Jamie left yesterday…and I hardly had time to feel bad about it because news shortly came that Laurel’s flight had been delayed three hours in St. Louis. The search for wifi took me on a tortuous tour of the town of Riverhead (at least I think that’s where I am…these little New England towns run together so), and the dismal necessity of teaching a novice bartender (and his manager!) how to make a proper whiskey sour (with earnest but lackluster results) kept my mind occupied.
It seems I don’t really feel lonely.
Instead, I just feel tired.
I was talking to Mike yesterday–“Don’t tell anyone,” I said, “but I’m missing Phoenix.”
Though as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wasn’t sure. It might be Phoenix, or it might just be that my favorite whiskey sour is within a five-minute drive or a fifteen-minute walk. That people call me by name when I go out dancing. That I not only know right where the library is, but my favorite seat is nearly always free. Maybe what I miss is the familiar sun hitting the back of my knees while I wait for water to boil in the morning. I know for damn sure I miss my Saturday night church friends.
This constant moving around used to give me energy. I hesitate to say that it doesn’t anymore; but it doesn’t, right now. I loved being at Scott’s wedding, playing car karaoke with Jamie, uncovering more of the manifold charms of Denver, climbing through the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the morning and through the misty Allegheny dusk. But it all feels–has felt–like a distraction from something. A pleasant distraction, mostly, but still somehow left of my center.
If you’ll recall, that’s how staying in one place always felt heretofore.
My center seems to have moved.
I don’t think it’s Phoenix, properly. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. Because when I think of places there–the Duce, Public Market Cafe, the Biltmore, the farmers’ market, the Phoenician, Sip–I think of the people with whom I went there, or the people whose company I’d just left. Even places I normally go alone, like Songbird Coffee or the library, are populated by the memories of people who met me there before we spun off into whatever adventure we’d chosen.
I feel anchored there. By relationships. Goddammit. Apparently I do need this thing. It was such a freedom not to, to finally say maybe I’m better alone than trying so hard to be in company.
I will assert that this doesn’t entirely damage what cred I’ve built over the past three years. Consider that On the Road ends not with memories of San Francisco or Denver or Mexico or even just the open road’s freedom, but “I think of Dean Moriarty,” over and over.
That was the adventure–experiencing life with and through this other person, documenting their life not only through writing but through a shared windshield.
If I can speculate, Sal wasn’t only Dean’s biographer; Dean was his. Their experience made them repositories of each other’s history. To see someone who has seen you through things is to see yourself again. The more purely they reflect it back to you–with loyalty, trust, hope, humor–the more freedom they give you to keep creating history.
For Sal, Dean was the open road.
I don’t get as scared anymore as I used to–not about driving, anyway. About everything that could have happened to me has–I’ve broken down, I’ve collided with machines and animals, I’ve waited out storms, I’ve had to borrow money in order to keep going. The exhilarating highs seem to have evaporated along with the terrified lows.
Loath as I am to say it, the same thing holds for finding new people. I still love meeting people and hearing their stories, no question. But it’s not like it was, where electricity courses through my veins each time someone welcomes me in and talks to me about what they think. The reason they do that is that they don’t know me…half the reason, anyway. I’ve got three years’ of anecdotal evidence that it’s easier to bare your soul to a complete stranger you’ll never see again, than to the people whom you love. I still want to know their stories, but I realize that their trust isn’t personal–it doesn’t come from knowing me.
That’s the new electricity I wish for. Or maybe it’s more like a grounding…the thing that makes it possible for the electricity to flow within a channel.
It’s hard to admit that I want something I can’t just go and get…especially because it’s not even just a matter of staying to get it. I don’t know how it comes, I don’t know where to look for it, and I sure as hell don’t know how to hang onto it.
But I find myself thinking, in quiet moments, that I can’t go on without it. What “go on” means, I’m not sure. It’s not just a matter of going back to Phoenix, or going back to anywhere. If I really parse it out, “go on” means live. Like, do anything active with life. I’m like a powerline that has been jumping around on the ground for three years, and I’m tired.
Are we hearing me, Universe? If it’s merely a matter of manifesting, as my Ocean Beach friends would have it, then consider this an act of intentionality…made more powerful by the fact that I’m admitting it openly here. It’s a hard thing to let on how important this is to me. And look, this isn’t an invitation to send me contact information for your friends, brothers, nephews, bachelor uncles and failed sons-in-law. Unless…oh hell, maybe it is. That’s the problem with being entirely honest–it opens you up to being misunderstood, and people’s reactions to your honesty remind you of how few of them actually know you.
But anyway, there it is.
I suppose I should be excited–I’ve so often been in this position of not knowing what’s going to happen next.