Halfway through my twenties I joined a rock band and we hit the road.
I remember pulling out of Philly for the first time, rolling down the highway like a balloon someone had just let go. I was out there, in the wind, heading God knows where. I remember sleeping in a Mississippi motel room with at least twenty other people. Boxsprings were drug off the bed and some people slept off their drink, wedged in sardine-style between a lot of other bodies. In the morning we all posed in the parking lot for a group shot before we headed for the next place.
In Washington DC, we kicked off a long tour as an opening act. After that first show, in some seedy room somewhere within a few miles of where the President of The United States was lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking about things/heavy shit: I used the top of a door to try and open a Corona bottle. The only thing I ended up opening was my wrist though. Still, I didn't really care. I made a tourniquet out of toilet paper and got my brother to open the beer for me with his lighter. We raged on.
Once, after we played, I met a librarian in Green Bay. We drank our beers from plastic cups and talked and laughed and swirled around dancing a bit in an empty room above the stage. No one even knew we were there. No one even knew the room was there. It was weird, like we'd been vaccumed up into a UFO that only wanted to just hover there above the bar. I never saw or heard from her again after those few hours. The whole touring life was like that. One minute you were in some strange place, with some stranger, connecting through book talk or food talk or whatever, and then: two hours later, you were gone from them for good. There was no way to ever really track them down again. And what if you did? Maybe they didn't want to hear from you, ya know? I didn't need that embarrassment. So I let it all just disappear in the mirror.
Once, on a roof in Wales, I could see the ducks on the little pond, floating in their sleep, I guess. They looked like hunks of moonbeam fallen from the chilled November sky, just sitting there. I was drunk on cider and mad at the world back then. I just wanted someone to want me for real but nobody did. Shit, why would they? I was cider drunk on a night roof in Wales. That ain't exactly boyfriend material. Anyway, I hollered some shit at the stars. maybe at my brother, who was drunk on cider on the ground. Then I took my British cellphone and threw it at the pond in a desperate attempt to be noticed by even some fucking sleeping waterfowls.
Then I wiggled down and shuffled off to my room back behind the recording studio we were living at. I read some Harry Potter, the same three or four sentences over and over again, through Cider Eyes. The next morning my face was still in the book, still stuck down in there with the wizard; with Hagrid and all.
I rolled off of the bed and ate some cookies. I looked for my phone to see if anyone had called me.
I remembered the roof.
Down at the pond, all the ducks were awake and alive. I found my phone about thirty feet shy of the mud rim of the pond. I hadn't even been close.
So many things I whizzed by on my way across the land. So many deer eating corn cobs on the woodlot edge. So many rivers we roared across, so many fish down below us for just an instant and never again. So many clouds I watched over Omaha and Manhattan and Portland. Clouds shaped like buffalos and Pee Wee Herman. Shit I saw through the windshield for a second, lit a cig, looked back up at the sky and it was gone. I was gone. So many girls I looked at across barrooms, after we'd played, when my courage was a skyscraper I drug out into the middle of the dark smoky room. So many girls ignoring me in my sweat stage get-up. So many times I had to smile at myself, at my fucking supreme dorkness.
So many truckstop pisses I could have sailed a battleship. So many mornings staring at my face in the fogging up mirror of some motel I would walk out of and never see again. So many laughs. So many really good solid laughs. So many girls shooting me down with their tender eyes gone steel. And so many good solid laughs.
I talk in muted tones of never kissing the past. Never letting it in if I can help it. Shutting down the memories, of laying up on green hill on a warm summer afternoon, and picking off each yesterday as it comes bobbling up over the far horizon like a fat groundhog moving through his lazy world.
But I fucking lie, dude.
Everything I've ever known, every moment of every lonely hour, every lonesome day: all of it: all of it has been like a sweet wild dream, really. I'm always arguing with it, with the past. But, still, I end up swirling her around. I end up standing in my kitchen while it's still dark outside, putting the filter in the coffee pot, my reflection watching me from behind the black glass of the window over the sink; something comes and blindsides me and slams into my chest and my heart kicks in fast and wild, like some young kids sipping beers/dancing across a Green Bay cloud.
You can't just forget shit on purpose.
Through the smoke, across the bar, the eyes are always there. Even if they aren't ever gonna be glaring back at you again.