never much good at goodbye

As the sun hides its head Another night’s rest And the wind sings Its same old song

And you on the edge Never close, never far Always there when I needed a friend

An unexpected search on my website last week: +patrick +love. I think I know who it was, and yes, Patrick, I loved you. Is this always going to be about loves past? I hope not. It does even get repetitive in this old noggin of mine.

Late at night, I would drive out to the state park, where Patrick worked over the summer. He was essentially the security measure for the park’s entrance and exit, a job that gave him plenty of time to read (philosophy, slowly) and play (guitar, exquisitely). I would sit outside and listen to him and the crickets and both of us would turn pages against the warm twilight.

After his shift, we’d drive into town and huddle over mugs of hot, bad coffee at Perkins Family Restaurant, The Largest In The World, Meadville, Pennsylvania. Sometimes I’d be lightening my cup with turgid cream swirls and look up just as the sun was doing the same to the sky. I would remark on this; Patrick would appreciate it. The day would ease in.

I smoked cigarettes back then, a pack a day. It bothered him but not enough to make a fuss; after all, he had lived with his mom and sister both smoking enough for all three of them. He never made a fuss.

But it’s hard living life On this memory-go-round Always up, always down Spinning ‘round and ‘round and ‘round

And all this could be Such a dream, so it seems I was never much good at goodbye

It’s much easier for me to think of life, earlier, as relationships. I was never without one for very long, as it happened, and that was intentional. I didn’t know who I was unless I was making sacrifices for someone, or vice-versa. Each person to me is how we said goodbye, whether it took a series of leave-takings or just one. Or none.

But the irony is sweet: I loved each of these people, and I am unwilling to give that up. Ever. There is a Halsted that exists somewhere in a pool hall, cackling madly as Patrick sighs at her jukebox choices. (“Do we really have to hear ‘Life is a Highway’ again?!”) I am happy to let her live there in that moment. She doesn’t ask much of me, just a careful visit every once in a while, through memories. I leave everything as I found it and she doesn’t make a fuss.

There once was a time Never far from my mind On the beach, on the 4th of July

I remember the sand How you held out your hand And we touched for what seemed a lifetime

Tonight I was at a most unexpected crossroads, in a most unexpected place: a very loud eighties rock concert at a county fair. Time stopped for me, as it does unnervingly often, and I reached outside it to touch myself plainly on the shoulder. “Hey,” I shook myself gently. “It’s not about you anymore.”

As I usually do, I stared very hard back at me. “Then what’s it about?”

That’s one of those questions that neither of us can answer, so we squeezed Chad’s hand and listened to the music instead.

But it’s hard Leaving all this behind me now Like a schoolboy so lost Never found until now

And all this could be Such a dream, so it seems I was never much good at goodbye

So here I am, pushing three in the morning, and I say goodbye to the one person I didn’t say goodbye to, the one I should have said it to most. I say goodbye to the one person I can’t say it to, because all those memories are trashed now and there’s nowhere for me to go for peace.

Nowhere but here, again, alone; you haven’t lived until you’ve cried at your computer in a dark room, I’m telling you, because it’s the utmost in the New Millennium Angst. Yes, I’m being facetious. I’m angry and that has to come out somewhere, sometime, if I’m not allowed my fifteen minutes of Fuck-You.

If I never have any other lesson to teach, let it be this one. I’ve learned it hard enough for two people, and I suppose that hyperbole is perfectly apt. If you’re still wondering what the fuck happened that wrecked me so much over this person I wasn’t even romantically involved with, well, that’s a great question. The answer is stuck along with “then what’s it about?”

For all the thinking I do about this subject, I honestly don’t think the purpose of life is to figure out what it means. The purpose of life is to live it, and we all do that so differently these days. Each one of us has a way of making it come together – or not, we all have those days – and therein lies the meaning. It’s like the word you can’t define, the feeling you can’t describe, the explanation you can’t specify, only it’s not like those things as much as it is. This is all very Zen and I don’t mean to be so obtuse; I couldn’t write a koan if my life depended on it.

Hah. But it does. And then it doesn’t.

Philosophy be damned. I am convinced what I really need is a pair of silver leather pants and all will be well. It makes as much sense as anything else.

And it’s hard Living life on this memory-go round Always up, always down Spinning ‘round and ‘round and ‘round

And all this could be Such a dream, so it seems I was never much good at goodbye

No, I was never much good at goodbye. I think it’s the “good” part that’s messing me up. Sometimes, who you’re saying goodbye to doesn’t deserve it.

But I say it anyway.

[Lyrics from “Goodbye” © 1985 by Watson/Blades. Yes, that’s Night Ranger.]

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.