I overheard someone talking the other day, as I often do.
"You know how sometimes you see ambulances that have their lights on but their siren off?"
"Do you think that means that the person inside is dead and they're in a different kind of rush to get to the hospital?"
Man. Talk about heavy. I have a pretty skewed perspective on life in general, but I would have never put this scenario together in my head.
Since hearing that I notice them much more often. They might be white and yellow; white and red; white and blue; white and gold. They appear all over the country, quietly moving past the reluctantly pulled over traffic, with the lights on but the siren off. I'm sure they didn't forget. They'd have it on if they needed it to be on. They get trained to be under great stress and handle all kinds of situations.
But why do they do it?
Could it be?
Could they be carrying the dead?
Catching up. Part One: Love takes all of us.
The love of a good woman, or any woman at all, I thought, was as far away from the realm of my possibilities as me ever getting clean and sober.
I had had my chances. I had women in my life that cared for me. One of them even professed to love me. But they were all temporary, and they were all messy. The women in these cases were all trying to date a man who was committed to another. You might say I was committed to many others, but all of those things provided the same thing: escape.
I used to hear it from my aunt and (less so) from my mother. They'd say, "Alex, there are plenty of women out there who would give their right arm to be with someone as handsome, as smart, and as talented as you. But they would have to be legally insane to want to spend their time with someone whose main directive is to be drugged up and drunk all the time."
When a person has become schooled in the art of addiction and abuse they develop many ways to wriggle out of the lasso of reality. They are almost uncatchable. And while they may have many scars from the yellow bristly rope on their skin from its many earnest attempts to ensnare, they remain, on the whole, unbroken.
When I would hear my family talk in this way--knowing that neither one had any experience whatsoever in the art of substance use--it was easy to brush it off. It was easy to call them on having no clue about the subject because I knew that they didn't know. I held the power in this debate. I would react to their words as if they were a foreigner trying precariously to explain something to me in my language, conscious that their timbre and parlance was rough and uneven. Meanwhile, arms crossed, I feigned being completely mystified as to what they were trying to express.
"You have no idea what you are talking about!," I'd say. "It is an affront to me, and casts unjust aspersions upon my female acquaintances both past and present to utter such nonsense!"
When I knew I was wrong I'd pull out the big words from my faux highbrow database.
It didn't fool my folks. They were actually smart; I was--and remain--a good bullshitter with a flexible vocabulary.
And so I'd go from one mess of a relationship to another. A one night stand here; a rebound casualty there. There was even one mixed in over the last twenty odd years that started off on the right foot. I had been trying to dry out for a while, and even succeeding. But once the emotions and anxieties started to kick in it was all over. I drank like a fish and then I swam quickly and nervously away leaving a very nice person confused and saddened.
And then the lasso got me.
It slipped on when I wasn't looking. I had turned my head for one night--one night I thought I could run around the corral bucking up my hooves and snorting into the air. And before I knew it I couldn't breathe. Not in anyway. I reared up on my hind legs and pulled with all my might. I felt the first few drops of blood from the old hard edge of the rope as it dug in to my neck. I tried to look behind me to see who the hell had been so stealth as to get this far. Nobody had ever gotten this close. The nerve! I pulled and I pulled and I beat my feet into the ground. I shrieked into the air and my hot spit flew from my jowls like a round of buckshot--as unpredictable as it is effective.
And then I fell down.
And when I came to and looked around me I knew things were different. I realized that there was no going back this time; I was broken. And when they finally let me out to walk on my own I saw a distinct line in the distance, like a rainstorm on the plains of the midwest that was passing before me.
I was drenched, I was cold, I was shaking, and I was scared. But I saw that the rain had other places to go. It would not be a gradual cessation. The clouds would not inadvertently turn off their faucets, only to start up again at a moment's notice. No. They were in a hurry to get on down the road; they left me alone with a huff and a chuckle.
And I felt that odd feeling of being cold and hot at the same time. As confusing as it is reassuring. It was a systems check. I could feel the effects of extremes from both ends of the thermometer.
I was most definitely alive.
