I dedicate this record, The Carnival, to all you brothers takin’ long trips down south, Virginia, Baltimore, all around the world, and your girl gets this message that you ain’t comin’ back. She’s sittin’ back in the room, the lights are off, she’s cryin’, and then my voice comes in: pow! in the middle of the night, and this is what I told her for you

The Carnival - Track #10 - 1997 - Written by Wyclef Jean | Performed by Wyclef Jean

I wake up in the morning, walk into the bathroom, splash some cold water on my face, and look at myself in the mirror. It's the same old me, except I see the first little wrinkles start to appear under my eyes, and every once in a while I'll see the faintest glint of light bouncing off a silvery hair in the sea of brown atop my head. But it's my eyes that I can't stop looking at.

It comes rolling down on top of you like some unimaginable avalanche, tearing away at your psyche, ripping this reality you had built for yourself into a thousand shreds of discarded dignity. We were told since the day we were born that all you need is love, but there comes that point in your life when love can no longer build a bridge for you. One day you'll open your eyes and you'll see for the first time that it's all become a pattern, that all of the dreams you had and the things you wanted to do with your life are slipping away from you. You might have a person you love, you might have a nice car and a nice house, but something's missing. Something essential inside of you is gone, and it's up to you to decide if it is gone forever.

I get up every day and go to work. I come home tired, and yet I still dredge together enough energy and time to write a couple thousand words each evening, about half of which eventually find their way onto this site. I usually write in the evening after my wife has already gone to sleep and the house is quiet except for the gentle hum of the refrigerator and the occasional meowing of the cat.

I'm sitting here writing this now, in fact, with just the gentle glow of the computer monitor casting out light and the music of Wyclef Jean drifting softly out of the speakers. The window is open and there's a cool breeze blowing in the window, the first hint of autumn on my cheek, and a fundamental part of me wants to open the door, walk out, and not come back until the snow's on the ground, leaving behind nothing but a note on the table that says I'll be gone till November.

Every time I make a run, girl, you turn around and cry
I ask myself why, oh why
See, you must understand, I can’t work a 9 to 5
So I’ll be gone ’til November
Said I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
Yo, tell my girl, yo, I’ll be gone ’til November

Wyclef Jean released this song in 1997, the second single from his first solo album, The Carnival. Much of the album was written in the bittersweet glow of the enormous success of The Fugees' 1996 album The Score, which sold sixteen million copies and thrust the trio from obscurity into ubiquity almost overnight. Yet there were complex dynamics at work in the trio: a failed relationship between Wyclef and Lauryn Hill brought a great deal of tension into the situation, causing the three principals to split and each follow their own muse.

This song is very mellow and sentimental, featuring the backing of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra behind Wyclef's tender melancholic heavily-Haitian influenced singing. The combined effect creates a unique flavor of sentimentality, a deep sadness coming from places where joy usually resides. I usually toss aside such sentimental moods in songs, consigning them to the rubbish bin alongside such bald-faced peddlers of human emotion as Michael Bolton and Kenny G, but there's something different in this song, something creating a particular atmosphere.

I hear this song and I can actually feel Wyclef running from something, a fear that he can't quite put his finger on, but something that his soul feels nonetheless. There's a deep regret in the run, but the fear overwhelms it, sending this sad Haitian man with a guitar strapped across his back shambling across the airport, looking for the next flight to Port-au-Prince, looking to run away again, seeking a safety he'll never find, nothing in his pocket except for a promise that he'll be gone till November.

When I come back, there’ll be no need to clock
I’ll have enough money to buy out blocks
Tell my brother, go to school in September
So he won’t mess up in summer school in the summer
Tell my cousin Jerry, wear his condom
If you don’t wear condom, you’ll see a red lump

It's difficult for me to write about this song without burying this entire writeup in sentimental mush. Just hearing the bit at the beginning where the orchestra first kicks in takes me straight back to the fall of 1997, especially those frigid December mornings that year when the heat failed in my dormitory and I woke up with frost on my blankets. I'd surround myself in every piece of cloth that I could find, kick the space heater up as high as it would go, crack the window just enough to ensure I would not die of asphyxiation, and turned on The Carnival as I crammed for finals. The whole album could flow through my ears like water for chocolate: the mellow Haitian celebration of Guantanamera, the disco-infused Bee Gees inspired We Tryin' to Stay Alive, even the "cultural trial" of the album's interludes. Yet every time, Gone till November would shake me from my studious rhythm, and I'd close my eyes and imagine myself somewhere else.

