Letting Go, Music

To Fill The Air

cicada dreams

Walking the dog, it comes. Out of nowhere, or somewhere almost forgotten.

If my words did glow
With the gold of sunshine

A song.

Out loud. Into this ordinary day, I sing.

This is the first time in months my voice has opened like this. It is not the first song, no – there’s always the radio, always mugging for neighborhood kids.

But like this? Just the day, the dog, and me? I am new all over again.

Continue reading “To Fill The Air”

Growing Up, Learning

The Things I Can

Follow the The Things I Can Adventure

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I was at a Dead show the first time I heard it. 16 years old. A circle formed at the edge of the stadium’s corridor during the drums-and-space jam. Undeterred by the revved-up traffic and whirling skirts, that circle was a solid, swaying knot. All twenty or so human links weaved in and around each other. I heard the voices in unison and asked a woman dancing nearby what they were saying. “Serenity Prayer,” she said. She repeated it for me.

Was it an invocation? Some kind of magic spell? It must have been if it managed to help a bunch of folks in recovery navigate the rainbow pharmacopeia that trailed the band in its transcontinental wanderings. Somewhere along the way, I memorized that prayer without intending to. It is now such a part of my cultural vocabulary that it’s as firmly planted as the opening of the Gettysburg Address and the entirety of Frost’s “Two Roads Diverged.” In fact, it barely registers anymore.

How deep do these lines run? Do they stay safely entombed or do they erode? It has to be a matter of practice.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of the right trigger.  Continue reading “The Things I Can”

Home, Music

You Know All the Rules By Now

Well the first days are the hardest days
don’t you worry anymore

When you’re sixteen and you pick up lice from camping out at a Dead show, you and your girlfriend walk by the People’s drug store on the way home from school. You set up chairs out on the porch in the afternoon sun, pop a bootleg in the boom box, and gossip as you comb nits from each other’s hair.
 
‘Cause when life looks like Easy Street
there is danger at your door

 
When you’re forty and you pick up lice from your son’s first grade classroom, you leave two dozen unchecked emails in your inbox, cut out of work early (again), speed over to the CVS, and race to catch the train then the bus. On the way, you send messages to your son’s dad about all the things he needs to do to treat his place. You ignore the afternoon sun and rush into your condo, making a mental note of all the places your boy had his head during the past five nights he spent with you.
 
You strip beds, pull coats from hooks, peel covers from the sofa, corral a menagerie of stuffed animals. You curse the dollhouse washer/dryer that reaches capacity at three pillowcases. You wheel the vacuum around the mountain of fabric and upholstery and giant fluffy penguins now climbing towards the ceiling.
 
You bag up all the pillows. You push two loads through. You boil water to sanitize the hairbrush.
 
Then you storm through the living room
 
and stop
 
Goddamn, well I declare,
have you seen the like?

 
by the sliding glass door.
 
The dog stirs and glances up. You look out for the first time at the fading light. It is daylight savings time. The day has hung on for you. Just barely, though. You have 30 minutes left to fling yourself out and grab her before her fingers slip free.
 
Anybody’s choice
I can hear your voice

 
You lash your lice-infested tresses into a lice-infested elastic, put on the lice-infested hoodie you wore last night, and go run three hard miles with the setting sun at a heel on your left flank.
 
You come panting back inside. The dog pushes up against you as overjoyed as she has been every time you’ve walked in that door for the whole eight years of her existence. She doesn’t know you have lice and wouldn’t care even she did.
 
Now, you can see.
 
Again.
 
Finally.
 
Like the morning sun you come
and like the wind you go

 
How your son is in the best hands now because his father is the same man who used to sit and brush your hair with such gentle strokes, you felt like you’d been carried off on a magic carpet ride. How your water pours hot from the new heater you just installed. How the juice surges from every outlet to lamp, dryer, vacuum, stove. How the bed is soft and the sleep is sound and the lock is solid and the mortgage is covered and the shelves in CVS and kitchen alike are stocked with everything you could ever need and more than you ever will.
 
How you and your son’s dad and called each other and spoke easily about how to tackle a shared concern.
 
How your Mister got on the horn and told you to tell your boy that Thomas Jefferson had lice.
 
Come on along or go alone
 
You notice how very rare and undeserved this abundance of resource for this small a problem.
 
He’s come to take his children home.
 
When you’re here today and you pick up lice from a spot on this teeming planet, you strip down to your skivvies, squirt eye-watering insecticide shampoo into your hair, crank up Daddy Yankee and boogie as you comb the nits from your hair.
 

