One of life's greatest mistakes Expecting to be loved Expect is a word best not attached to love There’s many versions of love Few are lasting, and even fewer are memorable Some covet it as if it were property Others wear it on their arm like a flashy bauble Or, proudly tattoo it permanently upon their skin Oftentimes vanishing before the ink dries At times it’s confused with sex You can have sex without love And you can have love without sex After all the gyrations and moaning Even if she lets you put it where you want? You’ll still need to find things to talk about at the end of a worn-out night Humor is the best aphrodisiac Honesty is the slipperiest of lubricants It's naively offered up with open arms Like a soon to be broken Vow Vows are for love-struck suckers It’s a fabled belief in security and sincerity Sometimes, it's a broken record that skips and pops All noise and no melody Like a sympathy composed for the deaf Most want love to be soft and tender Like sappy verses from a smarmy poem But it's none of those things It's a prize fight, a spectacle of blood, rage and courage It can suddenly switch from an endearing hug to an enraged choke hold It begins with a polite first kiss, ending up in a dark room that reeks of raw savage sex--that is--if you get lucky Yet, there are those rare flashes of something Some may call it love, but that's an over-used euphemism It stirs an ancient ache that resides deep inside us all Where does it come from? Why does it go? Who knows? It's a vexing enigma It comes with no warranties, no guarantees It’s fragile, so handle it with care If ya break it, you'll have to pay for it Once shattered, you’ll never be able to put it back together No glue or counseling can dull its painful shards Once the shelf-life has been reached You’ll need to decide——should it be thrown out? Or painfully watch it continue to curdle and sour Salmonella is a bad way to go The trouble with love—-is It’s what happens between life’s otherwise mundane moments It has no soul or conscience No sense of right or wrong It makes fools out of it’s gullible victims
In spite of our long days and the swiftness of these passing years We’ve reluctantly grown old Old as in running out of time The potholed street of aging leads to a cul de sac of convalescence Age robs us of youths vanities It rubs our hair off, dulls our eyesight and deafens our hearing We slowly cave in on ourselves We can no longer get by on our sexiness or youthful bravado We’re left with a fading wit and the shreds of a once charmed personality This leaves some bitter, while others are liberated There’s nothing more attractive than someone who no longer gives a shit about what others think of them Shriveled skin, brittle bones, hemorrhoids and varicose veins ain’t so bad It’s the fading of memories and the onset of feeble mindedness that leaves us befuddled There’s that moment of confusion when we enter a room and forget what we needed there, or what we were looking for, or even why we came there in the first place??? But, I’ll fight like hell to forever remember your face
I’m homesick for a time that no longer exists
Unfulfilled dreams from youths lost innocence
What happens to a love that no longer calls my name
She just stands there not even knowing how sexy she is to me
I want something back I’ve never had
She looks like a memory, lost
Dim the lights of truth
You’re that song that makes me miss you
I want you to find yourself inside me
I want me to ache inside of you——- too
Only the broken know how love is never eternal
Lonely inside, without you
Wanting you is unbearable, far beyond unbearable
Falling through ghosts of you, where angels and buzzards circle
Fatally falling asleep after hours of telling our biggest dreams and secrets to each other.
Such beautiful sadness in your eyes
I’m your night inside you
I shivered inside when our souls touched
The sky remains cold and damp as I fiddle with my windshield wipers intermittent timer. Too fast, then too slow and constantly falling out of time with the songs on the radio. Even though it’s late afternoon the gray skies and drifting fog gives this dreary day a sleepy morning feeling. I pull into the parking lot of an ancient looking motel and double check my GPS to confirm if this indeed is the Ocean Spray motel. I begin to have second thoughts about saving fifty bucks by making reservations at a place that only has three out of five stars. Never trust the glowing comments made about an establishment on the internet. No one, or nothing is what it appears to be on the internet. Anyone who’s tried their luck on one of those internet dating sights can attest to this. I figured that after I downed three beers my motel arrangements wouldn’t appear so shabby. Beer makes life’s intolerable events bearable.
The old gal behind the registration counter stares out at me through thick eyeglasses that gave her the look of a bulging eyed goldfish. From the back room, which I surmised is her living quarters, I can hear the familiar voice of Pat Sayjak blathering on about someone buying a vowel. She tilted her head back and looked down her nose at me. “Is it just you mister, or do you have a lady friend along for the ride?” There was a bit of sarcasm in her enunciation of the words, “lady friend”. I stared into her exaggerated bulging fisheyes and responded, “No, just me ma’am, just me.” She offered up a suspicious nod, “Okay, no partying or hell raising allowed, quiet time starts at 10:00 pm and check out no later than 10:00 am. Here’s your key, room number 12.” She turned and shuffled back into the blue hue of her TV room.
I open the door to room 12 and I’m greeted by the odor of mildew and the lingering hint of Fraabreeze. It’s a poor attempt at giving this joint an air of respectability. I’m more than sure that these four walls have seen and heard their share of dirty things——(maybe I’ll sleep in my clothes). I crack the window, pop a beer and lean back against the squeaky headboard. In the distance I hear the comforting sound of waves breaking against the rocky shore. The occasional lonely sound of a foghorn gently lulls me into slumber. It calls out a warning to those lost sailers who may be drifting too close to the rocks. These waters with their tricky currents and hidden reefs have pushed many a vessel into the teeth of its rocky shoreline.
