hey now, take your change.
that’s one of the first lines in u2’s stay.
the first memory that comes to mind when i hear this song is the drive from montrose to grand junction to visit my mother’s family after my brother died. i plug in pretty much the moment we pull out of the driveway until we dump our bags wherever we’re staying — it’s how i deal with being in a box, whether it’s my father’s explorer or the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport or cramped in the window or middle seat on a flight (though to be honest, i’ve been pretty fortunate with the aisle seat lottery lately). i plug in to keep from having an anxiety attack. my mom’s complained about this on more than one occasion. she would prefer that i be communicative and attentive. i’d prefer to keep my sanity. i win. anyway… i remember hearing this song on that trek, and it suited my mood then. i was twenty-nine. the first chords put me back in that car, riding behind my father, looking out at a gloomy colorado.
then there’s that line. take your change. and i’m not in colorado anymore. i’m in san marcos. seven years younger. stupid, crazy in love with a boy we’ll call elliot. not a good man. not by any means. but he’d impressed me with his talent and confidence and wit and eyes — he has black eyes, like my grandmother’s. the first time my grandfather saw her, all he could see of her was her eyes, and he fell hard. the first time i saw elliot, i couldn’t help myself. i’m a sucker for pretty eyes and mad skills. the boy could play guitar better than anyone i knew. yeah. musician. i’m an idiot. i know. everybody else did, too. it was laughable in my circle of friends-who-weren’t-friends that i liked him. so san marcos. hasting’s entertainment — a video and music store. i’d gone to visit one of those friends-not-friends — we’ll call him ben — and his girlfriend. they’d insisted on watching caddyshack because i’d never seen it. so we took my car. i left my cigarettes at his apartment because he didn’t like me smoking. we were standing in line to pay for the rental. val kilmer was on the cover of premier magazine for batman forever. i’d said something about that. something about him being hot.
ben laughed and said i thought elliot was the love of your life.
i could’ve shrugged it off, except ben and i had gone to school together from fifth to eighth grade, and in junior high, when i’d asked him to sign my yearbook, he’d written to the love doctor… he and the rest of my peers were relentless then, always making fun of how ugly i was. the moment he said that, i was reminded of decades before. i started laughing to keep from crying.
the cashier was holding out the change she’d made. i couldn’t move. ben said get your change, jenn.
i said i realize you’ve never seen me upset so you don’t know how i get when i’m that way, so i’ll tell you: i start laughing hysterically, and i get incredibly sarcastic, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, i’m pissed. and i stormed out. i would’ve left them there. i would’ve gotten back in my car and made the three hour trek back to my solitary apartment in houston. but i let him drive my car, and he had the keys. i couldn’t smoke a cigarette. had to wait until we got back to his apartment. i sat in the rear, behind the passenger seat, as far away from him as i could, pressed into the side. i could hear his girlfriend whisper, why’d you say that? i could see him shake his head and mutter i don’t know. when we got back to his apartment, i snatched my cigarettes and went walking around the complex until the tears got the best of me, and i collapsed on some sidewalk. he found me. he apologized. we watched caddyshack. i remember chomping on tums like they were candy. i remember him watching me, worried.
so i’m reminded when i hear this song of how awful i am at loving. how careless. how thoughtless. and selfish.
the other day my father and i took a drive after dinner through some of the neighborhoods. it’s easier for me to ride in a car when i’m in the front. i can see out more easily. i don’t feel quite so claustrophobic. we had a nice chat. i enjoyed the time with him. but this one comment he’d made stuck with me. he said that i seemed less angry lately, more able to go with the flow, that i haven’t been fighting as much. he didn’t know if it was because of the medicine i’m taking or what, but he liked that i seemed happier.
i’m not fighting at all now. i wake up. i go about my day, and when it’s over, i crawl into bed. rinse. repeat.
stay with the demons you drown…
i have given up. people said you’ve to let go of things, to give up the plans you have for yourself so that the plans god has in store for you can come to be. i’m not writing. i go to work. i come home. i play on the computer. i eat. i get ready for bed. i pop my pills. i sleep. rinse. repeat.
and it’s not just my demons i drown now, but my dreams, too.