Sunday, 6 November 2011

The power of a song

I'm trying something new. I have found with my schedule this semester that I don't make time for the coffee shop/writing lifestyle that I enjoy so much. So my plan is to get up early one weekend morning each week and fit it in then. It brings me joy, it makes me happy, it brings me peace; therefore, I must do it!

There is a website that I have been using sporadically for the past two years that lets you build a playlist of music that others can go listen to. My playlist isn't long, maybe 25 songs is all, but they are songs that inspire me to write. I have always plugged in headphones, added a new song and started writing while listening to my playlist.

It's been ages since I've been on that website and I am sad to report that most of my songs are now listed as 'unavailable' which means I've turned elsewhere for my musical inspiration.

A friend of mine had recommended a song for me to listen to and (as I do) I put off listening to it for a while. It might be because of why he wanted me to listen to it...

My high school sweetheart was a bit of a troubled soul. He'd had a rough childhood though when I met him in grade 8, you never would have suspected it. He was full of happy energy. We didn't really become friends until our grade 12 year when a new girl at our school ended up befriending both of us and bringing us together. He made me laugh and I found myself completely drawn to him.

We had a year-long, whirlwind, tumultuous relationship and I loved him deeply and painfully. The end came when he wanted to start experimenting with drugs and I wanted nothing to do with that kind of lifestyle. We split but stayed friends (also tumultuous and painful). I watched as he smoked pot, dropped acid, took ecstasy, drank heavily and dated a slough of other women. He got tattoos, piercings, brandings and even tried scarification in front of a live audience. He danced in a cage for money at a couple different clubs (gay and straight) and did a variety of other odd jobs.

We didn't see each other often but I was invited to his wedding. I had the flu at the time but didn't want to miss it. I think I must have fooled myself into thinking that we were truly friends. The truth probably being closer to me just being a glutton for punishment. I stayed for the ceremony and left. He was divorced within the year. We saw each other once or twice after that, the final time being a dinner out. Three of us went for dinner and he announced that he was moving to Toronto. Recognizing this as a opportunity, we hugged goodbye at the end of dinner and my friend and I watched him walk away. I never expected to hear from him, let alone see him, ever again.

Two years ago he found me on facebook. We wrote short, simple messages back and forth as a quick catch up. He was living in Australia, married and owned a tattoo shop. Two months ago he came to Vancouver to see his family and friends.

I saw him a few times while he was in town. It was an interesting experience. Emotions I weren't expecting, popped up. I didn't have any lingering feelings for him, it was more the trigger of the memories and a sadness for the passing of time. We are 20 years older than when we dated and 12 years older since the last time we saw each other. He has more tattoos, more scars, more lines on his face and more sadness behind his eyes. I never saw him without a drink or a cigarette in his hand and he very unabashedly told me about his life. I heard about his heavy drug use, his arrest, his divorce, remarriage, infidelity, money problems, business partner problems and family problems. He was dirty, stinky, unkempt and strangely carried a briefcase everywhere he went. He had a manic air about him. He moved constantly, never sitting still and his memory was full of holes. And yet, his overall attitude was positive. Life was going to keep on trucking and so was he.

While he was in town we arranged a bbq. He wanted to see some of his other friends that I am still friends with. Friends that I actually met through him when we dated. Friends that had stayed in touch with him well past the time that I had let go. One friend in particular was excited to see him and the feeling was mutual. They had been the closest in high school and through the following years had kept in touch as much as they could.

They ended up spending a fair bit of time together while he was in town and at the end of the visit my friends and I debriefed the visit. We'd all had a similar reaction to him. My friend who had spent the most time with him said to me

"Do you know Pearl Jam's song Off He Goes?"
I didn't.
"You HAVE TO listen to it. It is heartbreaking in how much it is Tim."

I listened to it this morning for the first time when my playlist on the other website came up as unavailable. Not only did it inspire this entire post but it did break my heart. It is Tim.

Here's the song

Here are the lyrics

I know a man, his face seems pulled and tense
like he's riding on a motorbike in the strongest winds
so i approach with tact
suggest that he should relax
but he's always moving much too fast
said he'll see me on the flipside
on this trip he's taken for a ride
he's been taking too much on
there he goes with his perfectly unkept clothes
there he goes...
he's yet to come back
but i've seen his picture
it doesn't look the same up on the rack
we go way back
i wonder about his insides
its like his thoughts are too big for his size
he's been taken... where, i don't know?
off he goes with his perfectly unkept hope
and there he goes...
and now i rub my eyes, for he has returned
seems my preconceptions are what should have been burned
for he still smiles...
and he's still strong
nothing's changed, but the surrounding bullshit that has grown
and now he's home
and we're laughing like we always did
my same old, same old friend
until a quarter-to-ten
i saw the strain creep in
he seems distracted and i know just what is gonna happen next
before his first step
he's off again