7 Replies to “6.8.2015 Journal Prompt”

  1. I hear him through the wall and that’s how I know. I hear him walking about the apartment and walking heavy is what I hear and his feet dragging like he’s got more weight to him. He closes all the windows and pulls the curtains to against the sun going down and I know then how he’s feeling, that he’s alone and wishing he wasn’t.

    He puts some music on then, and I recognize it from the very first note, even from the silence that is there before the voice begins the song. He has his guitar out too, not that he’s much of a player, ‘cept he’s got enough chords for this, to be strumming along.

    I can’t picture him exactly, whether he’s sitting cross-legged on the floor or in a chair with the guitar across his knee. But I can hear him, feeling clumsily for the tune in his strumming and his voice added to the voice on the recording and his voice fumbling too for the words, until he gets to the chorus and then his voice rises to full volume and he sounds happy when he ain’t.

    He plays the same song over and over and he drinks between each playing, tilts a bottle of Jim Bean to his kissing lips. He doesn’t like the taste, but it fits with the song, which is American. And his very English voice becomes more howling as the evening spends itself out. And he waves bye-bye to American Pie, and he’s one of the good ol’ boys drinking whiskey and rye, and he sings with meaning that this will be the day that he dies.

    I listen to him through the wall, waiting till the music dies, like it says it has in the song. And I listen more sharply then, just to be sure. I can hear the click click of the needle at the end of the record and nothing more than that – maybe sometimes his breath heavy as his feet.

    I’ve got a key to his apartment. He gave it to me when he had the decorators in and he never took it back. I open the door so quiet I don’t hear it myself. Then I tip-toe through to the front room. It is dark as cupboards or pockets and I pull the curtains back on the stars and the moon and the streetlights. The air smells of whiskey and he’s slumped on the floor next to the record player, his guitar still in his arms.

    I switch off Don Mclean and put the record back into its paper sleeve and back in place on his record rack – everything is alphabetized. Then I carefully unpick the guitar from his loose grasp, and one or two strings thrum tunelessly.

    I get him to his feet, unsteady, and I guide him to his bed. He leans heavily against me as we walk like the one drunk creature. I lay him down and begin undressing him, starting with his shoes, folding his clothes and stacked neatly on a chair beside his bed. When he’s almost naked, I undress, too, and I get in bed beside him, put his arms about me, fold the fingers of one hand around my breast, and we lie like that, sometimes for hours, and like that it as though we are neither of us alone or lonely.

    I am gone beofre he wakes, so he never knows nor ever can guess.

  2. Been by myself many times before–been away from friends, travelled on my own, had a tiny flat on my first job. It was nothing to me back then. At least as much as I can remember. I would phone my brother about once a month and talk over old times back home. Or I would go cross-town and see sis at a coffee shop for a brief pick me up. It all seemed okay to me back then.

    Even when my girl friend walked out on me it didn’t bother me that much: she was getting way too demanding and I had so much to do at work. And she said that I was drinking too much. Whatever. What little time I had left I wanted to spend on my music, and myself. As Paul Simon put it so well, I had my books and my poetry to protect me. When I was with my music I found myself in another place, something I can’t clearly describe. I guess it’s no wonder that there was no room for anyone else.

    Then just a few months ago I began to feel disconnected from the world around me. Not sure how it started or if there was anything that set it off. It was about a year after she left. Job was going great. Everyone at work likes the way I get things done on time. Even the old man smiles when he sees me. So no that wasn’t it. I just started to feel that nothing was worthwhile, that I was no longer connected. A few beers only made it worse. Tried talking to my brother and he didn’t have much to offer. Said something about how I was always the spoiled brat in the family so maybe this was just me paying my dues. Sister thought I should get hooked up again: “You’re still a good looking guy, you know!” But I wasn’t all that convinced that this was going to help.

    I spent weekends organizing my vinyls and playing old tunes on my guitar. But even my poetry couldn’t protect me from myself. The empty feeling just stayed there in the pit of my being, a darkness that wouldn’t let go. I went and got some happy pills from doc, and they probably helped a little. But I still felt lost in my own world. I could still get to work and all, and no one seemed to notice any difference. But my heart just wasn’t there. I saw things in my loneliness that I hadn’t seen before, that everyone I knew was walking around zombie-like. No one connected beyond the usual “how are ya,” or even worse, “have a nice day.” I kept moving along at work on my projects, but as if a robot myself on autopilot.

    My music became my last life-line. I got out the old records and strummed along in background, like I was a damned rock star or something. Once in awhile I would hear myself break out and sing a few bars. I’m sure the neighbors upstairs thought they had a loony in the building. But it helped me in some small way to sing out. I began to find my voice. Singing out loud, a harmony from inside that I didn’t even know was there. I really can’t explain it but each time I sang I felt a little better, like I was connecting to some old friends. Greats like James Taylor, B.B. King, even a little Paul Simon–the Blues and the knowledge of being sad and alone.

    I would sing along with them, at first in unison as the vinyl turned on its axis, and then on my own as the recordings faded into the late hours of the night. The weekend cleaning ritual became an evening obsession: getting out some old records and then singing out on my own. With my own voice.

    I’m not sure where this is going. I know I’m not drinking as much. I get to singing about the pain and that seems to calm me down. I can’t see me singing in front of anyone, either. Right now I’m just playing out to myself and maybe to my neighbors. I made a recording of one of my sessions and was surprised to hear how strong my voice sounds coming from my old sound system. Yes I still go to work in the morning and get my hours in. But the center of my life is back in my records and my guitar. My lonely times are only moments now instead of endless days. Sister said at our last meeting that I was looking better and wants to know her name. But that’s not it at all. At least for now.

    1. sweet. You do a great job of getting into the despair of alcohol. Love the last section on not feeling lonely with someone who doesn’t even know you are there.

    2. One other comment for Lindsay: this was written at 40,000 ft. flying over the British Isles on 6-12-15 from a vacation in Norway, on our way back to the US. Posted at about the same moment. Some things just can’t be explained.

  3. What a good use of your time on a plane, Dave. And was there someone reading it over your shoulder as you wrote? As for posting it on the 12th and it only getting her on the 13th – well, I should consider it a miracle that it got here at all… such is the wonder that is technology. In ye olden days it would have taken weeks by ship or if sent by telegram it would have cost you an arm and a leg for something this long, and a wee breathless man on a motorbike, his eyes obscured behind mud-spattered goggles, would have had to drive through the roaring night to deliver it.

    1. Meant to write “posted at the same moment as Lindsay…” On 6-13.
      Blame it on jet lag, overstimulation, or carelessness. Anyway yes a modern miracle of communication.
      And yes there was a feeling over the British Isles that Lindsay was looking over my shoulder.

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