I had vague ideas about writing something cheerful today. A post on the magical corner of Franklin and Lombard perhaps, or something on my devotion to music and how it shaped and saved my life. I unzipped my gig bag and pulled out the guitar so I could pick softly while looking out into the foggy February air and the graffiti and the tents, the life and struggle as it passes by my window. I sat there picking out the notes to Because the Night, strummed Sweet Jane, followed by Queen Jane Approximately, and wondered uselessly who Jane was.
We all knew a Jane, didn’t we? I knew a Jane. She didn’t stand on corners, suitcase in her hand, she didn’t go walking on the east side, and her mother didn’t send back all her invitations, because my Jane was simply never invited to anything at all. I expect my Jane to have had a quiet life of mundane struggle and small accomplishments, much like the one I should have had. I hope my Jane remains the cheerful stoic soul she was when I knew her.
When she knew me, I was a different animal to the one I am now. Less scared, less backed into a corner, less angry, less weighed down. Take a load off, Janie, take a load from me. I couldn’t concentrate and I wasn’t enjoying myself. So I slipped my capo back into the upper pocket and started about putting a new high e string on my beloved Guild. I love that guitar. Its not the flashy beauty my old Martin was. It isn’t old and rich and resonant, but its my guitar. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It sits in the corner with my favorite scarf draped over the headstock, its case half zipped, out of the way of the heater and the sunlight. It sits there waiting quietly.
The street cats outside scratch nonchalantly, ignoring the shouts of the junkies and the street people, waiting for their next meal to fall from a Mcdonald’s wrapper or emerge glinty eyed from an overflowing trash can, scurrying for the dark of the abandoned warehouse opposite. Life drips on like wax from a thick candle, staying roughly the same shape, coalescing into a puddle at the bottom, vaguely the same but different. Life today is dragging slowly.
I had heard from Billy earlier on. He had been drinking after a few days sober and a particularly nasty bout of the delirium tremens. I never cease to be disappointed in him. He never fails to let me down. Never manages to stop hurting me for five minutes, or manages to simply not taint all the memories of good and kind and stable that he could be. For the first time it became clear to me that he was not going to ever come out of this. He would drink until he was dead. That was that. My oldest friend was being eaten away by illness and age and alcohol. Life can be so cruel.
I picked up the guitar again, started playing free money. I used to have this old red telecaster. I loved plugging it in and turning up the volume on my battered old peavy, it might not be Chopin, man, but it was art. But nothing sounds the same. Nothing is as bright. Nothing is as fun. Nothing can ever be ok again.
Everyone I love, apart from my son, who is still tentatively part of the present, exists in the past tense.
They were everything. And now I’m nothing without them.