Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Story About 1990

(as an experiment, I'm taking pieces that I wrote years ago (in this case, 1998) and editing them into modern-day blog entries. This could turn out to be a huge mistake. I don't know. Anyway, despite its overly florid language, I like this one)

Debbie and I listened to that John Wesley Harding tape over and over again back at the dawn of the 1990s (JWH the singer, not JWH the Dylan album). We grazed the surface of many a personal ego structure in those times. Debbie and Wes and I.

There was the time we drove through Compton, not for the fun of it, but because that’s where the good Mexican restaurant was. Or was it? It seemed then like the border was moved over a few blocks and what once was Compton was now Paramount and the food was too good to reconsider. We ate and went back to our homes and all would be good in our small world. Sexless lovers. Loveless drivers of luckless cars. And Wes sang on and on and on.

The sun would come out tomorrow. But the sun couldn’t spell. And the sun had a reason for not exposing its arrogance. So clouds were the form of the sky gone slumbered. Clouds were the form and me and Debbie and John rode on and on and on, traipsing the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel on a laughable lark. That was for the fun of it.

She had a child (not mine, not J.W.’s, hers only really) and she left a trail. The tidal swirl of a dozen mistakes washed over that trail and I never saw her again. I still have the pictures and though I’ve lost the tape, I knows where to find a new one if I need it. If only the cut of light was more flattering on my distracted face.

Once I thought I saw her on the Seal Beach Pier. I was walking with two people I would never see again. I thought I saw her distraction and I walked toward it until it folded itself into the water and revealed itself to be a trick of the sun.

Another time I thought I saw her in a Barnes and Noble in Cerritos. But that was just someone with her hair and her gait and her child and her sunny distraction.

Another time I thought he saw her on a Mar Vista bus bench, hand to forehead in lieu of sunglasses, childless, distracted twice over, pretending to read yesterday’s paper, wondering where the time went and thinking of law school. I saw all this from my car and no it wasn’t her, I knew that.

Yet another time she was the resurrection of the bounty of the first millennium. Meaning this: they chopped up the sins, they wove them into wood, they turned the wood to legal (more or less) tender, they traded most of the tender for sustenance, they built a wall with what was left over, they painted a face on the wall (a face which to this day is burned in my mind from the one time he spotted it, Boston bound, on a billboard), they made the face look like hers (it wasn’t hers), and so on and so on. Nothing more than that. She was the resurrection and she couldn’t even make it count.

So those where the times I thought I saw her and surely did not see her.

But I take comfort in knowing that whenever she found herself humming Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega, she would have to think of me. We heard the dance version of that song for the first time when we were together in my car (always my car) and from that time forward allowed its insidious yet beautiful creepiness to creep right in, all the way in.

I was so poor once I had to sell an old VCR to a pawn shop on Van Nuys Boulevard. It got that bad by accident, I tried to convince myself, by accident!

I was so rich once I waved the waitress over and said you can give that check to me, the other seven don’t need to pay. This was two hours after I said goodbye to Regis Philbin.

Harding is a writer by another name. Based on a Google search, Debbie might still be in Long Beach, working for the community college there as some sort of specialist. I’m here, figuring it all out.

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