Heartbreak Summer: Compounded

I watched my best friend’s legs wobble
Struggling to stand against
The shimmering haze of summer heat
Carry her up the stairs
And into the bedroom
With the air conditioner on
With the curtains open over the alley.

90 degrees today
With a seven percent chance of rain
The swelling thunderheads gathering
In the distance, gray and pregnant with rain
Seem impossibly far away
I know, baby girl, I know
Breathing through this industrial haze
Is hard on anyone
Especially you, making your way
So fearlessly to the end of the road.

Sit at my desk
Stare at a blank screen
Shuffle papers around
Try to will the words
That will make sense of so much loss
From my brain onto the page.

Every few minutes
A nervous sideways glance
To the pile of pillows and blankets
On which your tired body rests
To nervously check for the labored
Rise and fall of your weary chest.

Six years ago, this week
You were sick
Tired and wheezing
At ten years old
I cried my eyes dry
Begged whoever might be listening above
For just a few more years
Of coming home
To the side of the best friend
I have ever known.

You and me, girl.
Wherever we were,
As long as we were together
We were home
Not everyone gets to be that lucky
In life and in love
I know that now.

Every single night
I tuck you in
Ache wrecks my whisper
As it makes its way to your ears
I tell you that when you are ready to go
To just let me know
I won’t keep you here, in pain
Not for my sake.

If these long years together have taught us anything
They taught us everything we ever needed to know
About a little thing called strength
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:
The day you leaped into my arms
Pressed your face against mine for the first time
That was the closest I have ever come
To believing in love at first sight
The rumble of your paws
Romping across a forest floor
As you grew into them and made this ruin of a world your own
Rattled the dust of despair from my bones.

You, more than anything else
Washed a decade long death wish stare
From my eyes.

You braved sixteen years of this mess
To offer an unshakable love
I whisper to you;
After sixteen years of a love as unshakable as this one
I am strong enough
To brave the emptiness of a world
Forever without you.

Even though
I am uncertain
Which one of us
I am trying to convince.

5/2/21 – 1:21 AM

Fuck, man. This is going to be a short post. It’s been one of those weeks, an absolute bruiser of a week. Everything hasn’t been going wrong as much as it has just felt like the ground has been just a little too unsteady beneath my feet. In my isolation and introspection, music has been like mainlining memory straight to my skull. This week’s playlist includes some of what has been gracing the turntable around here this last week. Not everything, just the highlights. I wish I had included some newer tunes here, and not so many sounds that have been echoing in my ears over the decades. But when you’re in the pits, I guess you what is going to offer you solace, and make the nights pass easier. 

I swear, I hear those first notes from “The Kiss”, and I’m 14 years old again, standing in the cemetery with my skateboard, just as the sun began its journey beneath the horizon one spring evening. Inhale, and I’m there. I can smell the blossoms coming off whatever those trees were that they planted around the cemetery so amidst death, blossoms would remind mourners of rebirth, of life every spring. I just shared a first kiss with a crush, and I know I’m out too late on a school night. My mother is going to be pissed when I eventually make my way home, but whatever unfolded in the cemetery tonight is intoxicating, and difficult to let go. We kiss one more time. I put skate shoe to pock-marked blacktop, the rumble of polyurethane wheels. I combination skate/run all the way home. 

It’s past one in the morning. I have the windows open and I can hear the city settling into sleep. The sound of cars on the street has dwindled to a trickle, an occasional passing late-night bicycle or laugh emanating from the neighbor’s window. So much of this week didn’t turn out how I hoped. I spent today trying to look my best in a second-hand Ben Sherman, hoping I would start to at least feel a little better. It worked, mostly. The trip the sweetie and I took to get ice cream for both us and the dogs certainly helped too. 

And then there’re the sounds, the sounds, THE SOUNDS. Always drumming in my ears, offering solace when so much else falls short. Reminding me that living inside me is a kid, always skating home, praying my wheels don’t catch on an errant pebble, or chunk of last winter’s undissolved rock salt, sending my homeward race to a sudden stop. 

Hey, take care, okay? I’m glad you’re still here. I’m glad you’re still breathing. Thanks for reading. If you decide to listen (and I hope you do), enjoy the tunes. I hope you have a song out there somewhere, floating on some decaying airwaves that remind you why you hang in. I hope it reminds you of a moment where you fell in love with living. 

This week’s Mix:

  1. The Cure–The Kiss
  2. Cold Cave–Night Light
  3. Generation X–Kiss Me Deadly
  4. Swingin’ Utters-Last Chance
  5. Motorama-Normandy
  6. Get Up Kids-Lowercase West Thomas
  7. Sham 69-Borstal Breakout
  8. Siouxsie & The Banshees–Trophy
  9. The Templars–Visions Of A Future
  10. Billy Idol–Catch My Fall
  11. The Specials–Ghost Town
  12. Megative–One Day… All This Will Be Gone

Poem – 4/28/21

Early to bed
Early to dream
The scene:
The Bluebird Theater

Where my grandmother
Used to send my father
To Saturday matinees back in the 40’s
10 cents for a movie
And popcorn and a soda
She told me

I set foot in the theater
For the first time,
Back in the 90’s
When I caught the zero bus north from the suburbs
Took the 15 to the east side
A little gone to seed

I drew X’s on my hands
In the sun outside
Waiting in line with
All the other punks and hardcore kids
Hoping my father’s ghost waited inside
Hovering like a dust mote in the rafters

Oh yeah. I forgot.
Talking about a dream
Sorry. I distract easily
This early in the morning.
So Forrest and I, we’re at the Bluebird
Standing with another friend

Who’s face faded with the waking
I think it might have been Derrick
I don’t know if I would recognize him, anyway
Forrest told me once how the six packs he drains
At the end of every hard workday
Have taken their toll on his aging face

Rancid took the stage
Like a goddamn storm
For the first two songs at least
Then Matt Freeman broke a string
And the whole thing
Sort of came apart at the seams

The band left the stage
Came back to pantomime at playing
Along with a pre-recorded track
As if this isn’t more or less
What Tim Armstrong does onstage already
More of a mascot, than a guitar player

With Lars doing much of the lifting
You can’t convince me Tim’s guitar
Is actually plugged in to anything
Forrest and I have been arguing about this
For over 25 years now
A good-natured disagreement among friends

I cherish this loving quarrel
Along with our squabbles
Around The Sisters Of Mercy
And their merits as a band
Worth listening to, flute solos and all
Like a most prized possession

If age has taught me one thing
It’s this:
Friends who put up
With your loud mouth opinions
Year upon year
Are a true gift

The band sort of shrugged
Walked off the stage
The crowd broke up
Muttering halfhearted disdain
Before going our separate ways
Forrest and I made for the side door

Walking past a young skinhead
Doing his trigonometry homework
Scribbling equations on the sticky club floor
“I’m trying to get into Harvard!” He said
Good luck, kid
I hope somewhere, you made it.

Forrest and I walked out the door
Into the alley next to the club
Then I woke up
Dreams are so weird
This is still the closest
I have ever come to seeing Rancid.