Sunday night. Not too far past 11 PM. Lights are low in the studio, and my mind is pacing the cage. Daryl Hall is playing on the stereo, on cassette, no less. There's a cool night breeze coming in through the window. The house is pretty quiet. Just got done watching 'Grosse Pointe Blank'. Seemed appropriate as it combines both the '80s and a high school reunion. Near perfect fuel for my agitation. The whole notion of the upcoming reunion has been moving restlessly from one corner of my mind to another, never seeming to find a place to rest. My choice is to dose myself with music that I used to try and ease my melancholy 20 years ago. Mind you, these are the same tapes, not just copies of albums that I used to have. Which reminds me I should return the Amazon's copy of that Enigma album I borrowed from her and never returned.
So why should this event have me feeling so unanchored? Is the return to the area that was once where I lived but not really quite home? I know that when I go back, it won't be at all as I remember it Such is the nature of things. It's not like I can keep a whole town in stasis in order to keep myself at ease. But if it were to stay the same, would I be scornful of it for not changing? Might just as likely be that I feel my own inability to separate myself from this element of my past is some sort of weakness. Why is this set of events so difficult to disentangle and distance myself from?
There is a scene in the movie where John Cusack's character avoids a fight with a former classmate by saying 'You can't be mad about 'us'. There is no 'us''. This seems to be a recurrent theme for me lately. Things I see as barbs in my flesh are seen by others, including the participants, as unmarked chapters in history. That sort of leaves me adrift. Connections. Is that what all this is about? Isn't that the point to all the things people do that annoy the piss right out of me? Small talk, crazed sports loyalty, pointless political party dedication; isn't all that about being able to instantly associate yourself with a group? A way to identify strangers as friend or foe? Am I seeing this as a return to those days when my desperation to fit in lead me to abandon who I really was and in the process obliterate many, many years?
But I also know that those images, those places, those people, don't really exist in that form that I remember any more. Time has erased, altered, and distorted all those things from the past. A fear of milling around in a group of people all struggling to use those same damaged memories to try and hang together as a group, perhaps?
Those shadow monsters on the walls are cast by my own hands and still they drive me to sit here in the near darkness and find the cause of seemingly unhealed wounds from long ago. Is that an overly romantic way of saying it? Maybe. But with as many years gone by as have, my way of remembering it is now no more or less correct than anyone else's. This time I'm just not half stoned scribbling on the back of a Lums menu in the middle of the night.
In the other corner of the room from where I sit, in the shadows I can make out a small figurine. It sits on the edge of a shelf, and even though I can't quite make it out from here, I know pretty well how it looks. It's a wizard in a grey cloak, three, maybe four inches tall. There's a crystal ball in his outstretched hands, and a white beard on his chin. Another physical link to those days. All I can say for sure is who it came from. I no longer trust that the story I remember about getting is really accurate. On the stereo, Daryl Hall is singing 'Someone Like You'. The wizard continues to peer into his crystal ball, as he has done for almost two decades. A deep aches revives itself with the guitar solo and memories of a walk in the dark in Germantown Hills. As much as I wish I could, I just can't cram her memory into the role played by Minnie Driver. And I sure as Hell am no John Cusack. Again with the connections. Where is the point in trying to connect with a fragment from so long ago? Is that fragment rocket fuel, or an anchor? How great would be the tragedy of having that fragment destroyed? Is that fear of being free worse than the pain of being shackled to it?
How much regret can I create and ingest before I implode? Who has gone by unnoticed while I walked around staring at my shoes? What great epiphany, what Gordian solution do I hope to find in that bar in Washington? Will visiting the old places, or the places those places used to be, somehow propel me forward? Will taking dozens of pictures enable me to find some meaning lurking in the background? Will any of it change the way I put the chisel to the wood? Will my brush hit the canvas differently, or my words take on some strange new cadence? Can there ever really be a storybook ending outside of the storybooks? Sade continues singing on the stereo, and waves of the past keep washing through my mind, overtaking even the thoughts of work tomorrow. Outside, the crickets chirp, oblivious. And so, to bed I go. Wondering what dreams await me there.