Thursday, January 10, 2013

Me and Lola

I’d worked with her a year before I really noticed her for the first time, standing alone with her dog at an office picnic.  A few weeks later she’d tell me that her dog liked me and she thought animals have a good sense of people, and I wrote that she was funny and smart and non-materialistic and creative and made me want to touch her. It seemed like a good beginning. 

We talked about New Orleans and traded music. She introduced me to the music of several New Orleans artists including Anders Osborne. I mentioned liking his song Acapulco (with Harrison-like guitar and haunting vocal) and that my reaction showed it was never too late to dream of starting over, and she said she liked it too.

I think I’m heading down to Acapulco
Leave no trace of who I’ve been
And I’ll make sure that nobody knows
Why I’m leaving or if I’ll come back again

Yeah, I’ll change my clothes, change my name
Maybe I’ll find some land nobody has claimed
And live out my life down on that golden coast
And every day I would slowly let my memories go

Another song on the same album spoke of being on the road listening to Jackson Browne and that there was nothing better when feeling homesick and down. I was reminded of a very different song titled  H-A-T-R-E-D by Tonio K which also included Browne’s name in the lyrics and recited part of it for her.

And I know I'm acting immature
I'm acting like a child
I should display some self-control
Instead of going wild like this
And I do wish I could accept all this
As simply life which includes pain
And act upon the actual fact
That nobody's to blame
Yes I wish I was as mellow
As for instance Jackson Browne
But "Fountain of Sorrow" my ass motherfucker
I hope you wind up in the ground

And so we circled, I delaying until I could see a doctor, she pushing me away not because of me but because of events in her past, then pulling me back with apologies about being too defensive. She lied to my face and laughed behind my back, I walked away three times, I told her we had the worst timing and communication I’d ever experienced, she ducked into rooms to avoid me or gave me stony glares. She said she wasn’t going to a gathering at a bar but after I suggested she think about changing her mind, she showed up. She deathly afraid of more than the superficial, I still the bitter romantic after all these years.

The times we actually went out were always fine, filled with good talk and laughter. After the last one, she said she’d buy next time, but instead of a next time I got an email saying there would be no next time. So I ignored her while she invented more and more outlandish schemes to spend time together. We began a conversation which was interrupted, and she couldn’t find time to complete it for two weeks. I sent her an email saying I was going back to ignoring her, and heard her wail to a coworker, “But I like him”, and she spent a long time talking to her friend in the office lobby. In the months which followed, there were frequent and regular absences and early departures and I was left to guess at the cause.

Before I left, with no desire to repeat the summer, I stopped to see her and we agreed to be friends if we were both there the next year. We said goodbye with an awkward embrace, and I felt how skeletal her body had become.

In Duluth, inspired by the mention of him in Osborne’s song, I attended my first Jackson Browne concert, feeling like I’d long been running on empty. He didn’t play that song or some of his other most well-known songs, but did play half the songs (but not Fountain of Sorrow) from what I considered his album which most influenced me, Late for the Sky.

I can’t begin to express the feelings this doomed romantic vision stirred in me, the seeds which grew through a lifetime. I was seventeen when the album appeared, trapped between high school and college, paying a mortgage on a house I was desperate to leave, trying to stay alive to the ideals I envisioned while learning to numb myself to the day to day.

From the album, Browne sang tales of apocalypse and death and continuing on--Farther On, The Late Show, For A Dancer, and the title song:

How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been dreaming I could make it right
If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might
To be the one you need
Awake again, I can't pretend, and I know I'm alone
And close to the end of the feeling we've known

So much damage, so attractive to me, both because I hoped I could reach her, help her, save her, and because who but the badly damaged could reach me, help me, save me? No matter how badly she behaved or treated me, I had to keep trying because I hadn’t met anyone who made me want to try in years. And because for all the bad, the good was just as true, and I wanted to believe it was more real. But most of all, I wanted more from her than she was able to give, and she wanted less from me. 

When I saw Osborne perform in Missoula, he opened the show with a song about a destructive relationship, my favorite song of his, and one I’d come to think of as ‘our song’.

She got some sad eyes, and I’m making no sense
She knows my story, how it’s all too late
And since her heart got broke to pieces
She hates herself, and every man
She stays with me cuz I’m weak and wasted
She thinks I’m empty, that’s why I understand

I know it’s stupid, and plenty useless
It’s done me nothing but to drink some more
I filled my life with bad excuses
Peace at heart is what I’m looking for

The morning of the concert, I happened to look at the company’s website and saw a job vacancy which could only have resulted from one of two people leaving. I had no doubt that I would return to learn that she was gone, and dying, and I wept for it all.

I can’t help thinking that maybe someday
We’ll leave this dark place for a better life
I’ll be a lover, with sons and daughters
Lola’s happy being someone’s wife
And I’d go visit her, up in the mountains
In the dead of winter, when the cold wind blows

Lyrics copyright Anders Osborne, Tonio K, Jackson Browne.

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