You Don’t Need Thomas Wolfe To Know You Can’t Go Home Again-Redux
Damn memory twist. Damn memory stick. No, not the techno-gismo gadget, the old noggin, noodle, gray matter or whatever you call the place, the dark hidden place mainly, where memory haunts you every once in a while. And won’t let go of you. Won’t let go of you like it will not let go of me lately. Damn stick.
Who knows when you first realized that, to use Thomas Wolfe’s book title as reference and refrain, you can’t go home again ever, even in deep memory recess, in deep memory haunt. Certainly it was not when you were young, a mere child, memories then came and went like the flittering light, or like some unwashed foam-flecked ocean wave receding as fast as it hit the receiving shore sand. Later, in young adult time, you were just too freaking busy, busy making the stuff of memories, to actually pay attention. So, maybe, it works like this once you get that memory bank filled and overflowing filled they come back, come back in memory haunt fashion. All I know is that a few years back, bank filled or not, I felt that old time feeling, and worst, tried to do something about it. Tried to change the course of events already etched in stone, to rewrite history if you like. Silly me, although easier to say now than then.
See, memory makes no sense, makes no stored-away sense, unless it can be properly subjected to certain tests. The could have, would have, should have tests. Like a penitent reprobate you think through, seriously think through, a variation of the theme of how you could have kept that old chestnut from Sunday school times about obeying and honoring parents and kin better. Stuff like that. Hey, after all that is where you got your memory chance anyway. And probably, like me, you have your armful of regrets about why you missed this thing and that, did or did not do the other thing. But I am here to speak of no avails, no avails at all when the deal goes down.
The storm and stress of any growing up absurd in any period in America (or anywhere else for that matter but I am here so I will keep it narrow) need not detain us here. You know the where-were-you-late last night-did-you-know-Johnny- X-did-(or didn’t)- do-this-or-that-what-are-you-going-to-make-of-your-life, and I have run out of hyphens drill. The maddened jail break-out from the home nest has taken many forms, especially in the 1960s, but the fall-out lasted much longer, much, much longer. Then just when you were ready to call a truce, an adult to adult armed truce, ten thousand childhood foam-flecked ocean wave came washing to shore and you had to start over from square one. Then some dark shadow time hovered over the earth and you didn’t get to observe that truce, or anything else. Then you realized, you finally realized, that some hurts, harms, and just plain orneriness could not (the could have test, see) have been resolved this side of heaven’s door. It was just too basic, to primordial to get resolved. Next.
A scrabble. Two young tow-headed boys, fast friend and fierce enemies, walking along the hard-scrabble beach throwing stones, really trying to skip stones to see who can skip their stone the farthest. Eighteen young boys haphazardly “bucking up” sides in a game of baseball, a nineteenth boy left out. One young boy, walking, endlessly walking, in the 1950s fetid sweaty shirt night, passes a certain she’s house afraid to glance in the window for fear of discovery. Another boy, a little older, walking some fugitive streets mulling over this or that endless question, that endless he-she question. A teenage boy, late at night, yet another sultry sticky summer’s night, clad in tee-shirt, Chuck Taylor sneakers (no knock-offs either), black of course, long, un-cuffed chino pants runs dustbowl oval laps in search of glory. Two teenage boys, one clad in tee-shirt, Chuck Taylor sneakers, black of course, and those vagrant black, un-cuffed chinos, the other a variation of the same, sit on the steps of some granite-gray high school and talk of dreams, small dreams but dreams. A teenage boy, the Chuck Taylor-shod boy, does not drive a ’57 Chevy, does not belong to the school great books club where he might find kindred spirits, does not belong to the glee club, does not go to the senior prom, and, emphatically does not go on Saturday night, honey she girl in tow, to watch the “submarine” race down at that eternal foam-flecked wave ocean swells beach. And no amount of later money, no amount of time, early or late, and no amount of desire, ditto, can change that. None. Next
Two teenage boys, one clad in tee-shirt, Chuck Taylor sneakers, black of course in the 1960s night, and those vagrant black, un-cuffed chinos, the other a variation of the same, except no Chucks, some sleek-toed running shoes, sit on the steps of some granite-gray high school and talk of dreams, small dreams, inconsequential, but dreams. Well, maybe no so small dreams but small expectations. But with a fierce desire to get out from under, under hard rocks, and the key is to run, run like there was no mercy in the world. One boy, the Chuck Taylor sneaker-less boy, ran like the demons and had his glory, his fifteen minutes, although he did not know that was what he had had then. He thought he could fuel himself forever on such fumes, and crashed. The other, ran like he was running in cement, just hardening cement, but he had big dreams, big social dreams anyway, and he never did get his fifteen minutes of fame. Secret: he didn’t need them although he desperately wanted them, wanted his hero moment. And, maybe, when the great Mandela made its unseemly turn, that was why that schoolboy-shared memory on granite-gray steps could never sustain ancient times, or should have. Next
An old man, a 2009 old man if you must know although the year only framed the frenzy, an overwrought man, endlessly pacing within a few feet parameter, endlessly speaking of Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans, maybe Trigger too, who knows, as if they were right in front of him, nodded to another man, a little younger but still old, 2009 old, and who rolled his eyes every time a reference was made Roy, Dale, The Cisco Kid, or some Annie Oakley of the older man’s mind. The younger man, who had known the older man in his youth, known him well, although they had not spoken for many years, started to speak about some movie, some movie like The Gladiator just to change the topic. The older man, listened for a few seconds, then spoke of black and white television cowgirls and their fates, maybe Belle Starr, old-time rustlers and desperadoes, and occasionally of black-hatted Hopalong Cassidy. The younger man, sensing an opening, spoke of Neal Cassady. Who? Futile. Totally futile. Next
A young man, brown hair starting to fill out, a brown beard starting to go beyond wisp, sporting slightly scuffed high-top black boots, hell army boots, denim bell-bottomed trousers, army-jacket one size too large, always one size too large, stared across the great hall. The garment “style” just described reflecting a recent discharge from some army, some shooting army, that aimed to join another less rigid army, if less rigid are the right words for the explosion among the young of his generation, the generation of ’68. He eyed, fierce piercing goy blue-eyes that spoke of ancient sadnesses and a little treachery eyed, a young woman on the other side of the room, a dark-haired, pert, petite young woman, who was also present at that same umpteenth helter-skelter workshop to save this or that part of this wicked old world. And she eyed him right back. And they kept eying each other through immediate snows, gentle first kisses, leafy bikes rides, be-bop dead of night drug hazes, east coast hitch-hike trips, massive explorations of the blue-pink great American West night, some misunderstandings, some serious misunderstandings, some rages against the night, some double rages against the day and night, some fitful irresolute break-ups, some infidelities (agreed to, or not), some two-roads-taken, and then, strictly reflecting that young man’s broken-down sense of the world, silence, no more words spoken, in anger or otherwise. Except later, much later, some cosmic message spoken by him speaking of that helter-skelter meeting, the snowy night, the walk, and the “moment” when he first held her firmly, to keep her from falling, without a kiss, but with an understanding that their stars had crossed, and he, they, knew some high adventure was ahead. The unadorned cosmic message was all that was left. What hadn’t he had the sense to have a sense of her and kiss her right there in those immediate falling snows? Next.
No, no next, didn’t you get it, you can’t go home again.