And they all pretend they’re orphans and their memory’s like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget
That history puts a saint in every dream
And it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
Questions on a white board for an exercise during training for my new (additional) job:
Who are you? Where do you come from? Who are your people?
She is my Best Friend. She knows all my answers.
Men across the room would buy her drinks but were too often afraid to come to the table and talk to her. It might have been the short chunky dyke at the table with her but more probably it was the long red and gold burnished hair, or the broad swimmer’s shoulders, or the way she blew the smoke out sideways before she threw back her head for that deep throaty laugh. We both smoked Camels in a box back then, conspiring across the sticky oilcloth tabletop at Les Amis, leaning back under the twinkling lights at Chances, up till the wee hours, the street so quiet the possums and coons came out looking for scraps.
She was directly responsible for my
Scariest Most Interesting Drug Adventure. It involved five poets crammed into her Toyota Corolla, ingestion of a “test batch” of a powder nicknamed Rat Root, listening to Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs for the first time ever, an interminable journey way the fuck north of 183, on a quest to find a party at an auto showroom and warehouse that doubled as a residence and rehearsal space for at least one of the Two Nice Girls. Plus the obligatory stop by the cops, the three of us that were, by that time, speaking in tongues somehow managing to keep silent as the flashlight played across the back seat.
She set up housekeeping with a gorgeous and intense
asshole writer, and they had a beautiful son, born the same rainy night I first slept with with a woman, (the classic curious straight girl story) someone we both worked with. That didn’t end well. I remember the resulting depression after the fall out. I remember her dragging me to a sneak preview of Raising Arizona. It had been weeks and weeks since I’d even smiled, and here we were, leaning on each other on the way to car, still laughing so hard we were in tears.
25 years, a marriage and divorce each. Texas and New York and back to Texas. We’ve seldom quarreled, though we did “break up” for a few months during the bad time. Those intense months after the ex-Mrs. Tex finished chemo and radiation. The monster vanquished, the battle was over, won at great cost. Exhausted and empty, with no cancer left to fight and push against, I didn’t realize for a while that I just kept pushing against pretty much everything and everybody. The Best Friend jumped my shit and I turned away from her. Later, when the ex-Mrs. Tex dumped me, she was the first person I reached for. Yes, that thing between us happened but now this has happened. I need you. Please. It’s bad. And she answered. Of course I’m here.
She used to call me every year on my birthday and breathily sing Happy Birthday ala Monroe but this year she came out and spent the weekend at my place. I drove her out across the Devil’s Backbone at sunset. A controlled burn deep in the valley poured smoke out across the pink and purple clouds as we drove west into the twilight. Post-fajitas and margaritas, we drove back home. I took the long twisting way, driving slow along the curving hills between RR12 and 2325, and a fox obliged our adventure by trotting across the bottom of the hill, silhouetted in the headlights.
Later, we retired to the deck, put our feet up and watched for falling stars. Stars, smoke, red wine, music. Winehouse, Diana Krall, Bettye LaVette. Up till the wee hours, talking about everything and nothing. Just like we always do, always have done, will do.
Who are you? Where are you from? Who are your people?
She knows all my answers. She is some of them.
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