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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1856385
Phoenix reflects on the callouses in his life...
Phoenix played his guitar for a half an hour that morning, once he finally got showered and cleaned up.  After he was finished, quite satisfied with his level of skill after only a month of playing, he put his guitar away and sat down at the computer.  He had been noticing that the fingers of his left hand were numb - calloused - and he could not feel the keys necessarily, but typed instead by well-established habit.  Callouses.  Finally, he had callouses.  Phoenix could actually proudly say that he officially had callouses on his fingers from playing his guitar.  His calloused fingers felt better when they were fretting the strings of the guitar than at any other time.  Otherwise, they were a bit tingly.  Callouses.  Phoenix was so impressed.  First of all, that meant that he had stuck with playing the guitar and enjoying it for long enough to have developed them.  Second, he had proven his friend wrong when she said that he would quit with bloody fingers after two weeks and the guitar would sit in a corner and rot, never to be played or loved again.  Third, he had a new hobby and he could legitimately call it that.  Not only was it a hobby, but it was a method of relaxation for him.  He felt good when he was playing the guitar.  After he was finished, he always felt like he had accomplished something.  Not just something, but something for himself.  Soon, he would be able to play for others and they would be able to enjoy it, too, once he got good enough.  That was not in the immediate future, except for one particular Irish jig that he had learned to play pretty well, but it was coming.  The best part was that he enjoyed it.  He was still, after a month, enthusiastic about it and took the extra time to do it.  He actually needed to do it.  It improved his mental health.  That was a huge element in Phoenix's life.  He ha found something - an activity - that he could improve his mental health with and it had jump-started his mind and his soul again.  It seemed as if they had been dead for so long.  Phoenix needed music in his life.  It had been so painful with the previous associations of other instruments, though.  Music was part of Phoenix's soul.  He was a prodigy of sorts.  He had rhythm, could read music, and could play by ear, all three.  That was odd to find in a single person.  He understood music theory and used it to figure out complicated riffs, and though he could not yet play them, he could hear them in his head, knowing where they came from and how to play them once he was good enough with his fingers.  Playing the guitar was a coordinated activity as well.  It was forging new pathways in Phoenix's brain, making new connections, and lighting up his neurological processes all over the place.  This was truly great.  Callouses made him think of all this.

Phoenix soon thought of another type of callous, though.  The callouses of his mind that limited him from trusting people and thinking that they were inherently good.  Phoenix used to believe that - that people were inherently good.  He found out the hard way that life was more complicated than that, though.  He found out through sexual abuse, through war, through mental illness, through being judged by others in positions of authority over him.  Most people just learn this hard truth through customer service.  Phoenix had had much more experience, much harsher experiences, though.  People could not and should not be trusted, especially if they were in positions of authority.  Callouses.  He had been sexually abused for seven years by the head deacon of his church who was also a sheriff's deputy.  He was sent to war in the Service, where he discovered that rank had nothing to do with morals or common sense or compassion.  He had experienced the stigma of mental illness through his diagnoses of PTSD and Depression that landed him in the hospital psychiatric ward regularly and crushed many plans.  He was denied letters of recommendation from pre-health advisors due to his mental illness and their judgements that he was not fit to be a doctor.  People were not inherently good as a rule.  If you found one that was, they were the abnormal ones, but you must hang onto those people for dear life when you find them.  Phoenix had found a few, although it had taken him literally years to trust them enough to see that they were not going to harm him.  Callouses.  He did not have many friends due to this mentality.  He was too afraid of being hurt again and looking like the fool for trusting anyone.  His doctor had worked on it with him for over eight years now, and Phoenix had finally been able to trust him enough to tell him all of what happened to him in the War.  Phoenix did not trust anyone else with that information.  He had never told anyone else about the events that only his doctor knew about.  And he did not have to, according to his doctor.  It was enough that he had gotten it all out to one person, and Phoenix had felt relieved about having done so.  The nightmares were not as bad since he told his doctor everything.  The flashbacks were still there, but Phoenix was still learning to overcome the triggers that he knew about.  The ones that popped up unexpectedly, well, he had to just deal with as they came.  Callouses.  They could be the best things in the world.  They could also be the most miserable.  Phoenix preferred to dwell on the positive sort with his guitar.  It helped soften the more negative ones up, he was finding.  Phoenix would never be free of his callouses.  He knew that.  He just hoped - and hope was a rare thing for Phoenix - that he could end up with more good ones than bad ones in his life.

This brought to mind the treatment he had experienced in class that he had to leave over.  He was calloused against that particular person because she was generally arrogant, rude, selfish, and a very unpleasant person to be around.  She had had the nerve to challenge Phoenix - to argue with him about a trivial matter - in a way that screamed that Phoenix had done something wrong by merely participating in class as he was expected to do.  In class, no less.  Arguing in class was truly unprofessional, especially if it was about a personal matter.  Phoenix had no idea what that personal matter might be, but he was not about to extend himself to find out, either.  His doctor told him he had to get back on the horse.  He had to go back to school.  If this person started arguing with Phoenix in class, he was to just stop and not argue back, but he was not to leave class because that was harming his education.  Phoenix saw the wisdom in that.  His doctor was not upset with him for ending the argument.  His doctor was quite concerned, however, that Phoenix was going to damage his education in trying to avoid this confrontation.  Phoenix actually felt like he could participate in class, which both his doctor and he saw as a big step.  Phoenix did not want to lose that.  He would take his doctor's advice.  If this individual wanted to argue, she would have to do it in another venue, because Phoenix would not tolerate or entertain it in class.  Furthermore, Phoenix would not hurt himself by leaving class over her.  That was the plan.  Now Phoenix would have to put it to the test.
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