I love listening to Adrienne’s performance of Mary. It is one of these things that makes me pick up my guitar and play along with her. How I would love to have been in Buck’s place, laying on a little lead harmony. She has one of the best bands in the music scene right now. There is something so vulnerable, so gentle, so fierce and female about this performance, that I want to stand there, my fist raised telling her I hear her and I feel it on a level so basic that it hurts.
We all just want to be loved. We all just want to be cared for. My time for this has passed. I am old, I am old and I am tired and life has passed me by. I fought instead of loved. I survived instead of thrived. I climbed my mountain ‘high and smiling’ but no more, rushing forwards into a life that hold something, something more, something bigger, something full of promise of a fertile future. I am still running, but the tank is empty. I am still struggling, but now struggling for the basic future possible – a future where I can stay with my only family member, my son. Where I might hope to be able to push him over the edge of the boat to safety, even if I drown.
There is no hand holding, no stolen kisses, no tender hot rush of lust, just the quiet acceptance of that war being lost.
Billy has tipped over the edge into dementia. I talk to him, but the line is disconnected. “Have you managed to get a radio, yet, dear?” I ask him. He mumbles back that no one can eat an entire can of chef Boyardee meat and noodles. “Have you managed to take your guitar with you?” is responded to with a statement that the dog talks, it talks and it says he loves him. The dog loves you, I tell him. The dog loves you for sure, it tells you it does. I ask how he is. He tells me he is not going to flush the crack down the toilet. It is an impossible conversation. I take as much of it as I can.
I tell him I remember him on the headlands of the lake near Modesto, above Paradise, near Oroville. The one with the houseboats. Where we collected firewood. Where it rained every day and there were spiders in the shower. Silence. I tell him I remember him in his old warehouser jacket, the smelly canvas one that had room for two people within it’s arms, that he wrapped me up in. That belonged to that old man. The one that gave him the cane, you know the one with the carvings on the handle. Yes, the native American one. OK ok ok …Ojibwe. No, I don’t want to talk about the cane.
The place near Modesto, where we stood on the headlands, and you wrapped your canvas coated arms around me as I shivered in two fleece jackets, while we camped over winter, and we hauled back wood for a fire. Where the fire wouldn’t catch, but you pressed your body against mine, trying to get me warm, and there was a bottle of oxycodone left. “And a few morphine pills too!”
Yes, that place. That place. And we stood over the gorge that was filled with water and houseboats and a fire that wouldn’t start until I sacrificed my good writing paper to it. I didn’t want that novel anyhow, ashes to ashes dust to dust sacrificing words to heat, and your arms felt so good around me, and I felt like nothing could penetrate the safety and cocoon of our long held love, forged over years of survival, sometimes together. Sometimes not.
That place where you stroked my hair that was still long, and you kissed me on that pale Modesto afternoon, while the rain and the wind and the storms that broke the levy crashed down around us, and sent us into the motel 6 for refuge, the palm trees whipping down to the tarmac in a yellow lamp light night drive.
He doesn’t remember it. He remembers the cane that the man gave him, the man from warehouser. He remembers there is a place called California, and that he doesn’t like it very much. He lied. He told me love lasts forever. It only lasts as long as memory allows, and that is human and fragile and weak. Love is all a lie, and there is none of it left for me any more.