Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The Aqua Mustang 14 - CLICK BACK
Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbor…
Over and over these tapes in this time drifting over these Vermont hills, driving by pure water and below the soft Green Mountains. These tapes, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, as real as anything, a girl in a song who could be one of any number of women I had known or gained or lost or longed for. This music coming back to me, some I once knew, some that came while I was away. My car now filled with this gentle Judy Collins version.
You know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China…
It is all mixed up with the old deep and bright and very dark places over in New Hampshire, and it is all mixed up with other women there and in the world.
Last year, after the briefest of times together, early 1985, I had had a final falling out on the phone with Jocelyn – Joce-leen, I used the French pronunciation – who was exotic French and Jewish and had grown up under the North African sun. Joce-leen, calling from near the Carlyle, me answering the call down in a furnished room off Eighth Avenue, me hearing her say it was over. She had caught me in something small I’d hoped she missed, but to her it meant betrayal. I had told her I had not checked my answering machine and so had not caught a loving message from her that I had heard all too clearly. I was revealed as someone who had no words for her. Never had, she now knew, neither at her table nor in her bed, nor in her bath, nor in those French places where we ate steaks in the West 50s. And when she broke with me on the phone, I still said nothing, though I was suffering the white hot anger I was beginning to know from looking into the mystery of my early life.
And to my horror, as I held the phone, things went click-click-click in my head and groin, click-click-click all the way back. Click Jocelyn, click anger at ex-wife Anne, click Bonnie in Bangkok, click Judy in New York, click Sheila Ng in Singapore – click Vannie, click, Rae, click Susi, click Anne Marie. Click click, click click – all the way back till, by God, I was trapped in a sad cliché, clicking on my mother.
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer.
I’d lied to Jocelyn that I’d missed her message.
And afterwards, before now, I tried so hard to get everything back where I had long thought it should be. Before now in this short time I tried for the last time the old way of writing to put my life in place. Before in this short time another dream figure, this gorgeous travel photographer from Rome briefly traveled with me. And before a dead end in the tourist-ridden Bahamas topped by an even deader ending just afterwards in New Hampshire, where they were all speaking trash covered by fake British accents. Before, in this very short time, what seemed like the ultimate depression. And before what then seemed a time touched by grace as I stepped for the first time into the deep past with my eyes open, for the first time stepped with no control into my stories. And so much had happened that I was skating through Vermont, alone and ready in the aqua Mustang, playing songs that, unexpectedly, had lodged in my heart.