When we got to the bungalow there was an unusual sight: a rather large RV pulled up to our carport. At first I thought some campers or hunters had the wrong address, or that our landlady had “accidentally” double-booked the bungalow.
But no. Inside the RV was Flip.
He bounded out of the thing like a golden retriever and caught me in a bear hug as I was getting out of the car.
“Good to see you!” Then he ran around to my mother’s side and helper her out of the passenger seat. She eyed him warily as he enthused, “And this lovely lady must be… Mrs…?”
“Silver,” she said. “Ms. Silver. But you can call me Claire.”
“Claire. Charmed.” He bowed, knowing perfectly well that his look contrasted ridiculously with high etiquette. Flip, as usual, looked like he could have come right from a Harley Davidson biker rally, in sunglasses and a black tank top that showed off all his tattoos. His jeans had all the holes in them that mine were lacking at that moment and his combat boots weren’t laced. His hair was thinner in the front than it had been last time I saw him and he had it slicked back into a short ponytail. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“I’m sure,” she said neutrally.
“This is Flip,” I told her. “Which is short for Philip. He keeps my guitars and my brain in working order when we’re on the road.”
“So I gathered,” she said. In the back of my brain I vaguely wondered if she’d given her stage name to him because she’d pegged him as an industry person.
Once we were inside the house, Flip poured himself a glass of water and drank it thirstily. “Hey, I met your neighbor.”
“Silas, you mean? Skinny guy with a dog?”
“Yep. Seems a nice enough sort. I have a feeling I’ll soon be either buying weed from him or selling him some, not sure which, yet.”
Claire circled around him to the breadbox. “Are you hungry? Should we have some lunch?”
“Do you want to go out?” I asked her.
“I think I’ve had enough of ‘out’ for today. Some cinnamon toast should settle me and then I’ll have a nap.” She put a piece of bread onto a plate. “Would you like some?”
“I would love some cinnamon toast, Ms. Silver,” Flip said with great sincerity.
“Claire, please.” She pulled out two more pieces and busied herself with that while Flip began to chatter at me about what everyone we knew in common was up to. I had been out of the loop for a while, of course, but somehow Flip kept tabs on everyone. I confess it went in one of my ears and out the other. What I absorbed was that most of the other musicians and roadies we knew were trundling along with business as usual, while I was not.
All except Jordan of course. Because Jordan was no more.
What is grieving? How are you supposed to do it? I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong.
We had our toast. Claire got ready for her nap.
“Let me show you the inside of the trailer,” Flip said.
“All right.” I followed him back out to the driveway. “Although this isn’t really a trailer, is it? Wouldn’t it have to be attached to a truck to be a trailer?”
“Yeah, yeah, you know what I mean,” he said. “Motor home, RV, whatever you want to call it.”
It was not as large as a tour bus but it kind of smelled like one: a lingering scent of booze, weed, and sweat. “Where’d you get this thing?”
“It’s my cousin’s. He’s a big pot-head so I knew it’d be all right to smoke up.” He pulled open a kitchen cabinet to reveal basket-type holders that kept anything from falling out while the vehicle was in motion. In the basket were several plastic bags of something herbaceous. He pulled one out and sat down at the fold-down counter/table to separate the seeds from the stems.
I sat down across from him on a flip-down stool. “How much weed is this?”
“Enough to get me put away for a good long time, but don’t you worry about that. So tell me about how your mom’s doing.”
“Hard to tell. We went to her doctor last week because she wasn’t keeping food down and he prescribed some anti-nausea stuff and she has various pains so we’ve got Vicodin for that. But they wouldn’t give me very much.”
“She’s probably got the same physique as you. This’ll cure what ails her. Well, I mean, not the cancer part, but that’s what chemo is for, right?”
“Supposedly. They did some tests but we haven’t heard the results yet. I have no idea if it’s working or not. Claire seems to think she’s doomed but it’s really hard to tell whether that’s because she’s depressed or if she’s just using being terminally ill as a way to get everyone to do what she wants.”
Flip looked at me. “I don’t see an everyone. I just see a you.”
“Yeah, well. My sisters decided they’d had enough. I decided it was my turn to deal with her. I had like five years off or something, right?” I tried to do the math. “No, seven. I last saw her when I was eighteen, right? And I’m turning twenty-four next week.”
“That’s six,” he said.
“Uh, yeah.” Jeez. You’d think the marijuana was in my head, not on the table in front of me.
“When next week?”
“The twenty-first. If you think I know which day that is–”
“Wouldn’t imagine you do, no.” He grinned. “Does Mom smoke?”
“She used to smoke cigarettes, if that’s what you mean. She quit a while back but she still misses them.”
“She’ll be fine with this, then. It’s the easiest way. As long as she doesn’t have lung cancer.”
“Oh, that’s no fun. I thought that usually kills fast?”
“Uh, I wouldn’t know.” I really didn’t. I had the sudden urge to take a walk in the woods. “There’s a lake back there, by the way.”
“Oh yeah? Cool.” Flip’s attention was on the seeds.
“Yeah.” I stood up. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
I went and made my way out to the rock on the shore. Now that I knew where I was going it seemed like a much shorter walk than before. When I got to the rock, I sat there looking at the water. This wasn’t a particular beautiful lake. This wasn’t like a postcard view. But it was a pond in the trees. Every now and then something under the water made it move. Turtle? Fish? Who knows. Something I couldn’t see. The sky was gray and so was the surface of the water, while underneath it was all dark and unfathomable.
I realized I was alone for the first time in a while. When was the last time I just sat with my thoughts without worrying about where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do?
Don’t say the water tower. This wasn’t like that. This was different. I was emotionally calm and the dark things in my mind only came up and barely rippled the surface before sinking back down.
On the one hand I had made this choice to stick things out with Claire. That felt right. It felt good in a weird sort of way to have one thing to worry about that was bigger and more imperative than every other thing. On the other hand I knew I had unfinished business lurking on the coasts, and even the motherfucking priest had told me I was letting my soul die on the vine.
But I just wasn’t ready to fight that fight. I was tired. I was beaten down. I was afraid getting back on that merry-go-round was going to grind me down even more. It was convenient, maybe, that I had a dying mother to take care of. I had the world’s best excuse to disengage.
But, Daron, a tiny voice was asking me, what’s more important, what the world thinks of you or what you think of yourself?
That was a terrifying and impossible question to answer. Unless the answer was fuck it, let’s get high.
(Waving hello from Portugal! I’m here to listen to great music and eat and take a break from U.S. politics for a few days at least? Comment count is at 15 before this post! Are we going to make it to 50? Remember only the top-level comments count, not the replies… -ctan)