Last night I ventured out into the partially opened city of Wayne, just to take a drive and check out the unlocking scene unfolding firsthand. I couldn’t face yet another night trapped inside my quarantined routine and honestly, with the road humming under the tires and the music pushing out limply from the factory bland sound system, it simply felt good to just move again. Even if I didn’t end up anywhere in particular. Even if I did end up risking it all just for one night not tethered to my typewriter because at least getting infected would be something different and new to experience.
As luck would have it, I landed at a familiar haunt just barely open and somehow still getting by. But, the lights were on, the tents were up, and there were other cars parked crookedly out in the gravel lot. And yes, I secretly hoped that one of them would be hers, though I did not end up being quite that fortunate.
Walking up to the side service window felt oddly strange, even though I had been there hundreds of times before. It felt like going back to your high school, a few years after having graduated- long enough away to have grown a little out in the real world, but not so long that you forgot all the familiar sounds and smells of the years spent laughing and learning there. Or maybe revisiting some old job after having moved on to some new and better opportunity. The buildings remain the same. There may very well even be a few lingering familiar faces. But it is still entirely different, slightly disappointing and somehow… smaller. It leaves you with that uniquely strange feeling of palpable vacancy that for the life of you, you can’t seem to figure out. You just know instinctively that something you knew before is missing now.
And every part of you aches to have it back again.
I stopped in thinking that it would be a kernel of hope from which something new and sustaining might grow, the first tender and hesitant roots thrown down in a pandemically changed city still trying to figure itself out.
I sat, alone, and drank familiar beer out of foreign and unpleasant plastic cups. I sat and watched the empty tables, those too many empty spaces where other friends should be, throwing down drinks of their own and echoing out the laughter-filled soundtrack of another Friday night pinned inside this somewhat stunted little flyover town. I watched the traffic rolling rhythmically across the bridge above, the concrete and steel barrier towering abusively above me, making me feel small and far less permanent.
But then, all I have ever been is temporary.
Temporary addresses, changing rhythmically on the whims of others, never once ending in the definitions of a real home. Temporary words, so heartbreakingly honest, but left unread inside brittle, yellowing pages left to weather the changing seasons passing above that little grave. Temporarily passionate lovers, burning hot initially, but then rapidly cooling when the secrets of my ugly soul are eventually revealed in embarrassed late night whispers.
I think that is why I have always taken such issue with that minor piece of Frosty’s, where he once eloquently cautioned us that nothing gold can stay. It has always bothered me that he was so loftingly limiting in his literary scope.
Yes, nothing gold can stay. But neither can all those other objectively less precious metals, those pondering markers of life’s little inconsequential moments barely noticed. Our concrete fortresses are at best just a stall, so they, too, will one day crumble and fall. Precious gold, tarnished copper, burning hot summer asphalt, skinned knees- all just fleeting little footnotes in the stories rapidly drawing to a close as the final page of the last chapter draws inevitably near.
Nothing gold sticking around is just another somewhat pleasingly pleasant platitude meant to take the sting out of losing that temporary something once held so dear. It is just another small ray of literary sunshine blown up our asses when the night again turns grim and we find ourselves scrambling for some sort of emotional footing to slow that awful fall into the calling darkness.
Clichés exist because they are often the only thing left stuck to the wall after all the other meaningful writing has weathered away. Clichés are almost exactly like those pints of Guinness served to me last night in disposably convenient plastic pandemic cups- disappointing. Artificially fulfilling. A depressing reminder of a former greatness now gone. At best a pale caricature of a more meaningful promise never quite fulfilled.
I personally have always found those over used phrases insultingly bad form and so unabashedly predictable in their intent. Because it is just lazy writing. And yes, I do realize that I have been guilty of throwing one or two down myself occasionally, sometimes mixing my metaphors stronger than my drinks.
Hence one of the many reasons for my self-loathing.
Those were hard reminders served to me for six dollars a round on that nervous night in the City of Wayne. And they boomeranged on me, too, those slippery little plastic fucks. They slipped me that roofied mix of artistic awareness and clarity, instead of the comforting numbness I went originally seeking. I was very much wanting to forget, but they made damn sure that I instead remembered.
I sometimes wish that all my hurt was made out of gold. Because then, if the words are actually true, it wouldn’t be able to stay inside of me.
At least not forever.