Betrayals and break-ups always seem more prevalent in the rain. This cold relentless October rain was sort of a jolt to the city; just one week ago we were bathing in the radiant sunlight of a warm September, waving to our Pope, feeling a kind of hopeful optimism and magnanimity. Everything I did felt just a little 'blessed'. Tonight, it's business as usual. I've committed my one or two unforgivable social etiquette sins-- let the rebel-girl out of my mouth-- been just a tiny bit mean-spirited. I'm soaked, freezing, snappy and blustery.
As I grow older, I'm noticing I become a little more clairvoyant and uber-empathetic. I don't just observe-- I actually feel things around me. I can read minds and hearts and find myself having to blink and look away more often. Tonight I began to hypothesize that there are two kinds of love-obsessed people: the ones that are all about being loved, and the ones that are addicted to loving. We know the narcissists-- attractive and charming-- generally someone at their beck and call, their 'mirror-boy' (or girl), not to mention some in the wings, waiting for a stage-cue. But their counterpart-- the 'lovers' who are so good at maintaining relationships, at partner-grooming and socializing-- they give gifts, they dote-- a little like pet-owners? And I can spot them in a second. The ones not currently 'in a relationship' are stalking the online dating sites, browsing Bridal magazines, seeing themselves as half of any given celebrity couple. They are theoretical, future wives. They make very good partners-- they cook, decorate, make reservations-- and for some men-- this is great. They will get married, have kids, vacation, play doubles, barbecue, retire… and some will wonder where it all went. I see these couples all too often… they seem happy and even look good together-- this is important. But what I see now, also, is this missed connection somewhere; for the 'other half' of us-- the ones who don't really know what it is we want from love---- they will fail us and we, of course, will fail them.
Having read too much from an early age, I tend to infuse common objects with symbolic meaning. I see a card lying in the road and find some ironic synchronicity. Tonight I stepped onto a curb and there was a long stem… without the 'head' of the rose--- just the twig, and the thorns, lying on the puddled sidewalk. At first it looked ominously decapitated… this is a bad sign, I think. A death card.
A car passes-- windows open, despite the wet night… blasting some Coldplay… Magic, I think it's called…and I don't and I don't want anybody else but you… the driver hitting the steering wheel, mouthing lyrics… I could feel his exhilaration… young, driving through the wet city, Friday night… picking up his girl… it has always been this way-- music lets us love-- through the lyrics, through the sounds… we let go, we align with someone's joy… we dance…
I can remember how this is and was… the songs we love, the songs we loved… burying our face into some chest, eyes closed… feeling enfolded and lifted into the music… even when it is a different man -- we can still close our eyes and be inside the song, inside an old memory , another dance… it is okay. How many lovers, dancers, are closing their eyes in the wrong arms… leaving their dreams in a heap on the floor while they crawl into some warm bed… the wrong bed, the right bed… we can close our eyes and be somewhere-- anywhere.
Thinking back… how this bald man coming out of this building, with the glasses and his shirt collar buttoned up tight--- he could have been that soft long haired boy, swaying by the stage with a beer can, looking at you like you can save his life… and you can…and you did, maybe, and who am I now, this woman walking on the slick sidewalk in the street lamplight thinking about old love, evaporated nights, reading a message into some missing rose petals? Loves me, loves me not… we'll never know this way, will we?
James our local boom box-bearing homeless resident of the street… is howling tonight, holding his box like a megaphone, screeching out lyrics to a distorted track… he is looking not just thin but taut and drawn, ashen… wired and wiry, angry and boisterous… pointing up at the moon, chanting and preaching, singing and stomping. Where is his love? Who will dance with him in his dream?
In the lamplight I see something shiny-- it's a jade earring… I take it into the Starbucks on the corner. A woman has called them, they tell me-- maybe 5 or 6 times, looking for this earring. It was nowhere. No, she hasn't left a number… but I leave the earring--- it's perfect and lovely...another piece to a cosmic puzzle that won't be solved, a lost soul watching its other half sail away..
My apartment feels cold and damp; my son surprises me with a late-night visit-- comes to sleep over-- feeling some October restlessness he can't shake…I remember those times, when everywhere felt like a rocking boat, a crowded subway-- except that one bed where you could lie in the dark forever, listening to the minutes-- a record on the turntable… a 25 minute universe, while all you are is the music, the ceiling, the bit of streetlight streaking onto the wall… the man beside you for an lp eternity… your version of paradise… inside this music where you can really love, like Neil Young says. He hasn't quite found that bed this time… and maybe his boyhood room feels like 'home' for tonight. Within minutes he is sleeping peacefully.
I am still thinking about my bad angel-- the one bed where I could always find my home… missing for so long, the last time lying beside him on his hospital bed, trying to absorb the pain… Sing to me, he said, in a morphine stupor, but he can't hear me anymore… and the lights, the lights were harsh and the machines were humming and the roses by his bed-- the perfect white roses-- they couldn't keep him any more than this headless stem I have somehow carried home… and that one person-- even if he lived.. he might have slept with other women because people do this-- they betray you, they go away, they shoot up and pass out and step out in front of cars and they jump-- they jump into and off and away.
I do one of those random record picks with eyes closed and I get the Velvet Underground… the one that starts with Candy Says.. so fragile and vulnerable… and I light a candle, and my son wakes up and joins me for a glass of wine and makes fun of my music.. while he stares off, unusually pensive, for him….By about the 3rd track he taunts me a little, singing in his out of tune buoyant boy-voice that gets me smirking… mocking the lyrics and now he is up and mock-dancing and grabbing my funny green stem in his mouth-- I am full out laughing… Put on your red pajamas and find out.. and I am singing, too, now… suddenly Lou Reed and I are as we were, as we will always be, in the music…