This is the kind of song where, if I knew how to play just a few pretty notes on a guitar, I'd make a youtube video of myself playing this, singing it quietly, for someone, or something that maybe doesn't exist anymore.
I think their last show as a band was two years ago at this point, before they dispersed, like buckshot through the sky, landed mostly scattered on the west coast, like the rest of us.
and what I don't show/is all you can see
This is a hard post to write because I really don't know what to say. I've returned from Los Angeles defeated. I drove out across I-70 eight months ago full of energy and in pursuit of adventure and a new life, the life I'd wanted for so, so long. I feel like that's how most stories like this start. I feel like I've been through a war. There have been causalities. My wallet with IDs/credit cards/mementos being the first one, the day I moved. Friendships I'd still been holding on to. My mentor. My relationship. The future I'd envisioned for as many years as I'd been granted the permission to envision it. My health. I've been sick more times in the four months since Jake died than I have been in the four years previous.
I know what it looks like from the outside. And I'm not saying this post negates every gushing-with-love-and-happiness-and-gratitude post that came before it. It's possible to feel such contradictory emotions so intensely and completely. Such is the life of a warrior. I'm not saying I'm not happy. It's just, I think I'm in the process of rewriting the past. Rewriting an entire story that had been published, distributed, read, and now it's like I have to take all those books back, go back to the manuscript and start writing something different. Because that's the only way to make the present make sense. How I can be home in the place that's always felt the most safe, the most certain, and how I can feel now like I'm on the other side of what used to be my own life. I said in a post a few months ago, I am at a precipice. I am 24 years old. If I make it to the other side of this, I will be an adult. I will have done the things one needs to do to get... somewhere different. I will have lost so. many. people. I will have loved so. many. people who I've had to let go of. I will feel ridiculous about even registering this triviality in the face of a world that destroys people much better, much more innocent than me in much more vengeful, unreasonable, irrational ways.
I made it through to the other side of this. I am an adult. I have yet to come back home as an adult until this trip. Everything is different. Until today, every visit I've had to Colorado has felt so free of whatever it is I feel I have to contend with now. I know this is vague. I'm not trying to disguise anything. It's because this is vague. It's vague for me, this feeling. I'm doing my best to explain.
My DNA was written here. I was grown inside a human inside of Colorado, and then I was grown outside of that human, still inside Colorado. Everything I know about myself begins here. It's in the road to the grocery store we've been going to since it was built when I was maybe 4 or 5. I got my car washed today at the place my parents always got their cars washed when I was very small. I used to run up to the windows and watch the cars go through the machine. Once, when my mom drove us out of that car wash when I was 18, I heard "The Crane Wife 3" for the very first time after inserting the CD into her stereo, and I knew I'd survive whatever it was I was dying from then. Today is the first time in my life I've paid for a car wash. It rained as soon as I left. I felt proud of my clean car. The car I got on my 16th birthday, eight years ago. This is so circumlocutory. I'm sorry.
Everything I know about myself started back when I still hated this place, how brown it is in the winter. How hopeless the endless suburban sidewalks, how terrifying the idea that I might stay here, get married here, have kids here, and walk the same sidewalks I walked as a five year old finding caterpillars and rescuing rolly pollies and worms from the burning summer sun. There's a reason I left this place I love with all my heart. It's complicated. Not everyone needs to leave. Sometimes I think there can be too much love inside a person, for a place, for another person. Sometimes I think love can be so heavy that it starts to appear like something more dangerous than it is. Or maybe that's the problem. Maybe it never looks as dangerous as it is. They never teach you not to make yourself out of another person when you're 14 years old. They never teach you how problematic it is to gather your nutrients from the ground on which you were born, because as much as you will always be composed of what you made yourself from, what you made yourself from might decompose, burn down, run away, leave you for somewhere with dirtier sidewalks and less chance of becoming something... regrettable.
These roads became my circulatory system. The roads I took to the pool every day, to swim practice, to religious school, to McDonalds with my grandmother and my cousin and my tiniest brother who really was tiny then. To Best Buy and Barnes & Noble and Southwest Plaza mall. The roads I took to high school every day. The roads I'd travel in the car of the boy I had a crush on when I was 14. The time we drove to the tuxedo rental place near Arapahoe Road to rent him a tuxedo to take my friend to prom. All the music I ever loved, I loved because I listened to it while speeding down C-470 to and away from home. Every song in the world became infinitely better on those roads, especially if the sun was out and I could wear my sunglasses. Especially if it was dark and just kind of cold and Orion was floating over the hogback and I was the passenger, singing softly.
when you feel like burning all of it down/just remember that you need this town
It's not LA that killed me. If anything, LA kept me alive long enough that I even could crawl back here, to my home, on bloody hands and bloody knees through the desert. If anything, LA helped me to reinforce the gratitude I feel toward every single thing and person in my life. That gratitude wasn't lost in the last eight months. My optimism isn't shattered. But I am defeated. Or I am ended. Or I am beginning again as an adult this time. The war of the last eight months was the war between my childhood and my adulthood. It was inevitable. All of it. Every loss. I hate to say that. I don't really even know what it means to say something like that. I don't mean to hurt anyone.
I wrote this post in my head in the car somewhere outside Baker, California, then somewhere outside of Overton, Nevada, then somewhere 200 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah. None of what I wrote then is here now. The most important things I'll ever say are the things I'll never say outside my own head.
I know every speck of dirt in this state like I know every cell in my body. This place and I merge when I'm here, and I become half person, half land. Half narrative and half pure existence, something outside my control.
Last July, I ran away to the desert. It didn't look like that on the outside, but that's what it was. I needed to make a decision about my capacity to accept love. I needed to find a way to continue without being haunted by too-white, too-perfectly groomed suburban sidewalks. My first ever imaginary friend was a ghost. His name was Sam. He used to walk me home from elementary school. There isn't a sidewalk in the world I know as well as the one that travels along the southern side of White Oak Drive. Or is it the eastern side? Eventually I gave Sam a wife and a son so I could walk away. When I turned 24, I needed an entire desert to parse something that'd been building inside of me since before I understood that that thing had consequences.
This was supposed to be a good year. I was born in the year of the dragon, and this past year, this was again the year of the dragon. I was born on the 24th day of my birth month, and this is my 24th year. This was not the year I thought it was going to be. In six weeks, I'll be a quarter of a century old. My hyperbolic tendencies love the sound of that. I think that canyon I spent and entire day staring across last July, I think that's here right now with me in my childhood bedroom. I know this sounds like I'm trying to make a metaphor. And since there is no literal canyon here, you wouldn't be totally wrong in assuming that that's what I'm doing. But that's not what I'm trying to do. None of what I'm saying here is what I'm trying to do. The only thing between these lines of text is a predetermined amount of white space. The only thing between these lines of text is lead. Buckshot. Fragments that also compose whatever it is this is. I'm not saying anything that I'm not saying. I don't know how to say anything other than this.
I am defeated but I survived. I am tired but I am still awake. I spent my first 24 hours home sleeping in my recently redone childhood room, driving my highways, lunching and grocery shopping with my very dear friend and her very adorably small boy,