I’ve made my share of memories traveling up and down the northern coast of California, but my favorite memories go back to when I was a kid seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. My lifelong buddy’s name is Patrick and his mother’s name is Jeanne. Jeanne had a big influence on my young life. She’d pile Pat, his sister Erin and me into her 1970 Bonneville and we’d drive westward out of the flat Sacramento Valley. We’d travel through the green lush coastal range making our way to a place on a map where the land gives way to an emerald sea with its endless gray horizon. My god, I remember how those enormous vistas made me feel small. Highway 1 meanders its way along the rugged cliffs and through the stands of mighty old growth sequoias. We’d eventually reach that sea weathered town known as Fort Bragg. Even though fifty years has passed since I first pulled into this town, it appears to have changed very little. It’s a landscape of moss covered picket fences, overgrown berry-bushes and a misty coastline that time seems to have forgotten. Home isn’t where you’re necessarily from, it’s more about being at a place where you feel that you’ve always belonged. I finish off my beers and fall asleep to the sound of breakers crashing on the shore and that sweet song of a foghorn calling out into the darkness.
The next morning I wake early and take my shower in a yellow tile stained stall. I stop at a cafe and grab a hot coffee to go. I’m headed to MacKerricher State park where my tide table guide indicates low tide is at its peak at 5:50 am. I look at my watch and see that I’m on schedule to get to the tide pools on time. Out on the horizon I spy a fishing trawler chugging its way north. If I weren’t prone to seasickness, I’d love to be at the helm of that boat. I imagine myself being addressed as captain Sabino by the bartender as I enter the local tavern. After being out to sea for weeks, I envision myself saddling up to the bar and buying a round of drinks for the entire bar. Lost in my fantasy causes me to absentmindedly drive slower than the speed limit, the car behind me impatiently honks, rousing me from my daydream. I think to myself, “Fucking jerk”.
I pull up into the parking lot of the state park and roll my window down. Man, the smell of the ocean does something to me that makes me involuntarily smile. In the past fifty years there’s been a lot of changes, but this place remains frozen in time. The damp weather is the great equalizer making everything look permanently worn and tired, yet it’s comfortable and unexplainably familiar, like the face of an old friend. Thinking back, I remember Jeanne with her fiery red hair and her strong willed personality. She had an independent streak that fostered a fearlessness in her eyes. If inadvertently provoked she could have a bit of a temper——you didn’t fuck with Jeanne! She was a feminist before that word had become into vogue. With just her tenacity and a love for nature, she’d haul us kids into her car and we’d head out on spontaneous adventures. We were like a bunch of carefree gypsies rolling down the highway together, playing twenty one questions, singing along with the radio and laughing with a spontaneity that only comes with that rare feeling of being young and free.
Before the intrusion of smartphones, social networking and 24/7 news cycles, we’d spend an entire day exploring beaches and the woods. I suppose this is gonna make me sound like an old fart, but I do believe life was simpler back in the “olden days”. Kids these days would probably shake their heads and laugh at the notion of being unplugged from the internet for a twenty four hour stretch.That twelve year old boy inside of me is still amazed at the beauty and danger that comes with climbing down the slippery cliffs to the wave sprayed rocks. It’s a funny thing how beauty and danger seem to go hand in hand. I clamor from one green mossy rock to the next. I peer into the tide pools observing their tiny worlds within. Each tide-pool is a community of sea urchin’s, sea anemones, starfish and skittering rock craps. I stick my finger in the middle of a sea anemone and watch as it closes around me. I lick my dry lips and taste that organic flavor of sea-salt. The ocean is mother-nature’s womb, the place where life first quivered into existence, evolving from nothingness into everything-ness——what a beautiful mystery to behold. I’m not sure why it is, but the ocean with it rolling waves and windy cliffs draws us all back to its holy vastness. I watch folks standing silently at the edge of this continent staring introspectively into the hypnotic waves. Couples hold hands as the whistling winds mess their damp hair. I suppose there’s still pieces of us all in those thundering waves. I stroll the beach and see the litter of driftwood and seaweed left behind from where high-tide left its mark. These tides are tied to the pull of the moon phases—-all things supernaturally connected. Nature is my cathedral, my church.
I climb back in my car and head to the harbor where I’ll have lunch at one of the open air grottos’s. The fishmongers are busy cleaning and laying out the days fresh catch. I smell the fresh fish, deep fried calamari and steaming clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The glass refrigerated case is filled with squids, abalone and a multitude of different types of fish neatly laid out atop white crushed ice. Behind the counter with its decorative fishing nets and colorful buoys is an old 19 inch TV hanging from the ceiling. It’s hard to believe, but fifty years ago at this very grotto I watched Neil Armstrong on a snowy TV screen utter the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” My god, how many grains of sand have passed through my hour glass since that memorable day? I wish I could turn that hour glass over again and allow me another fifty years.
When I visit a place from the past that changed me, I become engulfed by a tremendous ache deep inside my chest. I’m keenly aware of the impermanence of all things. This life is chaotic and messy, people come and go, people change, memories become irretrievable and the continuum of time splinters and disappears into thin air. There’s no way of going back from what was, to what is, time only moves in one direction——-forward. Time is like the waves that break on the shore and then recede back into eternity.
I hand my motel key to the googly eyed women at the front desk. She in-quizzically inquires, “Did ya enjoy your stay? Ya find everything you came for?” I responded in a pensive tone,“I came here to remember something——or maybe more importantly, to once again believe in something.” She leans forward and in a hushed voice asks,“And, what do you believe in?” I pause for a moment as I consider her question, “That each and every day is truly extraordinary. And, if this enormous ocean is possible and real, and if it can be imagined like god can be imagined, then anything and all things are possible. That’s what I believe.”
