tune. It sounded like Gardel and Shankar had a jam session. I stood up and went over to the doorway. I stood and looked down at her. She sat on a cushion, eyes closed, enraptured in the ecstasy of her playing. Her hands moved nimbly down the fretboard through the vast tapestry of strings and picked out every note with surgical precision and playful artistry.
She opened her eyes when she noticed my presence. Her brown eyes looked deep into mine as her hands continued to play as if autonomous. She bit her lower lip out of what I hoped was desire for me, but was probably more for mental fortitude as she forced her fingers to the very edge of their ability. She turned her gaze from me, focusing it intensely, towards the sitar and played the last few bars of her jam with the power of a death metal solo.
She exhaled deeply as she relaxed her hands. “That was beautiful.” I whispered as if in a church after the end of an organ solo.
“Thanks.” She replied breathlessly. “I really got into a good groove there. I wish I could do that more often,” she added bashfully.
“Na, you always play so well. I’m really jealous, or perhaps the feeling would be in awe, of what you can do.”
She looked at me with her eyes wider than usual and smiled. “Even if you’re lying, thanks for the compliment.” She paused and looked at the sitar. She ran her hand along the neck producing faint buzzes from some of the strings. She laughed. “I guess I’m glad I put in all those hours as a kid after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I was a kid I had to play this damn thing. My parents made me. I fucking hated it. It was hard,” she paused and took a breath, “I think I read it’s one of the hardest instruments to learn. I spent hours learning to play it and I was bad. I mean really fucking bad.”
I laughed at the thought of a small version of her making strange sounds on a sitar that was twice her size.
She smiled when I told her my mental image. “That’s not far off actually. I was terrible and every day it just seemed to be worse. My teacher seemed convinced I was impossible to teach, but my parents weren’t impossible to milk for tuition so he kept me as a student. The years went by and every damn day my parents made me practice. And you know what? You get huge weird calluses on your fingers from this damn thing. But,” her voice trailed off, “but one day it all seemed to click and here I am. I can jam like Ravi mother fucking Shankar.
I laughed, “Yes you can, though I’d say you’re better.”
She laughed, “ Now I really know you’re lying. Well that and you don’t know shit about the sitar.”
“Now that’s the pure truth right there,” I replied.