Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Don't give up that day job. Chris Hadfield fanfic.

Holding an E-minor chord with fingertips already sore, Chris carefully dragged the plectrum across bronze and steel strings, gratified by the nearly-in-tune response. He fiddled with the tuning head. For him, trying to get the tuning on the second string was the worst. It had a habit of breaking. He tightened it way beyond its limits time and time again.

Striking again, the chord sounded better. He moved to the A-minor, and fooled around by moving the exact finger configuration by one fret or one string and one beat at a time. By pulling hard and squeezing hard, he could get a little reverb, a little tremolo out of it. The trouble was that he had to think about it. Real guitar players made it look easy because for them, it was easy. It had become easy, while he despaired of ever learning it. There wasn’t much enjoyment in it. It was like he just couldn’t let go and break away and be alone with himself.

There would always be an imaginary someone looking over his shoulder. He knew he was bad, and yet he couldn’t just get over it. It was his own self-consciousness, always ready to beat him up for some minor personal flaw. Wasn’t he being introspective tonight. Hmn. His body rotated and he drifted towards the bulkhead and the doorframe not far behind. He had a moment or two yet at his present velocity. He stuck out his left foot at the exact moment and stabilized; now drifting slowly back in the opposite spin and direction.

There were no words for what he was feeling right now. Somewhere in the world, a man or a woman had those words, but Chris was no poet. He had worked extremely hard to be here, sacrificed much to be where he was today. The guitar brought home just what that meant over the course of a man’s life. His job gave him fulfillment. That fulfillment wasn’t the whole picture, not by a long shot. He almost wished he hadn’t brought the thing, it seemed like every time he turned the corner, it reminded him of its own futility. What at first seemed like a glib PR stunt was backfiring deep in the guts. Okay, there were plenty of frustrated folk-singers and wannabe rock stars out there, all hung up on the day job and the mortgage payments. But this was just something he’d always wanted to do.

He tried a D-7, then back to the E-minor. It was about all he had ever learned of the guitar. His hands, marvelous at other jobs, were too stiff, too wooden. He didn’t think in those terms, those expressive, emotive terms where art made sense and science seemed so irrelevant. Yet he had been so sure at one time that there was science behind music and that essentially anyone could learn it. But Chris, try as he might, hadn’t learned it.

Those hands flew an aircraft just fine. He flew fully-prepared for each flight, yet once in the air, the machine took a marvelous physical intuition and turned it into a kind of joy…but the guitar took something he didn’t have. Confronted by his reflection against the dark side of the Earth out there, his nose tickled. One whisker was poking up and out. He’d have to trim the thing soon or it would drive him nuts. At one time he thought that the fighter-pilot mustache spelled rebellion. It said ‘I am an individual.’ He had to subsume so much in order to succeed. It was his one little indulgence. It was still there, always in the back of his head. That little voice.

There were times when he wished he could sit on the floor, back to the wall. He’d thought once or twice of doing something about it. A little contact cement, some Velcro strapping, it wouldn’t be that hard. He could strap himself down. Microgravity made guitar practice difficult. He had been kidding himself if he thought he would finally find enough time to really learn how to play the thing. It was a lifelong ambition, one of many that would not be realized. He missed the kids, he missed Helene.

What was unexpected was the raw poignancy of his emotions. All those people down there, all of those warring nations, all of that sublime suffering, all of the joy and wonder and simple longing that lay three hundred kilometres below. They were just on the other side of that window. When he tried to say what was in his heart it just sounded so hokey.

More than anything, he would have liked to be able to sing all of those down below, a song, a song of love, or something like that. It was a beautifully sad thought, maybe even the thought of a poet. He had much more practical concerns.

There were voices nearby, engaged in some cheerful dispute. It sounded like Pavel and Tom. His moment of solitude was over. With a small grin and a shake of his head, he put the instrument away, and then went through the hatch and along through the next compartment to see what was up.


Editor’s Note: Don’t give up that day job. Here’s a song for you. ‘What I got.’ – Sublime

Chris Hadfield is on Twitter. 

Chris Hadfield's photos from space, (Daily Mail.)


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