So here we sit my old friend, and I don’t mean “old” in the pejorative sense but rather in the pure number of years we’ve endured. I’m sure there are geriatric wrinkle removing and liver spot removing and hair growing, libido building info commercials that will try to convince you that sixty is the new forty——-but anyone of common sense and a bad back will differ on these comical claims.
I suppose “endure” is too harsh of a word to describe our dance with time. We haven’t “endured”, no, we’ve “thrived” over the past six decades. As in so many things in life, it’s not so much what is said, but rather, how it’s said. But I can’t help but look back at the passage of time and wonder “Did I do and achieve the things I set out to do? Was I a success? Did I compromise my character in exchange for transient rewards? Did I try hard enough? Maybe all that stuff really doesn’t matter. For me, it boils down too, “Was I a good friend, father, lover”? Did I “get it”?
I’m not perfect, but I have tried my best to mitigate any regrets by thanking god or a higher power for looking out for me. Because, in spite of me, and all my frailties, I’ve done my best to learn and evolve. Such is the mortgage we pay for being given a body to house our ethereal souls. Maybe I’m not less of a wretch, but at least better at knowing when I am behaving as such? Thankfully, my “asshole alarm” goes off sooner and louder warning me to shut up and be kinder.
Now that I’m older, I find myself considering the idea of “time”. Maybe time isn’t a drain, but rather a vessel that we fill with love and good memories. I suppose you can fill it with whatever you choose.
No one can scarcely remember much about Benedict Arnold other than it’s a name you wouldn’t want to be called. It became an adjective for being a “traitor”, a “hypocrite”, a “two face” and a “loser”. History has a way of putting people like Mr Arnold and others of questionable character into proper perspective. For example, how about the term “Soup Nazi”? Or, the unflattering comparisons related to being a Judas, or a Jim Crow or an Uncle Tom. Then there’s the infamous cliche of drinking Jim Jone’s “Cool-aide”. And who could ever forget Ivan the Terrible or Typhoid Mary. It’s true, our actions ultimatly dictate our epitaph.
In a hundred years from now the name Trump will be remembered synonymously with someone who’s a liar, a cheat, a bully, a racist, a narcissist and an over all unsavory character. In the future it will be common to substitute “Trump” for expletives or curse words such as, “He’s got his head up his Trump.” “Go Trump yourself”. “You really got Trumped on”. “That’s a bunch of Trump.” “You can kiss my Trump.” “I gotta take a Trump”. Children will have their mouth’s washed out with soap for calling someone a low down “mother Trumper”. Graffiti artist will tag subways, buildings and walls with “Trump-isms” such as “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Someday there will be Heavy Metal Bands bearing his moniker, for instance “Trump and the Dead Dictators”. Insolent teenagers will wear black tee shirts bearing the face of a sneering Trump. These bands will make Ozzie and Slip Knot look like Lawrence Welk..
He will become one of the most famous anti-heroes and will be known as“Terrible Trump the Orange Menace.” His superpower will afford him the ability to turn lies into the truth. He can turn peace into chaos and tranquility into drama. He’ll have the power to throw lightening bolts of hate and create divisiveness with his loud mouth thunder. He’ll make the Hulk and Godzilla look like Pee wee Herman and Mary Poppins. His kryptonite is truth, humility and compassion.
As the saying goes, “Careful what you ask for”. Donald got what he wanted——— eternal fame—-but I’m sure not in the manner he had expected. But, if the shoe fits the mouth, then insert it.
Well, it’s time for me to stop “Trumping” around and get the “Trump” out of here.
Endure, we’re all seeking to endure——-like a stationary pine tree trying to out run a forest-fire. It’s not fair that out of control forest fires are called wildfires and are measured by the acres of forest they feed on; but tree’s are measured by the rings that spiral our from their center. Tree’s don’t have a heart that beats, but they have sap for tears, slow motion tears dripping down their bark like skin.
I never really considered a tree being a tree, nothing more—- nothing less——-no different I suppose than you and I——nothing more, nothing less. I sat and stared at a tree today. It was windy out, and I watched as it swayed and danced in the breeze. I listened to the wind through its branches, and it sang a sweet song. I never consider the songs of a tree—-it made me smile. Native Americans believed that all things——-tree’s, boulders, bears, all have souls——-and maybe they’re right. One religion holds no moral high ground over any other religion. Praying, meditation, fasting, wind through a pine tree——-they’re all, more or less, the same.
I talk to tree’s, I listen to the secret language of rushing rivers, I thank the sun for her warmth, I let the stars guide me. Most call this crazy talk, but this comes from the ones handcuffed to their cell phones, imprisoned by made up virtual worlds——we’re all, more or less, crazy.
If Jesus could walk on water, then why is it strange to believe that trees can sing?
“Looking at life from a different perspective makes you realize that it’s not the deer that is crossing the road, rather it’s the road that is crossing the forest.” – Muhammad Ali
Soundtrack “My Funny Valentine” by Chris Botti.
Sitting here, waiting on the sky to snow
This town looks better dressed in white
Your footprints from my door to your car
I stare from my window
Red taillights fading into your city of gray
You said you couldn’t figure me out
I said, I know what you mean
Cause, I can’t figure me out either
Bless the losers and the beginners
January’s the coldest month of winter
Don’t let the resolutions for the New Year fool you
I’m full of love and rage
Oh such a fine line
I’m in hate with myself
Look what you’ve done to me
I want to find me a new city
Where winter never comes
Maybe go west under California skies
Sit on cliffs and feel the warmth of July’s sun
Bless the losers and the beginners
January’s the coldest month of winter
Don’t let the resolutions for the New Year fool you
Michael behind the wheel driving back home for the holidays. HIs wife Lyne is in the passenger seat. The radio is playing “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”.
