Memories are often hard to let go. Harder still is the recovery of those mental pictures set adrift. You can trust me on that one. Had I any glimmer of hope making it as a songwriter or a poet when I marched off to join the world, I am sure hanging on to each snapshot of a young life already beset along a road of self-inflicted gloom would have been a worthy undertaking. It just seems impractical now. Downright morose, even.
I’m leaving home for keeps. I just can’t stay here anymore. I’ve got to go and see what’s out there. I was hell-bent on making my own two feet something more than a roving advertisement for Chuck Taylor, but like most kids, I had no clue. My ill preparedness grew out of my own confused arrogance .
So, when I got to a stopping place, I spent more than a bit of time whirling around the beach at dusk, slinging one foamy beer after another after another at the seagulls in a decibel fueled frenzy of protest against growing up. It was a functional and well exercised outlet for a while. I didn’t want to be a kid anymore, but I sure as hell didn’t want what came with being a man, other than girls and their fascinating features. But I had no choice. I had to make a move one way or the other and make it dramatically; make it mean something.
It’s kind of ironic, though; how chilling the moment when you finally pull your head out long enough to realize all the posturing and the defiance and the attitude probably made your Momma and Daddy more sad than mad. It’s with the seasoning of your hide that you come to understand the only thing at risk when you took those first wobbly steps away from home was your own foolish pride. One can only hope the people who loved you the most understood you the best; better than you ever did yourself, perhaps. And sometimes, when you are down to your last 12 ounces of self-respect, that fleeting bit of hope is the only thing that will save you.
It took me a little while to calm the inner demons, needless to say, but they sat down when the music finally stopped and only speak up once in a great, great while these days. Finally and almost mercifully, there came a time when I had to put down the baggage completely and roll on down the road unabated. It’s been smooth for many years now. I might just have enough bark on me to finally live up to the reputation.
But every now and again, something will fall out of the sky and send me spiraling into a full gospel revival of those ancient anthems of refusal and I’m back on my spot at the end of a barnacle crusted storm outlet, across the four lane, where the sunsets never seemed more red as they did through teary, homesick eyes.
It was a drab stretch of beach in a third-rate tourist town where I searched with some feeling and found who I might become. And for all the unknowns along that search, I’ll not trade one instant for all the health and success that life eventually offered. Circumstance eventually propelled me on and I left my friends on the beach for other curious paths. I was thankful and ready to move on, but I still left with a profound sadness that stayed with me for quite sometime. And then, thanks to every day stresses and plain ignorance, I forgot, mostly.
A flash of those shaky salad days hit me in the wee hours of this very morning. I have no real reason for my reaction. I never do when my emotions seem to fall out of the sky and shatter like a plate-glass mirror. Maybe it was the song; maybe lack of sleep. Maybe I truly do regret…..
For whatever reason, slowly and very powerfully, the memories of beautiful summertime girls with sparkling blue eyes and soft skin the color of cinnamon, and good-hearted, sandy-haired boys surrounded me. They buoyed me up and kicked at the sand and laughed sweetly. They waved their tattered, salt stained ball caps at the last vestige of the day. And as they wrapped their arms around my shoulders and waist and I theirs, it felt indivisible, almost.
We stood entangled in each others warmth for a while, having a long, raucous laugh at the entire world, and daring the setting sun and the shadows swaying with the water oaks not to notice.
originally published in Smoking Toaster, June, 2008.