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.
The number one song in the country at the moment of my birth, just finishing up a six-week run at the position, was Bridge Over Troubled Water. Sort of. That week, officially on the Saturday after I was born, the number one song became Let It Be. I find that two-song playlist oddly appropriate to my next 49 years.
I started listening to Simon and Garfunkel on Spotify and it reminded me of my life in the ’80s and ’90s. I can’t count how many times I crisscrossed the country. ‘Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.’ But I did know why. And I do know why.
It’s a cliché to repeat how songs invoke memories. I can’t listen to Band of Horses without seeing her flit back and forth across the bathroom, momentarily visible in panties and my t-shirt, then disappearing from view. I can’t hear the Hold Steady without remembering looking at the back of my hand staring drunkenly at the veins and how empty my hand seemed while struggling through my divorce. And I can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel without also hearing the clacking of train tracks or the groaning of diesel-engined Greyhounds riding across the plains in the middle of the night, stopping in cities so small there was only a snack machine in the depot to get a bite, and crossroads with a flashing yellow light in lieu of one that changed from red to yellow to green.
I was on Trip Advisor the other day and I got bored of clicking when I had hit 500 cities, towns, and hamlets in America, Canada, and Mexico. Johnny Cash sang “I’ve been everywhere” and between two precise latitudes, it seems I have. “We’ve all gone to look for America.” And so we have. What did we find? What did I find? You?
I remember how the bogeyman works. It was never really a man. Haunting, depending on your circumstance. Circumstance makes it seem like where you’re standing is a coincidence when actually there are none. You stand in that particular spot because you walked there. Unless you’re a baby cast aside from whoever was holding you, you are where you chose to be. And if even you are baby, you’re still somehow to blame.
No one walks innocently, even the innocent. Fake laughter and smiles and people that might help you or hurt you are all fake. Their looks castigate anything different. And yours look back the same.
The existential questions. Who am I? Who are you, motherfucker? They are essentially the same. Put differently, the answer is always the same. On the stage of forever you are nothing. No one. In one hundred years, no matter how strong or weak, you are dust. Pleasure, or pain, mean nothing. Everything is transient. That might sound nihilistic, and perhaps it is. It might sound Buddhist. And perhaps they are the same.
You can still look at the moon. You can still feel the sun on your face. That’s all you have. At least that’s all you can be sure you have. I watched a movie the other day, and the woman in it dies. She walked happily onto a train and her nose started to bleed and hours later she was dead. But the part that tore my soul. She looked at her friend just before her heart stopped and she said, “I’m not ready.”
That scares me more than life scares me. I’m not ready.
Everyone loves to look at rain. It’s romantic. Everyone likes to fuck in it or be in it for a second or two. Then the problems start. The worst thing about life is that it’s cold and unpredictable, even when it’s hot.
People tell you to do what you love. Which is, of course impossible. Love is a broken and divided concept, and it never means the same thing twice. You don’t do what you love; you do what you do.
Rain is like love. It’s pretty to look at. It’s pretty to think about. And when it falls it has that moment of pleasure. Then it causes problems you didn’t even know existed.
The constant over-stimulation with music, with movies, with my quasi-Bohemian love-churning. And when I have been free, the deep appreciation for what I do and have loved in terms of what I’ve allowed in my ear, eye, and mouth holes. The ability to face deep-seated fears with calm and stillness, and the ability to regain control, somehow lost after briefly losing it. A reintroduction to a capacity for love manifest in an ability to forgive, and a need for artistic accomplishment with completed works of consequence is a distinct–perhaps ultimate–goal of the life I’ve been given. Finally, new found. Perhaps new finding is the more correct tense. The ability to turn things over in my life to the Universe. That unnamed creature-loving, for lack of a better word, energy that represents everything. That is just the way it is. Only good things happen when I let it be. Close your eyes, boy. There will be an answer.
Do you remember? I have a hard time forgetting. I’m not sure the words you said were legal. They were fun.
Tell me again I’ll tell myself. I’ll be good I promise.
Promises lie. Lies lie worse. You can’t trust me. I can’t trust me. Move on knowing that.
My hands aren’t shaking and I can’t feel the involuntary pull of my muscles. I can type. The bar is low.
Tell me again so I can tell myself. Nevermind.
You are not enough.
The difference in what we accomplished? You put on your stockings and feel like you’re doing right by the world. Your company is evil. I remembered everything because I remember everything, and Gerry liked that. But I hated that world. I did it after I knew I hated it for you and the kids. I never didn’t hate it. And when you left it was a fucking nightmare. Everything went away. A lot remains away. I was never that person. I played that person because you’re supposed to. I was never him.
I sat behind you at this concert. You were a dancer. You did ballet. It seemed far too refined for me. You bought me a hula dancer for my car. You thought about me outside of our interaction. I suppose that was good.
The hula dancer was horribly inappropriate, but I wanted to fuck you, so I didn’t say anything.
Imagine flashbulbs going off. Life is that. What do you remember? A flash? Love at a moment? Love ends. And then what?
The way we deal with the way love folds our clothes. It puts things in their places.
Lost. It’s hard to find the bathroom.
Love works separately from how you’d prefer it to work. It’s a worm that squeezes to fit the empty spaces. Lost is lost. Love is not different. Love only hurts a little less because there was something. It’s gone. There wouldn’t be a question, if there was one. It’s gone.