Michael, “Why do they have to start playing Christmas music two days before Thanksgiving? Can’t we just enjoy each holiday and celebration before the next one is being shoved down our throats.”
Lyne, “It’s what they call a business plan. Some people like to get their Christmas shopping done before August. Maybe it’s an Amazon or Walmart conspiracy.”
Michael, “Christmas suppose to be a sacred holiday. I swear, I think it’s a capitalist conspiracy to keep us in a constant state of unfulfilled desire. Always wanting the next thing, the new iPhone, that new gadget or gizmo that’s gonna make you complete. (Spoken with sarcasm) Its gonna make life easier. I swear, Alexa and Siri know more about me than god does. Everyone’s chasing trends and the next big thing. Definitely not living in the present.”
Lyne, “I didn’t know that you felt Christmas was such a spiritual celebration. You use to tell me how you and your buddies would play poker and get drunk on Christmas eve and then all head off to midnight mass. (Sarcasm) How Catholic of you and the boys. Now that does’t sound so holy or Christian like.”
Michael, “Maybe it wasn’t the mass as much as a tradition. I miss having traditions. I remember after mass walking across the frozen field back to my mom’s house. The December air was crisp and the stars seemed to be burning brighter than normal. The Milky Way Galaxy making me feel small, yet alive and grateful. Just glad for no particular reason. That’s the best kind of happiness, nothing attached to it. Me and my buddies just goofing and laughing. It was a god-felt moment in time.” (Shakes his head). Traditions, good times.”
Lyne, “Maybe we can start our own traditions.”
Michael, “I’m a middle age white guy. I don’t belong to a shared culture with ancient traditions and heroic struggles. Black guys have that whole slavery thing to bond over. And the Mexicans, well they invented taco’s. The Irish got their drunken pub songs, while drinking Genies and Jameson. I tried that “ancestory.com” thing in the hopes of finding my roots. I was hoping to discover a proud heritage, maybe I was a distant relative of President Lincoln. Fat chance, it turns out that my ancestors were potato farmers——-share croppers who lost everything in the great dust bowl. They were Okies, desperate dreamers who believed California would be their promised land.”
Lyne, “They must have been tough, a proud clan of hard workers.”
Michael, “I didn’t get the hard worker gene, I got their dreamer gene. I was thinking about last Christmas. I can’t even remember one gift I received. It’s kind of ridiculous. We run around in a mad frenzy buying gifts no-one needs, wants, or will even remember. I definitely think it’s a capitalist conspiracy. They, the man, the one percenters, they keep us working at jobs we hate so we have money to buy shiny distractions we don’t need. QVC, Amazon, consume, consume. What kind of tradition is that?”
Lyne, “We can start whatever tradition we like. We can bake fruitcakes, take turns making toasts at the dinner table, create unreasonable new years-eve resolutions.”
Michael, “I got to find my tribe, something to belong too.”
Lyne, “Well, we’re headed back to your hometown, you’ll be seeing old friends and family. That’s your tribe, your people——-right?”
Michael, “I have mixed feelings about going back home. I get this weird nostalgic feeling, a kind of dream like melancholy. It’s like visiting places and things I can never get back. When I drive by the old ballfields, the high school or a house I once lived in, it’s like visiting an old friend who’s now a stranger. It’s like I left little pieces of me in these once familiar placers. As I drive by these old haunts I pick up younger version of myself. I end up with a carload of ‘use to be’s’ and ‘what might have beens’.”
Lyne, “You’re sure being awfully depressing. Maybe you ought to see a therapist, get an antidepressant prescription. You can never enjoy yourself, you’re constantly over thinking stuff.”
Michael, “Nobody wants to be melancholy or sad, or sentimental anymore. They equate it as being weak and treat it as if it’s some kind of sickness, or an illness. Here, take a pill and feel better. I want to feel melancholy sometimes, even sad sometimes. I’m not depressed, I’m just old fashioned sad. Life can be sad and also happy, you can’t have one without the other. Yen and the Yang, sweet and sour. I hate phony smiles and all that ‘happy happy’ bullshit. (Sarcastic) ‘Have nice day’. I’ll have whatever kind of freakin day I want.”
Lyne, “You’re too sensitive. Get over it, move on with life.”
Michael, “Yeah right, fuck it. Sorry I told you how I feel. Why do you always have to say I’m sensitive and shit like that. I swear, after all these years, you don’t really know me.”
Lyne, (Uncomfortable silence). You don’t ‘get me’ either. Let’s just get through the holidays. It’s stressful enough as it is. (Spoken with an irritable tone) You’re driving awfully fast. And, did you turn down the heater before leaving the house? (She absent-mindfully rattles on) I should have made a hair appointment. Does my hair look okay? Don’t drink too much tonight at the party. You aren’t listening to me are you?”
Michael, “Yes I am. (Pause) I’m sorry, what did you say again?”
Lyne, (Takes a deep breath). “Whatever.” (Turns up ‘Silent Night’ playing on the radio).
Living room with eight people chatting while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and drinks. There is a knock at the door. Michael’s sister Matty answers the door.
Matty, “Hey, look who we have here. Come on in, let me take your coats. Get yourselves a drink and have something to eat.”
(Michael makes his way to the buffet table and fixes himself a drink. Shawn walks up behind Michael and pats him on the shoulder).
