On the subway all fifty of us had on our headphones like idiots trying to block out the world, or put music to it, since the world on TV and in the movies always has music. I remembered listening to The Stills while driving cross-country with you. Our first stop: North Carolina to see your sisters. On the way there, we stopped in a Target parking lot, turned the popped trunk into a café awning, and made our own soy lattes with the aero latte frother I bought on a flight to London once.
On the trip, the road was polarized, half-horror, half-romance. We thought we were going to get killed half the time, which was romantic because dying with someone always is, and we were going to die together, die trying not to die, and I even started praying in the dark just in case. The trucks on I-90 were so big and fast, silver bullets shooting through the werewolf highway, Duel-like, except real men were driving them and we had nothing to ward them off with. No cinematic formula. We just pulled over and stopped the little red car we were in, a tiny bloodstain moving across the big picture of the road. The woman at the gas station said, “Be careful. This stretch is known for its bullies,” the way that life is a stretch known for its bullies, and everyone, but my mother, laughed at us for being scared when we told them what happened. Remember when we used to tell people how we felt? I often asked you that. The memory of trusting people, confiding in them.
I was so terrified that I left you alone by falling asleep for half an hour and when I woke up the road was all ours, like at the end of a movie where two characters get to live, or a post-apocalyptic space that’s yours but ruined. Yours because it’s ruined. In sleep, in love, we dozed in and out of each other, in and out of the world, lanes criss-crossing, like the characters in “Lost Highway”, except I wasn’t the dark playing off the light, or the dark playing off the blonde (you). And for the last forty minutes, after the coast was clear, when all the bullies were finally gone, we cruised along the asphalt and held hands under the music. The astral road was stripped of cars, lit up and silver, like that path in the Redwood forests of “E.T.,” or the moon over Elliott’s levitating bike, and it was just us, a punk-rock version of Adam and Eve, us against everything, us there first, or last, except I didn’t come from you or any garden.
What’s that movie where the road is interior? A personality? A light switch? It was like that.
It wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill love story. It was movie love. Love you could film. Love you remember seeing somewhere. Love you remember seeing all your life. Love that changes you or that you change. Love that could mean something to the people looking at it. Big and rare and photogenic.
I kept you awake by squeezing you every now and again because I don’t drive. You said you needed my help, and more than once I saved you from crashing, and now, now that you’re gone, I would replace you if I could, but I’ve never even seen a face I think I could even remotely know. I never see a single face.
In “Julia” (1977), Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda) tells her life-long friend, Julia (Vanessa Redgrave): “You still look like nobody else,” which is the best compliment I’ve ever heard. Lillian means that whatever Julia is on the inside is what makes her matchless on the outside. Someone you can’t lose in someone else or double with an opposite or split into parts or dream up again.
Listening to too much music is like being underwater or having cotton in your ears. It’s a lot of pressure on what you’re feeling. The music weighs in. When it comes to feelings, listening to music is the equivalent of framing a picture. Framing a face. You can have your picture feelings up on the wall without a frame, but it doesn’t look as put together. It doesn’t look as good. It doesn’t stay there. With music, you can hang your feelings up and look at them, and so can other people.