She’d pulled away.
Relationships are funny. You’re together, then you’re not. But it’s the in-between that flummoxes you.
I always believed in living together. It made it that much harder for the other person to move out. One argument was not definitive. But once I was married I thought it was…
Because my parents stayed together, I was brought up with perseverance and commitment, I believed if I stood up in front of family and friends and said yes I couldn’t go back on my word, people would judge me, be disappointed in me, I’m the kind of guy who makes things work, who refuses to say no. But it takes two to tango, and you never really know where the other person is coming from.
We’d been coming apart for months, ever since the beginning of summer. There were so many weird moments, and at first I fought them, called out behavior, and then I went along with it. And when she suggested visiting friends in Mill Valley I’d never heard of, never mind met, I said yes.
And she gave them a bigger hello than she gave me. But that night we had sex on their living room floor, and coitus connects you in a way nothing else does, it has a way of pushing all your doubts into the background.
But the next day walking around town she was strangely distant, as if we were magnets with opposing poles, she couldn’t get too close.
And then we left the friends and drove over the bridge to San Francisco, wherein she had a desire to visit the Exploratorium, once again, I felt by saying yes it would bring us together, but this was not to be. And when it came to choosing a hotel she refrained from having an opinion, she deferred to me, and when someone does this you know they’ll never be satisfied. And she spent the night on the opposing side of the bed but the following day I made the most of it, I was game, we spent the day traipsing around the city, and then it was time to drive home.
Only she didn’t, want to drive that is. And it’s about 6+ hours, and to tell you the truth, I’m not big on driving at night. I’d rather start early and finish before the sun goes down. I know too many people who’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. Just you and the headlights, for hours, between the lines, it can be hypnotizing, in a bad way. So I thought she’d share the driving.
But she wouldn’t.
So I’m sitting behind the wheel anxious. With hours ahead of me in darkness, no conversation, only a thick tension inside the automobile.
And this was in the era of cassettes, before CD changers hit the car, when you’d drive down the highway and run out of radio stations. You always traveled with a box of Maxells, to entertain you between signals.
Along with some prerecorded cassettes. At this time I had traction, I was on mailing lists, or maybe I went to see John Kalodner and got them out of the Geffen closet, but I had bunch of mass-produced cassettes for listening, for the trip ahead.
And Robbie Robertson was a legend, who’d famously retired his group the Band, which ultimately reformed without him. And now he had a solo album. The song you heard on the radio was “Showdown At Big Sky,” back when you heard the new work of legendary artists. But the album, was dark and featured Robbie’s less than perfect voice, and to be honest I’d not given it a solid chance.
But that’s what road trips are for, catching up. You’ve got time to marinate in new music, wait for it to reveal itself to you.
And to be honest, the Robbie Robertson album is not that palatable, you don’t put it on as background music, it’s made for fans, paying attention, so I was anxious about playing it. But this was long after she’d forgone editorial judgment on what I inserted into the Alpine deck.
So I played the cassette, which flipped sides automatically, unlike the Blaupunkt in my old car, and when the album was done…
I let it play again. I didn’t want to disturb the environment. I needed her help to find another cassette, I wasn’t sure whether she was asleep or awake in the seat next to me, so I let the album play.
And that’s when I discovered “Broken Arrow.”
Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain
That’s what relationships engender, trust, you can count on the other person to be there for you. But at this point, the track was delivering more than she was, listening I suddenly felt connected.
I want to come when you call
I’ll get to you if I have to crawl
They can’t hold me with these iron walls
We got mountains to climb
So the song is making me optimistic, even though all the signs pointed in the other direction. I’m the kind of guy who believes if I just put my nose to the grindstone, plow forward, I can get what my heart desires. But one of the pains of aging, one of the lessons, is finding out this is untrue. You can put all your effort in and still not get the result you want. And the problem is you get nowhere unless you make the effort, and so few do, so you believe that you’re special and have unique powers and then you find out you’re no different from anyone else.
Do you feel what I feel
Can we make that so it’s part of the deal
So I’m in a hotel that’s changed names, out in the desert for the inaugural SBK Records Convention, and the headliner was Wilson Phillips, who were going to make their debut, before their smash album was released. And they rotated the singers, so we got to sit next to each one of them, but the crowd was small enough that we got to mingle, so I went up to Michelle Phillips and uttered the above words.
She told me she didn’t sign anything without her lawyer anymore. I was stunned that she didn’t get the reference, that she didn’t know the track, but I was a product of the seventies, when we all knew the same stuff, but now this was untrue. Although she wrote her address on a matchbook so I could send her a letter.
I never heard back.
I didn’t expect to. But it was just another nail in the coffin of my optimism, a year and a half after my ex finally left.
I’ve been rebuilding my hope and confidence ever since.