four and twenty years ago, I come into this life,
the son of a woman and a man who lived in strife.
He was tired of being poor and he wasn’t into selling door to door
and he worked like the devil to be more.
A different kind of poverty now upsets me so.
Night after sleepless night, I walk the floor and I want to know- why am I so alone?
Where is my woman can I bring her home? Have I driven her away? Is she gone?
Morning comes to sunrise and I’m driven to my bed.
I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head.
I embrace the many colored beast. I grow weary of the torment; can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.
The first time I heard this song I was sitting on the floor of the lobby of a hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at a Narcotics Anonymous convention in November, my favorite time of year to be at the beach. The weather was appropriately gray and chilly, perfect motorcycle-riding sweater weather. A guitar has to be tuned differently to play 4 +20, so it took Alex a few minutes to do that before he began to sing. As soon as he opened his mouth I was captivated. Alex had a soft, almost feminine voice, virtually a whisper. I fell a little in love with him that day, which was the first day we met. That’s what you do when you’re 18, isn’t it? Isn’t it an 18-year old’s prerogative to decide on the basis of 3 chords and a soft voice that you love someone? There is a picture from that convention, a Polaroid, of us on a balcony overlooking the beach. I have purple hair and black fingernails. Alex was sporting a preppy striped sweater and long, shaggy hair. I’ll try to dig it out and share it with The Internet.
What I learned about myself later in life was that I make those kinds of decisions rapidly. It’s who I am, and totally unrelated to age. Whether to fall in love, whether to befriend a woman I’ve just met or in the case of my best friend, never met…. So when I say “isn’t that an 18-year old’s prerogative” I really mean to say “Isn’t that how everyone does it?”
When I met my husband, all I knew walking away from that moment was that I needed to see him again. I made every effort to make that happen, and the four days in between meeting him and seeing him again were excruciating, so much so that I took myself to the movies on Thanksgiving Day, alone. To see Bounce.
Despite being a little dumber for having watched that piece of crap, I hoped to hold my own when I ran into Michael again. I showed up early to the bar where Marianne’s boyfriend was DJ-ing a show. I drank too many watered down drinks. I was on my game that night. I was wearing my Ass Pants. My hair was fierce; I was In Control. I had rehearsed quips and icebreakers and now that I knew he was a vegetarian, I wouldn’t ask him to go to the hot dog stand with me as an excuse to get him alone.
When he went to the dance floor I wanted to follow, but this was not hip-hop and I was embarrassed. When he sat down beside me and we started talking movies, I was hooked. Like Alex’s sweet and sultry voice, Michael’s sense of humor grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go. All I wanted in the world was to sit at that table and discuss movies and music with this man until forever. I went to bed that night fantasizing about soulful reunions and cross-country plane trips. I fell asleep trying to remember his laugh and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled.
We’re coming up on our second anniversary, which is misleading because I’ve been married to this man since I met him over 5 years ago. Last year we didn’t celebrate because we were getting each other a house. Since it’s a big house, and we don’t have it yet, we were tempted to give each other the same gift this year and hope that would net us an actual house-but instead we’re going to hole up in a hotel room and I’m going to spend 2 days trying to make him laugh and maybe I’ll wear my Ass Pants and we’ll go dancing, only this time I won’t be embarrassed if I can’t break it down to Foreigner or whatever’s playing in the hotel bar.