It wasn't long before I could talk to the people who had tried to snare me with those lassoes for what seemed like an eternity. I'm sure it seemed longer for them, for they actually suffered more going through watching me than I did doing it. At least that's how it seemed.
For those involved firsthand, there is sometimes solace in blackouts.
When I dried off and dried out I talked with those people that were my family. I didn't pretend not to understand them. I didn't accuse them of using a language that they had no knowledge of. It was now I who was doing his best to learn the words pertaining to sobriety. It was now I who had only slight knowledge of the subject at hand, and they fluency.
Consequently, I helped them better understand what they didn't know, and encouraged them on the things they did. I made up for the years of forgetfulness; for the countless times I lied; for the things I missed out on--great things, family things that I could have very easily attended but chose--I repeat, chose to excuse myself from.
My mother never got the chance to see me do what needed to be done in this respect. She truly knew I would, though. This was made clear to me on more than several occasions. But the one last person who always tried to lasso me but never could manage a clean roping did. Although she never got to see me pass my year milestone in my new life she had always told me that due to my choices and actions I would soon be ready to share myself with someone else. She believed that I would soon be eligible for a genuine, mutual, collaboration of souls because I was beginning to believe that I could be me as me, and not me as somebody else. She could see that I had stopped trying to buck everyone and everything that tried to reason with me. She told me that I would find someone to share my time with; share my surprises with; share tears of laughter, and share tears of sadness. She told me that someday I would embrace with both arms the person who makes love make more sense than not. And when I did, to never let go. Because the whirlpool that we go through life in whips our fates around at an unbelievable pace, and we may never get that chance again.
I never used to be afraid of flying.
I always thought, well, if I die, I die.
Now I realize that if I die, a love will be lost. Of course this works both ways. And love makes us more than just ourselves. It is a supreme responsibility. It is the most demanding job known to man.
Love takes all of us, if we let it.
Looks like I'm all in.
And on we go ...
Catching up. Part two: Making plans.
Once again it has been an unusually long time between posts. Not to be too egocentric but there are people who I know enjoy reading my entries that may be concerned to see so few over the last month or so. To them I express my thanks for letting me be a part of their consciousness for so long, and hope my life slows down just a bit so as to more easily transfer a communicative bullion cube to the computer screen. It's not easy to not write a bunch of junk about nothing. Here's to picking the right time to say the right things.
I am preparing to go overseas with the Young at Heart Chorus next month. We've been putting a new show together over the last year. It's near completion and it is as groundbreaking as it is accessible. I can't give too many secrets away, but suffice to say that the music is more unusual (both in the song choices and in the arrangement) and there are many new faces in the actual chorus bringing a renewed sense of vitality and spirit to a troupe of well-travelled troubadours.
We leave on July, 4 and journey to Manchester, England, where we will stay for two weeks. We will be debuting the new show, titled, "End Of The Road," at the Manchester International Festival.
Jodi, my girlfriend, will be joining me there for the last night of performances before we set out on our own adventure traveling through Wales, London, Paris, and finally, to Portugal, where we will be spending ten days in Setubal and Porto, respectively.
I will be attempting to keep up with our journeys through pictures and words via this blog as well as my Facebook page.
That said, none of this would have been possible had it not been for that lasso that snared me almost 18 months ago. I would not have been in the position to find and purchase my home; I would not have been able to write this blog; I would most definitely never been able to form a solid bond with Jodi; and I wouldn't be going to Europe with the idea that I can guarantee--failing an unforeseen emergency--to return in one piece--perhaps with an even better understanding of myself, my girlfriend, and the symbiotic entity that is created when we are together (neither of us ever jibed with the idea that someone can "complete" someone else. For to be an incomplete person upon forming a bond leaves both at risk of damage--augmentation, however, is another story).
And in knowing all of this I realize that I ultimately was able to come to peace with at least one of the people who tried for years to turn my destructive habits around.
She saw the emergency when I could not.
She did what she could to save me the only way she knew how.
She turned on her flashing lights.
She turned on her siren.
And she laid on the gas, knowing that everyone else could tell there was a life still left to save.
Thanks for reading.