This is a repost from a Facebook Note I wrote awhile back after a Frank Turner concert. (No offense meant to Mr. Turner if he ever reads this.)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Thanks to Frank Turner for inspiration and a few lines.
“You live to dance another day. So now you’ll have to dance for the two of us. Stop looking so damn depressed. Sing with all your heart…”
Take this advice: honour the guidance of the dead and dying. They see the world through eyes that have nothing to lose. Often, the clearest moments come just before sleep.
He found me in a darker bar than I would have liked.
“This is no place for someone like you,” he said by way of greeting.
“This place has no questions, Dad,” I replied. “No questions, no answers and nothing to hide.”
“You’ve got everything to hide and the world to win.” He could drink me under the table any night of the week, so I didn’t buy him anything. He did it himself, with that same straight gruffness he had for everything.
“It’s all shit now anyway,” I said into my glass.
He eyed me sideways. “It is, isn’t it?”
The day they put me in a gurney was the same as when I signed my first contract. Each was unexpected, connected by a single thread of sadistic irony and symbolized by IV and catheter. I wondered then if this was the cruel face of ambition. If the fruits of our labour were only ever meant to stay green.
For some reason, I resented him for agreeing with me. Like my anger was really all it took to keep me down. “Why are you here, then?”
“I’m where you are.” His voice wavered just a hair, quickly smoothed by whiskey like a brush.
“I am nowhere. Never have been.” I viewed the bottles on the far wall through the beaded bottom of my glass. “They paint a damn fine picture, though.”
His went empty, too. “Maybe it’s just time to appreciate the scenery.”
A quick glance around the dingy room dragged a bark of a laugh from my aching chest. “Ain’t that the fucking truth.”
They always ask if you’re okay, as if being pinned to a bed by needle after needle isn’t answer enough. The rooms are far too white, and the floor too well swept. They keep the outside so far away, breathing unsterile air feels naked. And when you get worse, they all go blank whenever they look at you, like you’re just a switch that’s already been flipped.
“It’s never about the destination, son.”
People move like they’re a part of a dream. They don’t look back, they don’t see what it’s like, and they don’t care to. We don’t like to see behind the curtain.
“And the journey is full of shit,” I mused against the rim of another glass.
There was a day when they dragged in all the faces I never wanted to be seen by like this and everybody cried. It was almost enough to make me join them, but these eyes were dry long before they had reason for self pity. But the day passed without incident and nobody got to see me go then. What’s a life worth if it pushes on for just a few more days anyway? A giant medical bill and a final goodbye that feels like I’m just crying wolf again?
“You can lose everything you love,” he said at last. “But I’ll be damned if I ever sit by and watch you lose hope.”
He was right about that. All of this damned humiliation: the bedpans, sponge baths and panicked trips to a distant bathroom; it mattered little to the one man who sat patiently with it all. Often with a sparkle in his eyes. Sometimes, they only shone with tears, but still they shone.
“Hope in what?”
He shrugged then, unsure for the first time in as long as I’d known him. “In something. In hope itself.”
That was my proof that you don’t have to prove anything to care about anyone, or be cared about. The best people concern themselves not with what you are, but what your eyes see that theirs might miss. Here I was, digging ever deeper for the bottom of the next glass and he still thought I had it in me to be more than he knew.
I wrote in those last few days, and they worked through their hesitation to bring me my guitar. Maybe somebody understood, maybe they knew the price they’d pay if they didn’t agree.
Or maybe they all knew what it took to bring me back to myself.
On that afternoon when I cried wolf for the last time, I thought to myself that maybe it was never meant to be a thing of achievement. If our lives are a journey, you can be damned sure they won’t end where they’re going. They wouldn’t put flowers beside the path if all we were supposed to do was walk past.
I put that last drink away and looked at him with wet eyes. “What if hope is what does us in?”
He smiled then, and said with twinkling eyes, “Then I hope you find it some place you love to be.”
Fingers grow cold and the world fades at the edges, but when you go with a smile on your face, it’s there forever.