Shawn, “Look what the cat drug in.” ( They give each other a hug). “It’s been a few years. How the hell are you doing?”
Michael, “Doing good, doing just fine. How bout you?”
Shawn, “Yeah, life is good here too. Time is going by too fast.”
Michael, “I’m fixing a Jameson Ginger ale, can I make you one?”
Shawn, “Thanks but I had to give it up. Traded my garage beer fridge in for a treadmill and a set of weights.”
Michael, “Good for you. As for me, I’ve been drinking more but enjoying it less. If you don’t mind me asking, what made you decide to give it up?”
Shawn, “I use to drink as a kind of coping mechanism, but then it went from stress relief to a way to cover up all the shit building up inside me. I could only stuff my anger and frustration down so much before it started to back up and come out in unhealthy ways. Alcohol was only making things worse.”
Michael, “It’s easier to be mad rather than honest.”
Shawn, (Laughs) “Got to the age where I realized I wasn’t going to get that promotion I’d been waiting on and working for. I started getting passed over by younger guys. Me and the wife had lost any sense of intimacy. I kind of found myself in a dark place. All the things that once mattered or made me happy was gone. My life was getting harder to manage, and the hangovers seem to get worse. The pain out weighed the pleasure. It doesn’t hardly seem fair, you only got one life to get it right. When I was young I thought I had forever, but you start getting older and the options seem to close in on you.”
Michael, “Getting old is hard. You end up with fewer options, fewer folks you can hangout with or count on. You have more to lose but less it matters. I guess alcohol is like a lot of things, It works until it stops working. Fuck it! I’m gonna go out on the back deck and smoke a bowl. Do you still smoke a little weed?”
Shawn, “Well, not really, but I think tonight I can make an exception. Did you see Marlena? Man, she’s still hot. Didn’t you and her once have a thing?”
Michael, (Lights his pipe and takes a big hit) “Yeah, we did, a long time ago. It’s funny, When you’re younger you go chasing the next shiny thing. You always think you can do better. Then you wake up one day and you’re middle aged and realize that all the things you were running from were probably the best things you ever had. Yeah, it’s true, It don’t hardly seem fair. You only got one life to get it this shit right.”
Shawn, (Takes a hit off the pipe) “So much of life is boring details; minutia. You wake up one day and you’re old. Where the fuck did the time go. Did I make the right decisions, right choices? Maybe I should have stayed at that job teaching scuba diving at the resort. Can you imagine spending all day with hot chicks in skimpy bikinis——drinking beer and getting laid left and right. But, I went off to college and got my MBA and became a financial adviser. A fucking financial advisor. My job consists of making old fat white guys, richer and fatter. I should have stayed being a scuba instructor. I’m a tie dye guy wearing a suite and tie every day. And that neck tie gets a little bit tighter every day. (Hands the pipe to Michael) That’s some good shit. How are you and Lyne doing?”
Michael, (Takes a hit) “I guess fair. Probably as good as any couple who’ve been together for what feels like eternity. Marital bliss——-now that’s a fucking oxymoron. (Shakes his head). Sometimes before we hang up on the phone she’ll say ‘I love you’——- I swear it takes every once of strength to respond with ‘Love you too’.” I know that sounds shitty and pathetic, but I can’t help it. Marriage counseling, now that was a waste of time and money. Paying a stranger sixty bucks an hour to try and fix something that’s beyond repair. Her fault, my fault? It doesn’t matter. I swear, sometimes I can’t breathe.”
Shawn, “Hell, it’s a lot easier to un-love someone than it is to re-love them. All it takes is a small hole below the waterline to sink a luxury liner.”
Michael, “Do you think it’s ever too late to love someone again?”
Shawn, “It’s like this. This is my curdled milk theory. You wake up one morning and go to the fridge and pour yourself a glass of ice cold milk, right? You take a big swig and immediately spit it out cause it’s gone sour. The very next day you go back to the fridge and pour yourself another glass of milk——guess what, It’s still fucking sour. Maybe love has an expiration date. Some loves may last a month while another may last fifty years. But once that shit begins to curdle, well you better try churning it and hope it can be transformed into butter.” (Laughs) “Did you ever consider divorce?”
Michael, “Yeah, I did the math and it ain’t a pleasant scenario. We’d have to split up all of our shit, sell the house and cash in our 401k’s. She’d get half of my pension. I’d end up like one of those poor old fuckers having to go back to work. Probably end up swabbing down tables at Starbucks and taking coffee orders from spoiled-ass ‘twenty somethings’. Kids these days don’t even have the courtesy to look up and say ‘thank you’. Instead, they’re be incessantly scrolling through their goddamn cell phones or laptops. Then there’d be the proverbial pimply faced shift supervisor who’s prodding me to pick up the pace and smile more.” (Takes another hit). “Trade one hell for another hell.”
Shawn, “Yep, if I were your financial advisor I’d probably tell you to stay married, adopt a rescue dog for companionship and find a pro for sex, ya know, a skilled call girl. It’s cheaper than the alternative. Well, while we’re swopping confessions, I’ve been having my own struggles. Penny and I don’t really argue anymore, we avoid that, we share meals and a house but we kind of live like roommates. We’ve become courteous strangers, polite acquaintances. I never thought we’d end up like those old couples you see at restaurants eating entire meals without saying a word to one another. Everything that needs to be said, I suppose has already been said. We’ve learned to avoid pressing each others buttons—- it only lead to the same stupid arguments and hard feelings.”
Michael, “I suppose if it works, at least it’s better than arguing and saying mean shit you can’t take back. I mean, after all these years you still don’t want to hurt each other.”
