September’s theme is return/returning, and the challenge is to revisit a spot, or a memory. There is nothing quite like music to trigger memories, and I’m determined to try my hand at this theme no matter what how rough it can sometimes be to look back. As a writer, I know the power memory plays in the art. As a woman, I also acknowledge the impact that the past can have on the now. I like to think I am not a jaded person, that the baggage I do carry along with me is not any larger than one would expect at my stage in life, and that I still open my heart and mind to the world, and its possibilities. That said, I know that the lenses I see things through are tinted from my own history, and that my heart is sometimes spotty and heavy because of how it has been damaged in the past. Somewhere in all that, in the in-betweens, I hope I land most days.
Famous Blue Raincoat is, without a doubt, my most favorite song ever. I could write on and on about why, and I have before, but this is not about the song, as much as it is about what memory the song brings forward for me to examine. As the song plays on repeat I let it take me back to a time in the early part of the 90’s, in the converted dining room of a 1920’s apartment, there are boxes everywhere, half unpacked, and a small child asleep in a stroller. Music is playing. A candle is lit, though the sun has yet to set completely. The room smelled of sandalwood, more from the jacket hanging on the coat rack, than from the candle. I think it was from a bottle of perfume oil John and I had bought somewhere in San Francisco.
I do not remember if we ever completely unpacked. It was not long after we moved in that everything between us fell apart. The place was rented originally by good friends of ours, and everytime we’d gone to visit we would remark on how much we loved the place. It was both quirky and vintage with original fixtures, built-in’s and hardwood floors that all-together gave so much character to the place. John and I may not have had a marriage may that was held together by much, but we did have similar taste in things – music, art, funky apartments.
Julia had been born a little over a year before. At this time in our life together we had not fully adjusted to being parents, or at least it seemed that he hadn’t. There was this enormous divide between our life together, and our life with our daughter. I kept trying to close the gap by attempts at making a place to live a home, and by trying to make alive these sketches in my head of parents and family that I’d created from tv shows and my own fantasies. Fairy tale versions that I’d tucked away since I was a little girl. A contradiction to the woman I was trying to be who claimed to not believe in anything.
Neither of us had real life experience to refer to for any of it. We’d both come from such a broken down version of family.
That broken version was even more cracked and distorted to what we both defined marriage as. We came at things from such polar opposites, with differing desires and versions of truths. The divide widened further and further, between us. And for me, I found myself lost somewhere between mother and wife. The more I tried to be a mother, the more he tried to pull me in as a wife. With every tug he threw out new expectations. He wanted adventure and chaos, the stuff of 1920’s Paris and the Red Light district in Amsterdam, the kind of life that inspired novels and paintings. He wanted a wife who was all of everything from the books we both loved – erotic, mysterious, daring, powerful, domineering. Most days I had no idea what I wanted, but I’m pretty sure it was made of something more secure and solid. I did not want boring, but I did long for something with some shred of stability to it. He asked for a compromise, a bridge between, and I had nothing to counter with, so I said I would try.
We did try. But, we kept coming up short. Most nights I would lay awake in bed next to him feeling desolate and lonely.
One night our friends told us they were moving. Their place – that place that we both admired – was going to be available. It seemed like a chance at something. Perhaps it was a kind of last chance. We made the calls and we got the place, and on a cool April afternoon our friends moved out as we moved in.
That afternoon was the first day I met David.
Though it is hard to remember a time when I did not know David, or know of the person he would become, I do know that at the time it felt like he saved me. It felt, at the time, like he saw through me and pulled me out of the grey and heavy in-between. He lit something back up in me and took away a sadness that I did not even realized had sunk in and become who I was.
One night, a few weeks after we’d moved in, David stood outside in the rain calling up to my second story apartment window. In the span of an evening everything changed. He left the next morning for the opposite coast without me. I wandered around downtown in a daze as the rain poured down. I walked around all day until my feet ached and the sun went down. It was time to pick-up Julia. I carried her up the stairs and into our apartment and he was there looking at me strangely.
“And you treated my woman to a flake of your life,
and when she came back she was nobody’s wife.”