In this life I am twenty three. A father of a two year old son. His mother and I no longer live together, and talk sporadically. I believe my son is better off without me. In some ways, I am correct.
This is a room in someone’s apartment. We are in Worcester, and it is a house party. Music plays in the background, but is generally indistinguishable. We all talk over it.
The wallpaper in the living room is fading, a musty beige color with darker stripes running vertically. In the kitchen, where I sit at present, the floor is white linoleum. The table has a silver metal edging. I am inhabiting one of my personalities; the college-age guy who has seen it all. Life. I been there. I have a kid…you don’t know, man. The girl who lives here passes me a beer. I am charming, the most entertaining person in the room. In the building. She has short black hair. She puts her hand on my neck and smiles. Her fingernails trace the curve of the collar of my shirt.
Words we spoke have long been forgotten, misted by time and evaporated by chemicals.
Passing to a side room, through French doors. There is no furniture. She can not afford to fill all the rooms she pays for, and only opens this room on occasion. This is an occasion; we have pot. Lots of it. I lean against a window with green molding, small panes of glass. The walls here are already disappearing in a cloud. One person rolls and lights a joint. She is Flower; her real name, too, is gone. Flower has one arm since birth, and has spent her life learning to do things with one hand that it takes others two. Like rolling the perfect joint.
Next to me a guy packs and lights a small pipe. There are maybe twelve of us in this room with several more coming and going. The girl who lives here doesn’t smoke, but let’s others use her space. I see her disappear around the corner with a smile.
I am handed a metal pipe made from plumbing material. Someone else is an engineer, and was bored, he says. The weed moves freely around the room. We hear laughter and inhaling, exhaling. We see nothing except a pipe or joint as it reaches us.
Some time later, there are three of us left in the room. I was unaware that anyone left. The joint is gone, but the pipes are always full. I stagger back to the kitchen. I am dulled, muted and smiling. I am content for the moment, finding a chair and another beer, and seeing the girl with the short black hair I turn to talk to her. I mutter into the space between us. She walks away.
This was not what I meant to become. This is a role I play on Thursdays and Fridays. Maybe Saturdays. It is nothing permanent. A stop or pause.
Songs can become part of our dna. An experience encoded; more than history, more than memory, or even simple emotion. Our relationship to good music can be complicated. It can cause us to smile, react with sadness or anger. We can hear a song repeatedly and it sits politely in the background. Other times we can hear it once, at just the right moment, and it attacks us with a visceral force that sweeps us back to that moment.
Today the radio played ‘Soul Kitchen’ by the Doors. Like many of my cohort (Gen X…and aren’t we tired of that label by now?) the Doors played a significant role in our shared soundtracks. Not a band that I listened to by myself, but they were a symbol, a permission given, to excess at a gathering.