They used to call me the bard of bitterness, denial, and regret. Well… it was kind of a one-liner I made up to put on my show flyers. But… you know.
I think I mentioned sometime last year that a girl I’d once dated, early in our relationship, asked me to sing her a love song. “I don’t mean you have to sing it to me,” she said. “That would seem a bit presumptious, I think.” College girls…
“Just sing me something romantic and I’ll pretend it’s about me.” And she laughed.
I had my songbooks right there — I’m almost completely incapable of performing any of my songs from memory (crazy as that might seem considering most of them have no more than 3 or 4 chords spread over 3 or 4 quatrains) — so I started flipping through them, giving one line descriptions of each song as I flipped by…
“Drug overdose song. Betrayal song. Threw-it-all-away song. Another betrayal song. Fare-thee-well-and-flog-off song. Another threw-it-all-away song…
“Ah, here it is, my love song: ‘I Must Be F—— Nuts.’ I knew I had one.”
(It’s a good one but I’ve yet to figure out how to do it justice in this blog. It’s… well… it’s a bit vulgar. But it is a love song.)
Anyhow, those who’ve been following this blog will probably have already guessed that there were a lot of threw-it-all-away songs in those books. It’s like, oh, you know, a recurring theme, I guess. Though anyone with access to a DSM might come up with a less charitable characterization.
I’m not really sure why I like this one so much… except maybe that I crack myself up every time I sing the line quoted in the title of this post. I’m certainly not the libertine the line would suggest but there’s still some kind of poetic truth there, nonetheless.
He never realized he was going to leave until one night when he left.
They’d been together forever, through most of high school, after. She took some classes at a local college, he picked up construction work. And it was all ok with him. But he knew she wanted more. She wouldn’t say it. She wouldn’t ask. But he knew. And he wouldn’t give it.
That’s what he believed and that’s what he planned on believing his whole life.
He left a message on his boss’s machine, threw some clothes in a duffle bag and told his mom to pick up his last check. And he took off.
It was probably a year and a half before he’d let himself come home to visit his mother — and then only when she had a health scare.
He’d been traveling, picking up work, bumming around. He was out of the habits of society. He visited his mother for a few days until he was convinced his little brother had things under control and his mother was getting better and then he headed back out to a pipeline construction project he had a line on. A guy could make enough in two months to travel for a year, if he played it right.
Then his mom did get sick and he went home. His little brother was falling apart, trying to work and take care of mom. He stowed his duffle in a closet and took over his mother’s care, patiently nursing her back toward a health she would never completely reclaim.
He stayed around the house most of the day, seldom going out, but, later, when his brother was home, often after everyone else had gone to sleep, he would go out, walking through the darkened, now strangely unfamiliar streets of his hometown.
One afternoon his mother needed a change of medicine. He took the bus to a pharmacy far away from his neighborhood. It was in the new subdivisions where the soy fields used to be. He hoped that by going there he would be avoiding old memories — and the possibility of a chance encounter.
But he read somewhere that we’re drawn irresistably, mysteriously toward that which we fear most.
He was sipping bitter coffee in front of a chain coffee shop when he saw her.
He really felt like his heart stopped.
She was loading a couple of kids in an older, white Volve. She looked only a few moments older but the kids were maybe two and three; he was no good with kids, guessing ages, that kind of thing. They made him nervous and apprehensive. But these kids were different. They were beautiful. He felt instantly protective, as though he was a distant, but all-seeing guardian angel.
And she… she was so hearbreakingly lovely. The sunlight came through tall, crooked rows of eucalyptus and lit her hair.
He sipped the coffee, its cool, acrid rasp on the back of his throat. He pulled his head down a little bit. But he knew he didn’t have to. He knew he was already invisible.
As promised, here’s the song I wrote immediately before yesterday’s “She’d Be Mine” — telling much the same story from a somewhat different perspective — and in a significantly different style.
Although this was originally written as a country/roots oriented song, as well, it seemed to drift inexorably toward a funky stripped down reading, as can be seen in the ‘studio version‘ below.
(I’m not really sure how to make the distinction between the fully produced versions that already exist for some AYoS songs and these, highly informal — okay, slapdash — acoustic versions. The ‘studio versions’ were also recorded at home on my own gear. My studio at my old house was my office. Here in my tiny beachside flat, my studio — and my office — is my dining room table. Hell, it’s the dining room table, too.)
Just below is the little story/blurb I sometimes used to promote this song in the “good ol’ days” at the old mp3.com (where the ‘studio version’ garnered many thousands of plays over the several years that indie music paradise was open for biz).
You’ll note that it’s more or less a prose retelling of yesterday’s “She’d Be Mine”:
That last time he saw her will always stick in his mind. She was getting out of a white Volvo, a toddler nearby and a baby in a stroller. The wind and the sun caught her hair and it drifted in slow motion. For an instant the last eight years were a dream.
He hadn’t seen her since just after her wedding. He’d been invited, she even called, but he didn’t go. He told himself it was just an accident he was playing guitar in the park across from the church as she and her new husband ran out to the limo in a hail of rice. The sun caught her hair, then, too.
He could smell the Eucalyptus trees at the edge of the parking lot and for a second he was aware of his own cigarettes and whiskey, dirty denim smell. He shifted back a little into the shadow of the awning and tipped his head into the big paper cup of acrid chainstore espresso — but she might as well have been in another universe. He guessed that, really, she was.
Sometimes I think about ya
think about, think about
think about the things
I thought I’d do for you
Sometimes I wonder
how you’re doing now
I think about it
but I think it turned out best
when I think it through
I know I let you down
I let you down, I let you down
I let ya down hard
and blamed it all on you
I threw your love away
and I laughed and I laughed
I laughed until I died
and when I came to…
the world — it was dead
and I walked around and I walked around
I walked around the world
but I couldn’t find you
I tore my soul open
it was empty, it was empty
a tunnel into nowhere
and I never got thru
sometimes I think about ya think about ya, think about ya think about the world I mighta had with you
(C)1999 TK Major