Shawn, “Is anger deferred better than just being honest? (Snickers) Man, I’m getting some of those cool stoned thoughts.”
Michael, “I guess sometimes it’s easier to stay silently mad rather than come out and admit you’re wrong. Remember how when we were in high school and we’d get high and go down to the park at night and talk about life, dreams, god, girls and aliens . Anything and everything was on the table. As for girls, I still don’t understand them.” (Laughter).
Shawn, “I don’t have anyone to talk this shit over with anymore. Do you mind if I keep talking about love or lovelessness, cause another stoned weird thought just popped into my head?”
Michael, (Getting excited) Yeah, yeah—-tell me, go ahead man.”
Shawn, “There’s this chick at work who’s got this thing that I can’t explain. She’s in her early thirties, not what I’d call classically beautiful, but there’s something really hot and sexy about her. Just watching her put a scrunchy in her hair is sexy—-When she looks me directly in the eye I’m overcome with this uncontrollable magnetism. I feel electricity shooting through my body. I don’t know if it’s love or pure animalistic sexual arousal. Man, sometimes I just want to lean over and kiss her sweet mouth.”
Michael, “So, what are you going to do?”
Shawn, “Fuck, I don’t know, but at this stage of the game, this might be my last chance to have something special in my life. She has sex appeal and she knows how to use it. It’s dirty, it’s nasty, she can turn the mundane into magic.”
Michael, (Fires up the pipe). “Dude, you got it bad, but that’s good. Or, you got it good and that’s bad—-man I’m high. My advice, don’t marry a woman cause she’s pretty. Get a woman who knows how to flirt, knows how to be a freak in bed. Someone who’s fun, smart, has a good sense of humor. It’s all an illusion anyway. Only a few women know how to sustain the illusion, know how to make you do crazy shit. I’ve only been in love one time. I mean real love. The kind that makes you wanna do stupid shit, like write poetry, or hold her hand when walking down the street.”
Shawn, “I suppose that one time wasn’t with Lyne?”
Michael, “Nope. She’s practical. No nonsense. She still does’t appreciate my humor——she thinks anything other than missionary position is kinky. I need someone to turn my my mundane into magic.”
Shawn, “You ought to go say hello to Malena. Maybe there’s still a little magic hidden there.”
Michael, “What am I gonna say?”
Shawn, “What do I got to lose, that I haven’t already lost.”
Michael, (He heads back into the house. He stares directly at Melina. She responds with a flirtatious wink. He points to his drink and nods for her to meet him at the liquor table).
Melina, (They hug). “You smell good, you smell familiar.”
Michael, “Your hug feels familiar. Somethings I suppose never change. I was hoping you’d show up here.”
Malena, “Part of me wanted to not come, but something or someone drew me back.” (Offers a heartfelt smile). I see the whole gangs here.”
Michael, “I’m sorry to hear about Jesse. He was a great guy. He was a hell of a guitar player too. We use have a blast playing all those little bars and coffee houses.”
Melina, “He made a killing in the stock market, but I think he would have traded all the money, cars and fancy trips to just be a guy who played gigs at the pizza parlor. Happiness and success are hard things to measure. Circumstances may change, but at some level we are who we are. Jesse was unique, in a world where everyone is trying to follow trends and be the same, he was brave and unafraid to be different. I loved him for that.”
Michael, “Yeah, and if you try and be something you’re not, it will eat you alive. The best kind of friends are the ones that let you be yourself. Some people want to put you in a box and that is stifling.”
Melina, “I miss Jesse. What I really miss is the Jesse I knew when we were younger and not constrained by all the bullshit that comes with growing up. You trade little pieces of yourself away for security and possessions. Instead of you owning them, they end up owning you. You think you’re buying security, but what you’re really doing is bargaining away your passion, your freedom, your sense of wonder. I must sound like some old hippy chick.” (They both laugh).
Michael, “Here, let me get you a glass of chardonnay.” (Pours a glass of wine and hands it to Melina).
Melina, “Time goes by fast and it’s easy to lose the people and things that matter the most to you. (Pauses) When Jesse and I first met, travel was our thing. We’d be in a strange country and all we had was each other. It brought us together, made us closer. We went to Europe, China, Brazil, and it was exciting and fun. But something happened. I don’t even know how and or when it happened. Our traveling felt more like a search for something we lost, rather than sharing a new adventure. It was if we could find that special vacation place again, it would bring us back to that feeling of closeness. But it wasn’t the place or time, it was something dreadful that followed us wherever we traveled. We’d lost our connection. We became strangers in strange lands. And knowing what real love felt like, made it even harder when we tried to fake it or manufacture it.”
Michael, “I know that feeling. There’s no faking love. It’s either there or it’s not. And to watch it slowly slip away is excruciating. It’s hard to try and love someone——cause love isn’t a thing you have to try to do.”
Melina, “Jesse didn’t do anything wrong, it was (Pause) I don’t exactly know what it was. I think as he got older he became more cautious. Ironically, the thing that attracted me to him was his risk taking, his carefreeness. I think he regretted having to grow up and become a responsible adult, but his minister father ingrained in him that scarfing ones self is next to godliness. He started delaying gratification, putting money away in 401K’s, working long hours. It was like he was trying to earn his way into heaven, or at least please his folks. We were always making plans to go to Italy and rent a little house in Tuscany. I don’t know if once that feeling is gone if there’s anyway to rekindle it. Maybe that’s why we never went, maybe it wouldn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Maybe it would confirm what we already knew. Maybe the chasm had grown too wide, the distance between us was too far to reach one another. And then after all the putting off of pleasure he gets cancer and fucking dies. Maybe cancer was only a symptom of a worse disease, losing faith, losing your self. Life can be fucking cruel”
Michael, “Yeah, a lasting love is illusive. Sorry about Jesse, (Pause) sorry about (Pause) the death of a love too.”
