They remain unfinished lyrics to what was shaping up to be a country-western song. The working title, “Early in the Mourning,” emerged from my mind as I pondered how long I might feel the combination of sorrow, guilt, and myriad other emotions enveloping me. Initially, as I mused about whether this turbulent storm of emotions might ever end, the title seemed appropriate for an essay. But as I thought more about it, and slipped deeper into a depressed mood, the more it sounded to me like the shrapnel of discarded song lyrics. I find myself attracted to lyrics that tell a story, even maudlin lyrics bathed in self-pity. I think that’s the appeal of country-western music; it is story-telling to a catchy tune. The elusive catchy tune, though, can make or break an otherwise decent set of lyrics—in my opinion. There’s the rub. If my opinion amounted to anything of substance, I might be a country-western music promoter. “Promoter.” The word reeks of rotted capitalism, doesn’t it? Well, yes, I believe it does. Music promoters work to mold products around public desire. But that’s an unfair description to pin on people whose only sins relate to making a living off meeting the public’s demand for poetry accompanied by a tune.
Here is the first verse of the unfinished song:
When I woke up early in the mourning,
my eyes were salted shut.
My tears had flowed and left a solid track.
I tried and tried to dry them,
but they just kept right on flowing;
‘Cause I knew that you were never coming back.
There was more, but I decided audiences might overlook the clever wordplay. And I couldn’t stem the flow of salt. Maybe I’ll come back to this later. Maybe not. I started another piece long ago but abandoned it when I decided it was going nowhere. It was called “Bad Poetry.” It started out like this:
Bad poetry smothers empathy with a pillow of ill-formed phrases.
Bad poetry digests the imagination the way a snake eats a rat.
Bad poetry causes people to drown tires and slash kittens.
It didn’t even begin to fit into a musical pattern. There are ample reasons I am not living in Nashville, turning down recording contracts right and left.
Yesterday, I attempted to reach an attorney to discuss various matters about which I thought I might need professional advice. I haven’t received a return call yet. I suspect the lack of a return call might have something to do with the fact that 85% of the American public is taking time off between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The 85% figure is a figment of my overactive imagination. But, still. I remember my years of owning a business; the only time I could get away was that one week period, when I closed the business for the duration. It was an easy decision. None of my clients were active during that week. In fact, none were reachable. I could have used the week to get caught up. Instead, I used the week to breathe. And my staff were forced to take one of their two weeks of paid vacation time during that period. I required them to breathe, as well. In hindsight, I probably should have given them two weeks of vacation in addition to the forced one-week respite. And I would have done so, if not for the demands of my clients. If I had it all to do over again, I would do things differently. Not just work, either. I would be a better person all the way around. Now that it’s too late, it’s easy to promise it all would have been different. I have no idea why this paragraph found its way onto the screen. I think my fingers sprung a leak.
Yesterday (or was it the day before?), I spoke to a woman I once considered a good friend. I had not spoken to her in a very long time. Her Chicago/Midwest accent was startling to me, despite the fact that it had not changed since I knew her. Something about it, though, was disturbing. Or maybe it wasn’t the accent as much as it was her demeanor; an air of patronizing superiority. The accent was the same, but the attitude seemed very different. I doubt she changed, though. I think, instead, I have become more attuned to how very grating it has always been. I kept hearing her say “you should…” do such and such, as if she had answers that someone of my lowly station could not possibly find on my own. Though I was polite, I could not get off the phone quickly enough. I ended the phone call with “I wish you all the best.” I hope that conveyed the message I intended to convey; that the conversation was the last one I plan to have with her.
Ach. I want to live according to this philosophy: “Everyone you meet is facing a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” But I fail to live my wishes. Who knows what she might have been dealing with? At the time, it did not enter my mind; I simply wanted to close a chapter. It’s not enough to want to be good. If I do not behave the way I claim to want to be, I am at minimum a hypocrite.
Some days, and this is shaping up to be one of them, I would like nothing better than to curl up in bed and sleep until dark. But that is not going to happen. So, I might as well continue sliding into the day.