A Wooden Guitar – An Essay by Michael Ahari

E.Q: Write about a person, place or incident from school which you find unforgettable.

A wooden guitar. It rests on a desk in the opposite corner of the room. Light peeks through gaps in the closed blinds and illuminates the shiny brown surface of the guitar – my eyes drawn to it in a subliminal stare. The walls around me are pink, matching the colour of the chair I sit in now. The soft leather feels like I could be swallowed up in comfort, and relax. But I can’t relax. Not here. In front of the desk and the guitar, in the middle of the room, he sits. A bright blue blob, scanning me from head to toe, like a predator ready to pounce on his prey. And I’m staring back at him, maintaining eye contact. My fingers dig harder and harder into the side of my leg. My nails are teeth, gnawing away at my flesh, eating me up. Then he opens his mouth, as if to gobble me whole, and welcomes me into his office. The lions den. The headmaster’s office.

That room, for seemingly insignificant reasons has remained firmly in my memory. The first of which was colour Pink. Why pink? In such a place where children enter brimming with confidence, cheek and confrontation, and leave a changed person – only a dribble left of their formerly self – should they be met with the comfort and safety of pink walls. And comparing them with the colour of his angered face, they became even more incongruous. Then, he coughed, drawing my eyes back in his direction to finally face my fear. I felt, like with many other fears, like I could not step back. Not attempt. There was nowhere to go. The door was shut. Or was it…A woman walked in.

The squeak of the door and the rush of air as she burst into the room gave me another few seconds of escape – a gasp of air before I would be plunged back in at the deep end. And in those few seconds I noticed, above all, her and wrapped around the door. Her long, slender fingers like a rake complete with the sharp points of her nails as they scratched the paint from it’s surface. Then I counted her fingers. One to five. Of course. How many fingers was I expecting? Four? Six? Perhaps it was to reassure myself that she was human, and her pale complexity coupled with ghostly fingers was all part of the agenda to frighten me. And she disappeared. The door closed with a thud. I could feel the door squealing in pain as it slammed back into place. Silence. He flicked through a bundle of paper, each sheet shaking in his grasp, and his nose twitched uneasily. Ironic that it should be him and not me…

The most unforgettable feature of the room, undoubtedly, was the guitar which caught my glimpse as he held the papers. It just sat there. In the corner. I couldn’t my eyes off it. I must have scanned it nine times, from the top, the tuning pegs, and following the strings journey along the neck, crossing over the sound hole and coming to a halt at the barrier posed by the bridge. And the intricate design of mosaic tiled wood around the sound hole – a pallet of colour covered in a beautiful glazing. Hypnotising. Everything else in the room was insignificant – even the headmaster – as the guitar played it’s melody of enchantment on me. I had completely forgotten my whole reason for being there. Until he spoke: “Hello Michael”. Sound pierced the air and dissipated around the room. It must have reached me last though, as my reaction was somewhat delayed. Then… click. I was back in the room. Sitting in the chair again, surrounded by pink walls, in front of the headmaster. The interview was about to begin.

Today, when I review my ordeal in that room, I realise that in fact, it was much of an ordeal at all. Instead, an experience to savour and enjoy – I was a candidate for head boy after all. Not a daft eleven year old who spent their school days throwing rubbers at people in the class and telling teachers to ‘shut up’. However, it was the minute details that made this place so unforgettable. From the inappropriate pink walls to the inhuman hand around the door to the bewildering guitar in the corner, it was unforgettable. In many ways these details personified my feelings, and even now it amazes me to consider some of the bizarre items that have appealed to me in moments of fear. Now everytime I see a guitar resting on a desk, or a person with slender fingers, or pink walls in a room, I cannot help but think of my headmaster’s office. And who knows, maybe you will too.

This is a personal experience essay written by Michael Ahari who is in S4 and currently attends The Kip McGrath Education Centre in Balerno, Edinburgh South and is busy preparing to sit Standard Grade English.

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