Melina, (Put her hand on Michaels shoulder) “Oh, wait. I almost forgot. I brought something special for you. It’s in my car, come on.”
Melina, (Melina is the the drivers seat and Michael in the passenger seat.) “Close your eyes.” (She reaches into the backseat). “Okay, open your eyes.” (She hands him a guitar).
Michael, “What the (Pause). This is Jesse’s Martin guitar. This was like a part of his body. I have so many great memories of him playing this guitar at parties, jam sessions and in dark living rooms On Sunday afternoons we’d hangout at San Brannon Park drinking Ripple and playing music. Are you sure you want to give me this? This is a huge part of his legacy.”
Melina, “He’d want you to have it. He wouldn’t want anyone else to play it but you. He always said that guitars were shaped like a woman’s body. And, that’s what made him want to hold his guitar in his arms and caress it. He was romantic that way. I use to keep it on a stand in my living room, but (Pause) but it was like holding on to something or someone that was never coming back. I finally put it in its case and slid it under my bed. It was like sleeping with a ghost. Go ahead and exercise those old ghosts, give it light, give it life again, hold it, love it——let it make beautiful music.”
Michael, “I was pissed at Jesse for a long time. I blamed him for taking you away from me.”
Melina, “He didn’t take me away from you. You left me to go to LA and become a rockstar. You said you had a record deal and you’d probably be going on the road and you needed some space so you could get your music career going.”
Michael, (Shakes his head as he reflexes on the past).“I never got a record deal. The Record company said I’d have to go on the road and build up a following before they’d risk putting money into me. I ended up doing gigs in shitty little bars from Southern California to nowheres-ville Arkansas. I thought touring would be glamorous and exciting. There’s nothing further from the truth. You can only play ‘Johnny Be Good’ so many times and put your heart and soul into it. The last gig I played was at a Veterans of Foreign War hall for a bunch of drunk bikers. A big fight broke out with some opposing biker club. I heard a gun go off so I picked up my gear and ran for the door. That was it, I was through with my rock and roll dream. After that, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was lost. I probably wrote you a dozen letters, but I couldn’t find the right words to say. I tried calling but I guess your number had changed. I messed up. And what hurt the most is knowing it was my ego that cost me my future with you.”
Melina, “I’ve often wondered what life would be like if things had turned out differently. But, I guess things worked out alright for you. You have Lyne and you have a good life.”
Michael, “Like I said, when I came back home I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I got a job framing houses for Lyne’s dad and he kind of took me under his wing. He introduced me to his daughter and we started dating. I got my contractors license and the next logical step was marriage. Love and logic are two opposing ways of approaching life. Logic is using your brain, love is following your heart. I think I should have followed my heart.”
Melina, “I wasn’t sure if I should give this back to you.” (She reaches back into the backseat). “You left this flannel shirt at my apartment a million years ago.”
Michael, “I use to call that my lucky shirt. I was wearing it when I first met you.”
Melina, “This is kind of weird to say, but when you first left, I use to wear it to bed. It was soft and warm and it smelled like you.”
Michael, “And what do I smell like?”
Melinda, “You smell like the woods, like a forest. It’s a scent of pine needles, a tad bit of desert sagebrush and fresh rain on earthy mud.”
Michael, “Hum, I smell like earthy mud? That doesn’t sound too appealing. I suppose it’s better than sweat and grime.” (Both laugh).
Melina, “Well having a piece of someones clothing is kind of an intimate thing. It’s holding something that was once against their skin. Their body movements leave wrinkles imprinted on the cloth, the fabric still carries their scent. Sorry if that sounds crazy to you.”
Michael, “It’s a funny thing, I came back home after all these years and everything and everyone seems strange and different. The only thing that feels familiar to me is you. (There’s a reflective pause) I think I’ve always loved you and alway will. You’ve had a hold on me. Through the years I’ve fantasized about you a thousand times. Sorry if that sounds weird or creepy.————.”
Melina, (Puts on a devilish smile). “I guess I’ll take that as a complement.”
Michael, “I suppose, once you distance yourself from a place, a time or a person you realize a lot of things. Sometimes the long way is the only way home.———(Silence) Do you have the case I can put the guitar in?” (They both reach back at the same time and their heads slightly bump into one another’s).
Melina, (They both laugh at the awkwardness of the situation. There’s an emotionally charged silence.) “You can touch me if you want.”
Michael, (Slowly leans into Melina to give her a kiss. Theres an abrupt tapping on the fogged window).
Lyne, “What are you guys doing out here? It’s freezing out here.”
Michael, (Shakes his head in frustration as he rolls down the window). “Melina and I were sharing some old memories. She wants to give me Jesse’s Martin.”
Lyne, “Why don’t you bring it in the house and everyone can jam.”
Michael, “Yeah, sure.”
They come back in the house. Michael sits down and starts to tune the guitar. Everyone is feeling buzzed. The guests begin to clammer, “Play something, come on, play something for us.”
Michael, (Smiles) “Shawn, give me a beat on that cajon.” (Shawn sits on the cajon and starts playing a medium groove. Michael starts playing the guitar and singing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. The guests sing along. Michael can feel Melina’s eyes on him. Song ends, everyone applauds while hooting and hollering).
