"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Whispers of Sundays Past
rem·i·nis·cence Function: noun
1 a : recall to mind of a long-forgotten experience or fact b : the process or practice of thinking or telling about past experiences
2 a : a remembered experience b : an account of a memorable experience -- often used in plural
3 : What this season brings to me.
Some things live only in our memories.
Last weekend was Labor Day. For most people this was just a holiday, some well anticipated time off from work on the bosses' tab. For me it means something different.
To me, Labor Day is all about endings and farewells.
When I was a teenager, I spent my summers at Myrtle Beach at a campground called Lakewood. These were the real formative times for me, and the setting allowed my fancies to pretty much run free. I surfed, played guitar, had way too much to drink on many occasions, and chased girls with reckless abandon.
A lot of times I'd catch 'em too. You can do that when you are in your late teens, before you get all fat and geezery.
Summers were like heaven to me. I truly felt at home, more than I have at any other time of my life. The friends I had during those summers were the best I would ever know. The experiences I had would shape me more than any other experiences I would ever have.
Of course, at the time I was already sick, but didn't know it. I can see it now looking back on it, but at the time I just burned out my excess emotions in music, drink and carousing. I blew every dollar I made, and as a professional entertainer I made my share and more besides. Usually I wouldn't get home with most of it.
Anyways, enough about that, before I get into some details I don't want to spread all over the net.
Labor day. That's what I was talking about.
Labor Day was the end of the Summer. It was the final whoop of madness before the world I lived in vanished for another nine months. I would throw myself into the day as if it were the last day of my life, and in a way it was. After that I would have to return to my "life" away from there, go back to school, go back to the town where I grew up. I would have to act respectable. There would be no wild times. Bacchus would leave the building.
On Labor Day morning, the campground would be jam packed. They had over 2,000 campsites, and they averaged four people to a site, so thats 8,000 people. We conservatively estimated about 300-500 pretty girls at any time in there.
By the next morning, the campground would look deserted. The Summertime vendors would have closed up shop for the year and boarded up their places. The lake that was surrounded by trailers just the day before would be left to the ducks and the turtles. The arcade that was my hunting ground would be empty, filled with the forlorn clank of a few hangers on slapping a few balls on the pool tables.
And the beach would be deserted.
Within just a few weeks, the trees would lose their leaves. You could stand at the highway entrance and see all the way to the ocean. But on Labor Day, that chill seemed to have already arrived, the starkness of Fall already in its grasp.
On my 16th Summer, I had fallen deeply in love with a beautiful girl from West Virginia. She was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen, great personality, and eyes that could knock you down from across the room. Labor day afternoon, I was very melancholy, and missed her badly.
I went to the campsite where they had stayed. There was a huge old oak tree there, easily ten or twelve feet thick at the trunk. I just sat and reminisced about her for hours. Many times later I would return to that tree, as if it had some way of bringing back the magic of those few moments I had had with her. But it never did.
Three months later, she broke up with me. I had not even had the chance to see her again. I had no idea I could hurt that badly.
I think that's about the time I started becoming the predator that I ended up being. I could not allow myself to be that exposed again, but I hid that well. I decided that I would become whatever these girls wanted me to be and thereby get whatever I wanted from them. And it worked.
At least between Memorial Day and Labor Day it did.
The next year, I was again at the beach and was entertaining at a local nightclub as the featured act. One day my best friend runs in and says "Guess who I just saw?!?" Well, of course, it was her. She had returned. But, he added, she had a really big ring on.
Something inside of me died at that moment. And died hard.
So I went to the arcade and found her. We talked a bit, and I tried as hard as I could to show her that no feelings inside existed, that I was doing so well without her in my life, that whatever we had had was dead and gone.
Of course, inside me I was dying with every word I spoke. It was all a lie. But I had become so hardened, so good at lying.
We rode around and talked for a little while. She gave me back a necklace that I had given her. She left.
I was empty inside. And I felt that I would always be.
That night her sister came to the club where I was headlining. She told me that my former love had taken a bus back to West Virginia that afternoon.
"Do you know why she came?" she asked me. I had no idea, I said.
"She wanted to check you out one last time before she got married."
That hit me like an atom bomb. I had it in my hands and blew it. Boy, did I ever blow it.
So, I would visit that tree, and think of what might have been. The day she got married I went to Brookgreen Gardens and wandered among the statues. It seemed that they might know the heartache I was feeling.
A few months later, I got a letter from her neice, who was the same age. The neice gave me her phone number and asked me to call her and catch up, so I did.
When I called, it was quickly obvious that the neice had never written any letter to me. It was from the girl I had loved.
The neice told me that she was happy in her marriage, that they were going to be building a house.
She also told me her married name which I have forgotten. I did not mean to, but I did. So thats a dead end for me now, I'll never know the end of this story.
Now all I have is the memories, few and long ago.
Hurricane Hugo blew through that campground a few years after I left. It totally destroyed all the places I had called home, even taking the grass and pavement away. I have no idea if that tree is still standing, but I know that it is in my mind. And I still go there, sometimes, and just remember.
Like on Labor Day.
God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.