I was trying to go fast and flickered in and wondered how you could see me. Get in. Get out. Walk into the room, burn, and hear the approval. Turns out there will be no comfort. And I have been cursed, like most, with a long and lonely life. You don’t get to ask any more about the prices I’ve paid. I will tell you that now, I’m broke. Forgive my sins or don’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Never tell a writer anything you want kept secret. Don’t do things you’d hide in front of him. He will tell the world. He will nod his head while saying, “No, of course not.” He will change your name from Jessica to Linda, but the story will kill you softly when you see that names are just another construct. That is on purpose.
Perhaps I was drawn in by you drawling about your irrepressible hedonistic nature. Supposedly nothing? You clearly melted my mind at times.
I don’t belong where I was. This is the way of the world. That’s where I met you, though. So now we have to pound through this. I’m not even going to stick my toe in the pond of yesterday to consider anything about retroactive motion. I want you to come, but most likely you’ll stay. And that is where you belong. This no longer troubles me.
While you’re living your life it seems likes chaos and things are just being thrown at you like a spaceship in the asteroid belt. You know where you are. You know what you’re trying to do. But everything just keeps coming at you in a random fashion. In hindsight, you can connect the dots of choices you made in that field. Some crashed you into rocks. Some were brilliant real-time choices that no one else could have pulled off. And there were mistakes everyone would have made, and ones only you did. If you keep repeating those, you’ll never get out. And if you’re smart and lucky you do. Either way, each choice is connected. And the asteroid belt isn’t random, it just appears to be. It exists under the same physical principles that you do. Those laws are immutable (until you get really small, but we’ll save quantum theory for another metaphor). They don’t change, you do. One way or the other you do.
I spent July 3-4 with friends, most I hadn’t seen in years. We hadn’t all been to gather since my wedding (since divorced) 20 years ago this November. I almost didn’t go. Addictions of any kind really are fueled by isolation. And if you isolate for long enough, like anything else, it becomes what feels comfortable. Even sober, that craving for dysfunction is stronger than any cravings I have ever felt for alcohol. But I booked the ticket. I’m so glad I did.
The first day I got there the kids were at the beach and the spouses (spousi?) were shopping. Three hours I had with 2/3 of my best friends in the world. We did the requisite Glory Days reliving of the late-80s to late-90s. Then the conversation turned. I forgot what it’s like to have smart friends in person. I mean really smart, erudite friends. We could talk about 18th-century colonialism and the English Beat, eminent domain and marketing theory, the seemingly intractable problems of universal preschool, homelessness and drug addiction. And whether Black Sabbath really started heavy metal. Absolutely everything was on the table. Simply life-affirming.
Next day the same group, this time with families. And what wonderful families they are. Everyone, except me of course, seems to have picked the perfect partner, and all the kids (young adults really, from 15-20 years old) were polite, well-adjusted and grounded. It brought into focus that before the madness I had chosen, this was me. Remarkably, this was still us.
We were joined the next day by still another close, decades-long friend and her wonderful husband. Again the discussion turned to art and passion, and creating just for the existential satisfaction of turning nothing into something, no matter what that something was. All these friends were close enough that it wouldn’t make sense to hide my recent struggles. It wouldn’t feel right to try. So I didn’t.
To a person, all I felt was love and compassion. And every conversation was a continual reminder: this is us, and perhaps more importantly, this is me.
I killed everything. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t even trying to kill myself. But watch the funeral parade. See the black flags flying. Each one indicative of something I destroyed. Each relationship. Each chance. Each choice. A loss of grip on humanity and a slow slide down the rope into despair. Look left. Look right. There is no one else to blame.
The pull for the intensity of feeling necessary to create motivates predilections that most people are able to avoid. I don’t expect you or anyone else not enjoying/suffering the same condition to understand.
You see brilliance and you see madness. And you can’t wrap your mind around the fact that those are two schoolgirls holding hands.
A circle is not the smooth line that you apparently see when you look at one. It is actually an infinitely-sided polygon. This is one of the reasons that the study of trigonometry seems to be solely about triangles, but in reality is a study of their relation to circles. This is the reason why pi never ends. This is a metaphor.
So, what are we going to do when I get out there? Besides the obvious I mean. Our concerns have been so legal, so cerebral, so theoretical that the idea of you as a woman, with a woman’s body, and a woman’s kisses and a woman’s loving touch have, unfortunately, taken a back seat to those other concerns. I’m sure that will change the moment I melt into your arms, a sugar cube dissolving in your rain. And you as well will be sugar on my tongue dissolving.
In this desert of hatred, you have been an oasis of love and support; my tether to a world where the truth is believed, and friends are forever, and justice means fairness. Your beautiful words reach across these thousands of miles to talk me off the ledge of this bilious, nauseous, ferocious anger.
Three years apart and now three weeks. Do you still want me? I think you might. And I can hear your voice in response to that question a breathless treble of high-octave exhale, “Yeah!”
She’s barefoot down the street in short, dirty-black chiffon; the dress a metaphor for the city, the city her only version of a meadow. The sidewalk sweats with ancient heat and recent rain. And the rough wetness cools the blisters on the patches of the balls of her feet, worn rough having so often similarly trod. The word reminds her of a line from a poem, “nor can foot feel being shod,” and she smiles. Feet are supposed to touch the ground just like they’re supposed to hurt.
Fake trees loom above and block the long-set sun. Fluorescent blinks and intermittent shadows alternate light and dark. Her light-aired, measured steps are deliberately taken, then not so, and betray a civil war between ennui and melancholy. Both sides win.
You won’t remember this. There was a place once called Jaron’s. And as much as there might be such a thing as privilege, I had it here. These names are real. I was just off the plane from Texas with a black, felt Stetson and a shirt that said “Listen to Black Sabbath” and I meant them both. We had crab cakes and whatever was on tap. I was drunk on the plane. Now, it was just a slip. The bouncer knew me from ’93, the bartender was my cousin and his wife ran the kitchen. I was, as much as any place, home.
The band that night was ‘Ale’a, sweet voiced in Hawaiian, and they were. Kala’i was fresh off his falsetto win and they were confident and the notes were true. In the bar where I was born. And they dedicated Hula O Makee to me and I knew I was home. I wasn’t yet married to Effie, but she knew about my stories and it was nice to have proof, right off the plane, that I was from where I said I was from.
This small-town encapsulation. This Kailua. Around the corner was No Name Bar where all the marines chose to brawl. Down Oneawa from Fast Eddies where Willie K played Hi’ilawe and Hey, Joe. But Jaron’s was ours.