Driving downtown today, on my way to work, every telephone pole I passed, every street sign, had a square of cardboard crudely taped onto it. The message on every single piece said: “Who is ?” The scrawl was untidy, cramped, in black sharpie, permanent, no doubt. Subversive campaign tactics sparking curiosity in the hearts and minds of voters. The writing looks like the ample supply of homeless drug addicts that frequent downtown must’ve suddenly woke from their addled stupor and become politically minded–more like, knowing the character of would be politician, they were paid in the drug that poisons them, to write out hundreds of signs.
I feel particularly existential and the signs make me questions myself. Who am I? Who are any of us? As if by design the song Hotel California comes on my stereo and I automatically turn up the volume. Songs hold meaning for me, and in some cases, live as placeholders of memory, lending to visions, like clips from movie reels. Hotel California smells like Drakkar Noir cologne and citrus body wash, cocoa butter shampoo and clean linen and hot leather on a summer day in Florida. It smells like the musty attics of the theatre where we met, me ex-ex (how many now?) and I, and the old drop cloths where we used to sneak in quickies during rehearsal.
This song always seemed to drift onto the radio when we were together, necking in the back seat of my car like teenagers or laying in his bed before work with the windows open because AC costs too much to run before the true heat of summer. There was something sad and poignant about it and we only made love to that song. The me of then would have scoffed at that terminology–to “make love.” It offended me then, and disgusted me a little. But the grown woman here and now recognizes the mistake, that making love does not come from a relationship or from promises or words, it is the moment when things are different, intimate, quiet, sudden, strange–when bodies speak for minds and hearts and souls.
The specificity of his actions astounded me. I could anticipate when it would be different between us by the look in his eye, and the tempo that his breathing would take. He would stroke my hair and that, that would be a sign. Little moments of tenderness, unusual differences separating “making love” from our usual rabbit-like rutting in enclosed spaces and for public consumption.
The song brings a hint of memory of him, those smells, those visions swimming before my eyes, but I can no longer feel his calloused fingertips at the nape of my neck, and as quickly as the nostalgia rises, it fades away, and I realize that this song is not just for him anymore, that nothing that I have is his, and that the ways I thought, then, that he touched my life, no longer exist for me. I feel the last of him slough off from me, like so much dirt in the rain.
I carry memories and hurts and regrets and old aches pains in my heart and find it hard to let them away from me. I am always surprised when I free myself from another piece, and at the strange moments that it happens. The awful anniversary has come and gone in the midst of a busy, busy week and I have barely paid it mind. I am secure in the knowledge that sometimes, time can heal wounds and mend hearts. It is strange to find myself at peace lately, untroubled by anything deeper than the surface frustrations of my week, to find that anger (real and righteous and not at all uncalled for or improper) is the only thing I’ve been feeling. No hint of depression, overwhelming and forcing its way to the top, just real emotions for real reasons. All things irrational have ebbed away for now, retreating into the darkest corners of my head space, hiding in my psyche, laying in wait, for sure, but not active, not bothering me today or tomorrow, or even next week.
I listen to the song, all the way through, and don’t feel the panicky need to change it to save myself from the memories and the feelings. The song ends. Something else comes on. Like background music, I can hardly understand what it is, I am so lost in my thoughts, on auto-pilot almost as I drive, but not a bad auto-pilot.
Sir calls and I am reanimated as I speak to him, continuing my commute, happy just to hear his voice before my work day begins.