Wyclef's Haitian accent kicks in on the first verse and my mind goes back to the long path of my relationship with my wife, the six years of courtship, and the moments of doubt. So often I wanted to simply walk away from what we had, my mind seeking some greater freedom to find its own path, and whenever I thought of this, a guilt would cross my soul and an internal struggle would begin, and just when I thought I would walk away for a while, she'd come walking along, her hazel eyes shining with a brilliance I had thought impossible, and I'd decide that whatever plans I had could wait as our fingers locked together.

The repetitions of gone till November that fill the chorus remind me of that moment at her parents' house the day after our wedding, when we disembarked on our honeymoon, and the two of us looked around, realizing nothing about our homes would ever really be the same. Our homes, the ones we had grown up in, the places that had been our foundation, were now gone; it was up to us to find our own homes. As we backed down the driveway, she took my hand, and I knew that we wouldn't be back for a while, that we might in fact be gone till November.

I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
Yo, tell my girl, yo, I’ll be gone ’til November
January, February, March, April, May
I see you cryin’, but girl, I can’t stay
I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
And give a kiss to my mother

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. Few people at the time realized that he suffered from a dehabilitating case of polio which left him unable to walk. Yet through great personal willpower and strength, he was able to use metal leg braces to create the appearance of standing and walking, so that others would see a strong man able to lead the United States in these great times of trial. On the surface, it seems such a simple thing; no one doubted the leadership or forcefulness of Roosevelt and likely only a small minority would have cared if he had revealed his ailment during his White House years, but he kept up this appearance of physical strength anyway, simply because the appearance of strength on all fronts from his position of leadership was utterly vital when so many people needed a shoulder to lean on.

Yet for many weeks each year, President Roosevelt left behind the White House and stayed at a farm in Warm Springs, Georgia. He had been going to Warm Springs for many years before becoming President, in fact living there for several years in the 1920s. He loved the place dearly, for it was the only place in the world he felt completely comfortable and able to put aside the facade of strength that he constantly showed to the rest of the world. Warm Springs was a farm in rural Georgia that promised to heal those afflicted with polio, and although the "miracle" cure was never able to bring Roosevelt back to full wellness, the ability to be there with other survivors and simply rest in those warm spring waters was enough for him.

When he knew a vacation to Warm Springs was coming, his colleagues would see a great brightening in the man. He tackled every issue with great ardor and there was a spring in his motions that had been hidden behind months of worry. And on those afternoons when he would take off for Georgia, leaving behind Eleanor and Washington and all of those worries, I can't help but imagine him leaning back in his seat, a smile on his face, and looking out the dewy window knowing that he would be gone till November.

Every time I make a run, girl, you turn around and cry
I ask myself why, oh why
See, you must understand, I can’t work a 9 to 5
So I’ll be gone ’til November
Said I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
Yo, tell my girl, yo, I’ll be gone ’til November

My wife is pregnant with our first child, a situation that simultaneously thrills me and frightens me to my core. I remember her standing in the hallway exiting the living room, looking down at her home pregnancy test, and then looking up at me and announcing the news. I hugged her and held her close, but after she went to sleep on that cool March evening, I went for a walk through this small Iowa town that I live in and out among the empty cornfields on the other side, seeing my breath in the starlight, almost in disbelief that so much could change with a small plus sign.

I have a framed photograph from his ultrasound that sits on my desk. Up until that ultrasound, the child was an abstract concept in my mind, a minor tumescence in my wife's belly. But when the nurse placed the pads upon my wife's stomach and I stared into the monitor and saw my son move about for the first time, shifting his body around to avoid the intrusion of the strange probe into his watery world, it shook me to my core once again. He is alive, I thought, a little child. My little child.

I look at that photograph time and time again as the days turn from summer to fall, and I look at that calendar on my desk that has the date November 4, 2005 circled in red, reminding me of the day when he'll come into the world and I can hold this child in my arms. Until then, I'll look at this picture and think of the future, and put my hand on my wife's stomach to feel his kicking, his way of telling me that he'll be gone till November.

I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
Yo, tell my girl, yo, I’ll be gone ’til November
January, February, March, April, May
I see you cryin’, but girl, I can’t stay
I’ll be gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November
And give a kiss to my mother

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