Butchered lyrics are from the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.”
 

Change, Happy Days, Love

Happy 100 Days: 4

It takes me six days to work my way up to looking at the gift. On the DVD, he has hand-written “Merry Christmas,” and “Love.” I know it is photos. I can’t bring myself to take it to Texas, so it is waiting for me under the tree when I return.
 
“Have you watched it yet?” He asks.
 
We are not supposed to be talking. After dozens of half-hearted attempts, we said a final goodbye before Christmas. Still, it is never easy to walk away when there no one has inflicted harm. The reasons are real yet vague. On even days, we understand it cannot work. On odd days, we are each the solace and the best friend.
 
“So, have you?”
 
“No, I have not found time.” Which is not true. I have willfully forgotten the presence of the gift under the tree. Even when I sit right there in the living room, I cannot see it.
 
Against our better judgment, he comes to the house. He carries a sack of take-out kabobs and an uncertain smile. He sets the table and I fill the water glasses. We eat buttery rice and talk all the way around topics we have agreed to ban from this intercut. Instead, we make a show of getting re-acquainted. It feels like a first date (or the first after a long drought).
 
We make a show of discussing everything non-us. We chat. It is very civilized. This is how we break the chokehold of unanswerable questions. This is how learn the true scope of the narrative.
 
This is how we write it.
 
After we finish dinner, he helps me make the hummus and marble cake for tomorrow’s party. He forgoes the electric beater and asks for a whisk. The butter and sugar whip to a froth and he adds the eggs one by one. Vanilla. Sour milk. In the top of a double boiler, chocolate melts. I let him taste from the spatula. We both lick the spoons.
 
I make two small cupcakes so we can have something sweet for ourselves.
 
Then, he takes me to the living room and turns the lights low. The Christmas tree is still bright. “Enough stalling. We’re watching this tonight,” he says.
 
“Okay.” I plop down on the couch. He gets the DVD player up and running. And then, there it is. “This is our past,” the screen tells me. The Grateful Dead kicks in and the familiar pitch of Jerry’s voice sings the opening strains of “Scarlet Begonias.”
 
As I was walking ’round Grosvenor square. . .
 
Then the photos roll. I recognize the first few and then I see some I do not remember him taking. Our first walks. That first morning he dropped me at work. The first time I met his family when we went to sing karaoke on his cousin’s birthday at a bar west of town. Him there, goofing and laughing. Me there, flirting and singing.
 
I knew right away she was not like other girls.
 
Me, making an acorn mosaic on a rock in Shenandoah. Us, raising our glasses with our friends at a winery. Bug as Harry Potter at Halloween when he was still so little, his hair dyed brown and those big glasses sliding down his nose. Drinks at the bar of that awful, crowded Thai restaurant where the meal took two hours to arrive and we were so hungry, we ate the soggy maraschino cherries out of our mai tais for sustenance. Bug playing legos on the blanket Giovanni hammered into the ground for him at our campground. Family parties, guitars, line dancing. My birthday balloons. His birthday hike. Me balanced on the side of a fountain. Him balanced on the top of a mountain. Us standing in the blustery night, bright-cheeked before the National Christmas Tree.
 
I had one of those flashes I’d been there before, been there before.
 
The music changes. The photos spool on.
 
We are a couple. I understand this now. He is more than some in-between fling. This is not “dating after divorce.” He is real, as he has been telling me for over a year. We are something substantial. Whether we leave it or keep at it, we are far more than just an idea. We are two people with a shared history. The pictures capture so much of it. Some are melancholy. Some of the images precede or coincide with white-hot arguments we both recall. Much of our past, though, is just plain old happy.
 
As for the rest? I don’t know. The DVD ends with a video he captured one night when we were in his house eating cookies he had just made. We are talking sweet, melty cookie talk to the camera. I am chattering on without realizing he is taking video. Near the end when I realize it is being recorded, I burst out laughing.
 
The image fades to this: “Our future is unwritten. . .”
 
We have nearly a year and a half behind us now. We have said goodbye, yet here he is, holding my hand on the living room couch in the glow of the tree.
 
He says, “I have never fought this hard for a woman before.”
 
I say, “I hope I’m worth it.”
 
He chuckles. “Yeah. Me, too.”
 
He leaves for the night but we do not say goodbye. We are not disposable. Something different than what I intended has happened here.
 
I have no idea who this Us is. We are just meeting now for the first time.
 
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.