Don Henley in a Bar
I walked in from the dusty mountain parking lot. The wind made the summer air forget it was supposed to be warm. Don Henley was alone at the bar. I remember thinking, “….wow, Don Henley alone in this place, this is the guy who writes all the songs about beautiful western settings and love and forgiveness….is this where he sits and comes up with this stuff?…” I nodded hello as I sat down, ordered a beer, and, figuring this was my chance to learn about inspiration, asked, “What is it that makes us remember people long after they should be forgotten?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You really want to hear? I was just throwing it out there, being that you’re Don Henley and all. I was wondering if you’d have an answer.” I spun my bottle lazily on the ancient wooden surface of the bar.
“We remember people because they haven’t left us.”
I took my chance, “But why does thinking about something that once made me so happy now bring me such reminiscence? Why, if the person in my thoughts has never left me? Why can’t we simply move on? These feelings seem to sum up all of the sadness that passes between people.”
“Of course they do. You’re a seer, you’re able to capture the experiences that pass between people, and documenting them is your job. When you die, another will hold it. It is an honorable job.”
I nodded wordlessly and took a long drink from the beer.
I went to the window and looked out at the high desert. There was nothing here really, nothing for me, just a road in and a road out. I knew that I’d never be able to put my thoughts into words, especially in this wasteland of blowing dirt and brown buildings. I went to an open table and sat by myself. For reasons too mysterious for me to fathom, there was a Chicago Cubs poster on the wall. It featured Budweiser beer, it was curled at the edges.
I stared at the emerald greengrass of left field in the picture (was Wrigley Field really that green in real life?) and listened to the cinema of thoughts that played for me. I wondered what God had wrought when He made life so sad. There was I girl I knew from Chicago. I think I liked her and loved her because she was the kind of girl that sees way into you and likes what she sees. I thought of myself drifting disinterestedly through relationships. Attractive intelligent women that held nothing for me. They were interested in me, but I not in them. I think I was captivated by the way the Chicago girl reached out when she never reaches out. I saw her in that picture, over two thousand miles from her home, over the pool table. I wondered where she was as I sat and thought about our long lost days. It wasn’t important whether she thought of me. She was the only girl in the past ten years of my life who made me realize that there were greater things to pursue than my primitive basic unfulfillments. I wanted her to know that I’ll always love her. Not the needy grasping of all modern lovers, but instead the simple emotion of wanting to be with someone.
I looked away from the poster, it broke the spell. The wind outside ticky-tacked the California dust against the dirty window. Ghosts. I thought of her even though she wasn’t there. She wouldn’t like it if she knew I was writing this. Or thinking about her. Outside, “tick-tack…..”, was she my ghost? Or was she here? Scolding me for wasting my precious hours with such remembrances? I smirked through the filmy glass: “hey! Cheers! Here’s to ya, brainless. You made me so mad at you that yeah, I once really did hate you. But I can’t stay mad at you. You taught me so much about myself that, believe it or not, I actually feel like I need to thank you. Thanks for coming to me this way, for giving me the best of all gifts, something to write about. You know that you never really knew me, right? You only saw hints of me. But I want you to know that I’m happy. I want you to know that I do think about you often, happy thoughts. But man, am I ever tired of walking away down Marlborough Street for the ‘last time’. I always think of you the day you forged this statement in my mind- ‘let me go away to him, let me miss you and come back to you’. If my actions are confusing to you, it’s because I found an appropriate ending in that statement. If you’re ever back I want you to be really back. Until then, I’ll miss you, time after time, I’ll kiss you, through the bars of this rhyme.
“Do you come out here to get ideas for your songs?” I asked.
“Mostly I just listen to what comes to me. The rest kinda takes care of itself, y’know?”
I understood. In the wake of all that had just come to me, I understood completely.