This is what love is. That ‘something’ that happens when you talk to another human being, and there is a connection that makes you believe in reincarnation. That person is so in tune, so utterly totally linked to you, so totally sympatico, that just talking turns into the most intimate and life changing thing that can happen. Hours on skype stuck in Japan, just talking. Talking and playing guitar, and crying and laughing, and pressing faces against the camera trying to climb through the screen. Hours spent at night holding hands, exhaustedly trying to work ‘something’ out. Trying to survive. Trying to see a route forwards, or back again.
I couldn’t stay around, because I had to head south again. I couldn’t stay where I was. I couldn’t stay because I couldn’t forgive. To not tell someone they are still married, to hide children for so many years, to hide a whole other life and then demand that I was OK with it all was a step too far. To then expect me to be kind and understanding and accepting was a sheer act of insanity on his part. Admitting he was wrong, admitting he was wrong and missed me, and that I was always the number one person in his heart was not enough. It couldn’t be. He was high, he was drunk, he was insincere. A drunken desperate apology, bordered by demands I kill myself and ‘die die die’ written a few hundred drunken cracked out times was no apology at all. At least one that didn’t suffice while he was still alive. Now it will have to do. It is all I’ve got to hold onto from a relationship and love that spanned decades of time.
I miss my friend. I want my friend back. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this by myself. It never was the deal that I do this alone. The deal was that he would be there, he would hold my hand, and look into my eyes, and keep on fucking driving. Driving south, driving north, driving east and then west. Driving me fucking insane….and then holding out his right hand, as we rattled down the highway 101, reaching for my left. My deaf ear to his deaf ear, cursing that we couldn’t hear each other with him driving, neither of us able to afford a damn hearing aid….blasting Marquee Moon and Ryan Bingham loud enough to hear, the windows open, as he fought to stay awake in the long night drives. Can’t have that heating on, he would get drowsy. I fought to stay away, and be that extra pair of eyes. His eyesight was shot to shit. He could barely see and that was on a good sober day. I yelled out for turnings. I shouted out for exits. He would yell at me asking which lane he needed to be in, and I would yell back that I had no idea. Exit 13b lives on in infamy. I told him to exit. The map told me to exit – we had no phone, no GPS. He was convinced I was wrong and wanted to get off at 14. We screamed at each other, not just because we were both deaf. He pulled off at the exit he wanted to…and got lost. We pulled into the parking lot of a gravel mine and screamed some more. He told me he was taking me ‘back to Medford’ – I had never been ‘from’ Medford to ‘go back’ there. He wanted me out. I wanted to shake sense into him. Then I started laughing, he started laughing, and we got back on the road, exited where I said, and saw signs for where we were headed to. Somewhere I can’t even think of now. Aberdeen perhaps? Seattle? I mouthed “told ya so…” he sat there stone faced, and eventually we laughed some more.
I was always looking over. Looking over at him grouchy. Looking over at him thoughtful and worrying. Looking over at him mad. Looking over at him tired. Looking over with love. Looking over with concern. I wonder what he saw? Me sullen? Me happy? Me angry? Me screaming along to Blood on the Tracks blowing off some steam in the wind, and he sitting there silently, until the last notes faded and he started to hoot and holler and telling me that it was the most PUNK thing he had ever heard, and he wished he had a recording of it. No one will ever feel like that about me again. I am both too old and too young for this shit.
What I would give for those mini tape recordings! Recordings of birthdays, of Christmases, recording of songs, of chatter, of life together. He had bags and bags of them. He lived attached to that little recorder, and when something interesting threatened to happen, out it would come. I remember how he was so charmed I pronounced coyote ‘kai -oh- tea’, not “KAI-OTE”, and asked me to say it so many times it sounded strange in my head. I remember him. But there will be no one to remember me.
I am old now. I am alone. Like Matthew Sweet sang in ‘Somebody to Pull the Trigger’, that song that I hate so much, ‘I’ve been everything I was ever gonna be’….and it is true. I am alone. That connection is once in a lifetime. That kinda friendship is not something that comes around again.
I need to talk to him. Desperately. In a panicked kind of way. I sat here and started to cry and obsessively dial his old number, knowing he is gone forever. It rose to an overwhelming desire to talk to my oldest friend. Every track I play. Everything I read. Everything I see reminds me of him. I need him how he was. Fact is he was not that man for the last year or so. Fact is he ruined it. Fact is I will never talk to him again, and I am beyond lonely. I am desolate. I have no one to play the guitar to. I have no one who thinks I am the bees knees. I have way too much pressure, way too many problems, and no way to cut loose. I need to get high, get drunk. That is ME. That is who I am. I need to feel like myself, but I can’t. I got old, and it is killing me to be like this. Trying to be someone I am not. Trying to be alone. Trying to be ‘sensible’ and ‘good’.
I miss Billy’s hillbilly logic and redneck sensibilities. He would be able to unblock my drain and make the shower drain freely. He would be able to calm me down, and make me laugh. He would put the guitar in my hands and demand a song, telling me it was his medicine when I played. I miss him. I miss too many people, and they are gone gone gone. Gone forever.
I need a break. I need a friend. I need to be able to be myself, not this locked down, uptight little bitch I had turned into. It isn’t me. This isn’t me. I’ve no one to jokingly scold. I’ve no one to shoot the breeze with. I feel frozen over. No one to buy copies of “bury my heart at sacred knee” for, and to help trace a family tree with some of the most kick ass family members ever. He partly lived in his old family dairy farm, he his never left. It was the always ‘should have been’ place he belonged, and I belonged with him if he hadn’t decided it was ‘rock and roll or die in a ditch’…a ditch it was, or close as….
Between the fucking pandemic, the rise of the new totalitarianism, cancel culture which does not suit me at all, virtue signaling bullshit, no beastie to haul into gear and head for the road, no days spent making campfires and writing songs, no Girl. No Billy. My family just given up the ghost. It is way past too much.
I failed. I failed all of them. I failed to save everybody. There was something that happened when we talked. Something special about that little family. My family. Something special about that five and a half year long road trip. Something. Something that is gone forever. And now here I am, in this City I love so well, so very well indeed, and I have no friends, no adult support, no lover, just a lot of demands on my nerve being held and to ‘be ok’. I am not ok. I am not ok. I am scared fucking witless.
What have I done! I tried to survive, but I had no idea what surviving looked like once I was there. It looks like terror and fear.
I suppose this feeling of not being wanted here, of being totally alone and lonesome in California, of being unsafe and scared and deserted by the only adult I could ever totally love and trust, who ever truly loved me, I suppose it will fade again, and I will feel able to carry on, and not just give up and throw up my hands, and walk on down the road in some direction, heading back to where I left Billy, even if he is long gone.
I swear in the final reckoning it will be me, Keith Richards, and a few cockroaches…
Fuck. Ignore me. I am not doing grieving and the idea of being alone forever more very well…