To be loved by a musician, when you are young, is something special. You sit at his feet in a club, and his performance is infused with his need for you; you are his muse, and his playing lifts when he thinks about you. He depends on you for inspiration, for motivation. If he is a songwriter, every night is like a public valentine. Even the songs he wrote before you existed--well, they are all yours now. It is better than a Times Square billboard proposal. You are the girl of his dreams, encased in a crystal ball of music and poetry. Nothing else is ever quite like this. In a way, you are ruined.
When I was much older-- already a mother and a grown woman, I met another songwriter. I could feel him singing to me-- he had a song that went 'Frog in the shower saw me/As you were to see me that night'… it was so demurely sexy and Dylanesque… and yes, we ended up naked and inseparable for many months of passionate nights. But the songs-- well, after a year or so, they lost their shine. They were not magical or Dylanesque but labored and derivative. The love and passion were still there… but for me, this was not enough.
I've always been loved more than I love. It's not intentional-- it just works out that way. Maybe I was just too lazy or preoccupied to go out and seek my dream-man, but there were so many things I always needed to do-- and there were children to love unconditionally-- so I too-often opened my heart to the most persistent suitors. Some of them wrote and sang and played; some just reminded me of what is like to be loved and for a while that was enough.
Lately I have fallen in love with solitude, with the illusion that I can create whatever I need, at any time. The love I remember seems so much better than what is on the table-- the Princeton man who wants a Bohemian wife after 2 unsuccessful marriages to Junior League alumnae-- the scientist who runs a hedge fund and touches me inappropriately in public-- the adorable sexy alcoholic guitar player who asks me to marry him in a whiskey stupor every few days and undoubtedly has me confused with someone else. My girlfriends keep asking me---what is my 'type'?… I really have no clue. I can only seem to look backward, or inward, toward some kind of lyrical person who inhabits my poetry. Old loves have passed on, and hang around me like ghost-passion. It is as though the best of me is buried in a double-coffin with whatever was, and I can only sing.
There are still a few remnants of my old menagerie in the shower, where I end most of my nights at 4-5 AM. Kids like to be surrounded in the bath-- it distracts them from their sense of vulnerability. The rubber duckies are gone, and so are the kids-- but there is still a porcelain bunny and the little frog the songwriter left me when he went back home to his country-- to watch over me in the bath despite the fact that I am beyond the age where tandem showers are sexy. I sing in the shower-- sometimes without sound, because at 5 AM there are these tiny birds that serenade me as the dawn breaks and I close out my version of a 'day'.
I have a neighbor who has left her husband for a man who looks conspicuously like Brad Pitt. Never mind that he is stupid and oafish and has no job; he has the eyes, and the hair, and he has convinced her to lighten her hair and get a weave and a little bit of extra lip filler. It's like a perpetual Halloween trick… but it seems to work for them.
Two nights ago there was a film on Sundance-- with Annette Benning as a widow who met a painter who so closely resembled her ex-husband, she was able to enact this perverse pathological sort of charade until it all imploded. In a way, many of us are guilty of this-- of turning one person into another, of closing our eyes and seeing a past love, of turning out the lights and changing one man into another-- of believing our songwriter lover is the next Bob Dylan when he is just a man in love.
On the way back from my gig the other night, there was a man sitting on the street, mutilating his leg with a pen-knife. He wasn't asking for money, or food. He was resting on a box, performing this horrific surgery and no one had the stomach to look. It was beyond a nightmare-vision, and beyond anything I could process. It was like a symbol-- a Fellini-esque sort of sign of something grotesque that was placed in the path of my musical night… of some reality of pain and flesh and disease… that made me question everything.
Moments later I was nearly mugged by a violent woman with a cane who was screaming for cigarette money. A young black girl was waiting for the bus. She asked me if I was afraid. She told me I wasn't safe and the cigarette woman was violent and dangerous. Somehow I am no longer afraid. I feel fear in my own nightmares, and on the street these people bend my emotions, but I do not fear them. I took the bus home, answered a call from the beautiful drunk guitarist who maybe had phoned several women that night and repeated the same words of love. I no longer believe in future love.
In the shower I turned the little frog around, not wanting to be watched. I needed to wash off the image of the man's mutilated flesh and the perverse mystery of his occupation which I sensed was going to haunt me for a few days. I tried to get my doctor friend to find him, but he'd moved on, with his milk-crate seat and his knife-- to some other corner. Maybe he'd been forced into an ambulance. For people like him it's like being put into a dog-pound. I wondered if he'd ever had someone watch him in the shower. Maybe that's all he wanted. The water felt like rain. My little birds were hopping around on the sill and chirping out their little morning-song. Maybe I was outgrowing my frog-- maybe I'd toss him into a bag of things for the thrift shop. It's really a bit silly, my bathroom menagerie. I dried him off.. but he takes up so little room, and he might get lost in the bag… after all, he is 'home'. I put him back on the sill, next to his friend the porcelain rabbit. He has the most perfect smile.