I felt Violet hanging around long before I knew her. Walking around by myself in the cities of Marah tours I was on, I'd glance at myself in a Vodafone shop window or a kebab joint mirror and I'd see my face and try and focus on it through swarms of street life. My eyes would bob and weave through flowing crowds to settle for just a second on my face in storefront glass. Something had gradually become apparent to me... something in my world was missing. But what, who? The road had become a drastically lonely place for me. Once I had reveled in that solitude.
Standing in the Plaza Mayor in the center of Madrid a little over a year ago I was hobbled by some new unfamiliar loneliness. I dragged myself around the edge of the late afternoon square maybe a dozen times: just peering through shop windows at small plastic bullfighters and magnets of plastic hams; old men with their knotty hands cupped behind their backs walked alongside me on the same lap. The blue sky above the old buildings beckoned and I wanted to fly away. I wanted so badly to get out of Madrid, of Spain and Europe. I wanted to soar back to a place where I was needed. But such a place didn't really exist. Music and travel and strangers and many thousands of miles behind me just left me feeling empty anymore...left me feeling nothing. Once, they'd made me feel everything. That time was gone.
I was tired of this me. I felt like I'd been running for years.
Weeks went by and the tour plodded on like any long rock'n'roll tour. A diseased snail with lager blood. Each night in my hotel room, long after any crowds I'd seen had vanished and the guitars were locked away in cases in the back of a rented van, I'd stand in some random hotel bathroom with the shower running cold. At something like 3 or 4am I would lay down on a towel on the tile floor and just stare at the underside of the sink. I was by myself. But not exactly alone.
In my head I had begun to imagine a little one. A kid. Never before had I even dared to imagine that. Children were for other people. But now, for some strange reason, the idea sizzled to life in my imagination and wouldn't step off for anything. And the more I tried to ponder the possibilities there in German and English and Italian bathrooms, the more intensely curious I became. Why not share the rest of your days with someone who could use your help?, I asked myself. Why not stop all this living for me? I'd done that for so long. Too long.
I'd stopped trying to call home as much. Monica had grown used to me being away. Her once excited reaction to my Euro-calls had been rubbed and ground to just a chipped nub of itself. My voice on the other end didn't intrigue her or arouse her anymore. A lot of the times I just got her voice mail. So I stopped calling much. And with that gone, I only drifted further out with the wicked tide that had latched onto me. I was disoriented. Lost. Cathedrals and castles became ugly naked jesters flipping me the bird from roadside hills. I'd get drunk and blue. Even shingle sized chocolate bars began to lose their luster. So much was changing.
The last night of the tour we played a show outside Barcelona. The crowd was huge and fabulous. I went up, we all did, and gave it one last hell. When the final encore ended I got myself a bottle of beer like I'd done a thousand shows before. But this one was different and I really knew it.
Back at the hostel we only had an hour and change til we had to be out front for the long day of traveling back to America. I spent it all on the bathroom floor one last time. When I emerged, showered and donning the same salty ripe clothes I'd been wearing for four or five straight days...I emerged to the low whistles of pre-dawn Spanish songbirds warming up their tunes outside my open window. I picked up my bag and my room key and quietly shut the door. Exhausted, anxious, and feeling wonderfully/gloriously unrock'n'roll for the first time in so very many years.