Michael, “Let me get a drink and then we’ll do another one.” (Makes his way over to the liquor table where Shawn is standing).
Shawn, “Nice jam bro. Isn’t that Jesse’s old Martin?”
Michael, “ Yeah, Melina gave it to me. She said Jesse would have wanted it that way. It’s almost like I can feel him when I play it. There’s worn marks on the fretboard where his fingers once played. It has a few nicks and scratches, but don’t all old things have a few scars.”
Shawn, “For sure.”
Michael, “You won’t believe what almost happened. Melina took me out to her car to get the guitar and we started talking and stuff. Something just happened. It wasn’t planned or like some kind of drunken hookup. I felt this thing I haven’t felt for a long time. I haven’t felt it sense I was with Melina all those years ago. It a feeling I forgot even exists. We were almost gonna kiss and Lyne came wrapping on the car window. It’s as if she knew something was up. I swear she has some kind of radar that tracks my every freakin move.”
Shawn, (Smiles and shakes his head). “Dude, that kind of soulmate energy permeates a room. Everyone’s buzzed and having a good time, no ones gonna say anything. But, I think everyone can kind of pick up on that thing between you two; even Lyne.”
Michael, “Man, I’m so sick of pretending and doing without. It’s fucking exhausting. I just want to feel that feeling again. I want to fucking feel alive again, to feel understood, loved——-to have real sex with someone who enjoys it. Is that fucking asking too much?”
Shawn, “I don’t know man. I think most of the dudes I know would love to have a ‘do over’. Life without compromises is a young man’s game. Ya gotta ask yourself, when does the hug become a choke hold.”
Lyne, (Approaches Shawn and Michael). “We need to leave soon, I have a nail appointment first thing in the morning.”
Michael, “Hey, we’re having some fun for once. Let’s just hangout for a little while longer.”
Lyne, (Looks over towards Melina). Yeah ‘we’re’——- or should I say you, are having a lot of fun. In a half hour I’m leaving. If you don’t want to come home, then get a ride with one of your (Spoken with sarcasm) friends.” (She turns and walks away).
Michael, “Goddamn ultimatums. It’s taking every single fiber of my being to not just say fuck it, fine——I’m going home with Melina.”
Shawn, “Loves a powerful drug bro. It’s done in many a good man. Like you said, It’s really not fair that you only get one chance to get this life right. What are you gonna do?”
Michael, “I don’t know man. But I know one thing, true love never dies. It’s a hard thing to explain. There’s something about the way she talks——the tone of her voice sets me at ease. I could listen to her voice for hours. I would never be afraid to tell her anything, cause I know she’d understand. There’s something familiar in her laugh. I like how her body moves through space. Graceful, like a dancer who needs no music.”
Shawn, “Regrets a hard thing to have to live with. Lookout bro, here she comes.”
Melina, “I’m gonna be leaving. It was really great to see you again. (She gives Michael a hug). “Oh, I left the guitar case in the back bedroom where they put everyone’s coats. I miss you.”
Michael, “I miss you too.”
Lyne, (She’s wearing a stern look on her face). “Get our coats and let’s go. I’m cold, I’m tired and I’ve got a headache.”
Michael, “You’re always cold, tired and have a headache.”
(He heads to the back bedroom. He opens the guitar case to put up the guitar. He picks up a note that was left in the case). ‘Michael, I left you a little something to remember me by. Something that’s been close to my body and against my skin. I hope I smell like the things I know you love, peppermint ice cream, Jameson Irish whiskey and second chances. P.S. Damn, it’s gonna be a bit cold driving home commando style, Ha Ha.”
(Michael retrieves a pair of red panties from the guitar case. He puts them to his face and inhales deeply. He shakes his head in disbelief and starts to laugh. He then says out loud). “Second Chances?”
The song “In Spite Of Ourselves” by John Prine begins to play.
These times are strange, no they’re a mess. There’s this constant background hum coming up from my backside. I don’t know if it’s coming from inside my head or is it a demon creating this lingering static in the ether. There’s always been horrors, but today it grinds on and on through social media, newscasts and radio talkshows. People are angry, living on the edge. We’ve become victims of a constant bombardment of bad news filtering into our psyche. People on the street wear the mask of emotional fatigue on their drawn faces. Where do we go from here? Everyone’s looking for a way to turn down the static.
This is what pushed the pioneers west, the thought that somewhere,, somehow, someplace—-things have got to be better than this—-All the same, we tote our clutter and emotional baggage along with us. No matter where we go——there we are. There’s no escaping this house of mirrors. There’s no out running our shadow, but we can always change the stories we tell ourselves. We’re the star of our own life, why not make it a comedy rather than a tragedy. There’s no better time than now, no better place than here. The static grows louder. I swiftly turn around, but there’s no one there——-“Huuuuummmmmmm——“
You’d think that after all the laws, politic’s and religion we’d be more civil and kinder to one another——-fat chance. We have no choice but to seek solace in one another. We’re awful, deceitful, jealous and——-mean vermin. But at the end of the day, it’s too hard to go it alone. It’s only through tolerance and acceptance that we keep our companionships alive. We’re all uniquely the same——in irony there is truth.
One time strangers become our friends and lovers, but then they slip away becoming strangers once again. The longer we know someone the harder it is to see them anew. The rags of our past distorts “what was” with “what is”.
I miss the peace that comes with silence. It feels as though this static is growing louder——do you hear it too? “HUUUUMMMMMM——”
Turn the dial, change your frequency, adjust the station, fine tune your antenna away from the static——–and find your music.