Where We Are
The thing that really got her was how I listened to records all hours of the night. She said she didn’t care about my moods, my general nihilism or ill temperament, even how I got to sulking around the house and cursing every good thing she’d ever learned to love. No. She said it was Zevon. It was The Kinks. It was the difference between half volume and full blown to the hilt.
If you want be a sad sack of shit, she said, be a sad sack of shit. But, she added, leave me out of it. For that matter, leave the neighbors out of it too.
There was logic there. Who could deny it? There wasn’t even a single, solitary purpose to blasting Promised Land at two in the morning. No joy to be had in watching the Phillips’ kitchen light flick on next door and see Ed Phillips there in the window, one hand on his hip and his bathrobe failing to hide his beer gut.
I can’t live like this, she told me. To expect me to is criminal. Those people have children. They have jobs.
I wanted to say that we had jobs too but it wouldn’t of made much difference. Things’d gotten to the point where words didn’t matter much. I could’ve unloaded everything, catalogued every fear and disappointment I was carrying around back then and it wouldn’t of amounted to a proverbial hill of beans.
The only defense I had was to remind her of how we’d got started. I’d say, You used to love it when I’d get to listening. You’d sit there and say, Put a good one on, won’t you?
Sure, she’d say, but that was before.
Before it was every night. Before now.
What do you even say to that? Anything? I mean, when you get down to it, is there ever a straight line between how business starts and how it ends?
Of course there’s not.
Of course not.
There’s a big old drop is what there is. Like a rock clunking down a valley. Like an aeroplane spinning in the clear, blue sky.
Hey, I said to her one day in a plane from Indiana to Washington. We were on our way out to her grandma’s funeral. Life was strange but static. Hey, I said, what if we went and crashed? What would happen then?
Then we’d crashed, she said.
I said, Sure, but what then?
Then we’d be dead.
Is that it?
Seems to me, she said, that that’d be it. I mean, there ain’t much after the crash if I understand crashes right.
There’s no guessing to it. You die and that’s that.
In that moment, looking at her so sure and resolute, I think I loved her more than ever. I took her hand in mine and made a big show out of kissing it like a gentleman. I love you forever, I told her. You hear me?
I hear you, she answered, though she didn’t seem to believe me completely.
Now, halfway through Bringing It All Back Home, I head upstairs and take that same hand and lead her down to the player.
Listen, I say.
What? she says.
I move the needle back. Crank it as far as it’ll go.
Ed’s already up. Hand against the glass. Gown shed. Eyes heavy.
Listen, I say.
She closes her eyes. Maybe she’s just tired. I don’t know much of anything anymore.
Hey, I say. Listen. Listen, all right?
All right, she says.
The guitars come. The snare. I wish it could be louder. I wish there were no limits. I wish the speakers could be a set of twin engines growling through the daylight. I wish, I wish, I wish.