You drove out. Towns off the highway threw whorls of light through the air like immense, slumbering Archangels. You were the only person on this road, passing underneath flash flood rain. Trees were down, their branches and mossy leaves smashed on asphault, but no authority had yet been issued to remove the organic debris. In the acceleration of headlights the contents of the sky roved vertically like sand being windblown inside a desert of glass. Where were you going? It’s almost impossible to remember now. Just over, under, or between a faraway twist or lurch was your destination. There may or may not have been someone waiting for you. A young woman, a girl. A great experiencer. She had begun to rely on you to fulfill every need of hers save the carnal. That responsibility belonged to a strapping, suspicious man who had nearly killed her in at least three car accidents he caused but gave himself conveniently temporary amnesia to forget. She was with him, had been with him, because she was young, in the parlance of under-the-counter periodicals she was “Barely Legal.” Somehow she had ended up in a different town accessable only by Mass Pike or backroad. She had called you. You almost didn’t come. She had ceased the near endless, intense communication that had developed between the two of you over the last few months under the snowy nose of her perpetually, void-fillingly angry inamorata. You write her off as decaying potential and left her to their drug nest till the night of the phone call. She was alone, she needed someone to come and get her. She told you she had missed your stolen time together going to bookstores and telling each other things the other didn’t know, mostly her giving you detailed information about her studies of the occult. She missed your book recommendations and still promised to get to Survivor and Can You Feel The Silence? She had things she needed to tell “you” and only “you.” But you had to face the trechery to get her. You got the feeling, pulling your car into the night, that she would have called her boyfriend if the weather was not so harsh. In these conditions, with his driving skills, she wouldn’t make it home alive.
You never planned on having a blog. In the penultimate hour of 2011 you began it rather quickly after on-and-off inspiration. You were very sad. Two losses weighed you down, one concrete and the other more densely ephemeral. You didn’t have to launch it. You could have readied for another year of the same anonymous moviegoing and erratic reading that defined the year just tipping away. But the losses had erected choirs of chalk scratching anti-music in a brain that always needed rescue from permanent annihilation. So you created a blog and posted an essay about a movie that actually scared you when so few movies had. The essay itself was hastily finished on the night for sake of content; despite the praise it later received, you were never satisfied with it. Yet in the process of making the blog and sharing the piece the choir was for the moment muted. It was raining then, too. From a ghost to a ghost.
That single essay was meant to be it. You thought about updating the blog every few weeks, maybe even once every two months or so. There was an epiphany that night involving a young woman who tended bar in a popular restaurant nearby. Your family frequented the place and they kept insisting she had a crush on you. You didn’t think about it very much, but she was nice and pretty and the few times you spoke you found shared interests. The last time you talked she asked to borrow a book about the Grateful Dead you had been reading. By the last night of the year that particular volume had been finished, and after throwing together a blog you spied it on the bookshelf and decided on a course of action: you would ask her out, tonight, in the very now.
She said yes. A few days later she got back with an old boyfriend. It didn’t hang on you because you had only done it in the first place to reroute the screams of your choir. If you had ended up together you wouldn’t have paid the blog much thought. But you were back on your own, a planet you knew and could thrive on. The toss-off became your new religion. You prayed and drank daily.
Your gang had made a home of sorts, congregating once a week at the Barnes and Noble two towns over. She was a welcome friendship for you guys, however unlikely it worked. She had a life in that broken sprawling town, and you and the guys went there all the time to escape immediate vicinities. You saw movies with her, but you were all never happier than when you were ensconced inside that local plastic jewel of the chain. It was a second rate Barnes compared to the Holyoke location, at least as your lofty standards for exhaustive inventory demanded, but it didn’t matter as you always came with your own book anyway, and your gang needed Starbucks fuel. She bought hotter drinks, while you and the rest sipped candy cream frappechinos. They would sometimes wonder off together and you would pick a plush chair as your nook to safely read your beloved pop criticism and contemporary whacked-out fiction before gazing up to watch them languidly pace back your way.
Your gang wanted to make time last there. They ordered more drinks. You sat on a bench outside together and they would talk about life and people as you fixed your vision on a point in the distance, smokestack detritus, and when you felt like it you joined in but for the most part you just stared and sipped.
In your little corner of the world (-Yo La Tengo) the gang welcomed flash flood rainstorms because that granted them permission to stay in the bookstore longer, an extra hour, the rest of the night maybe. Each wet drop was a hand around all of your waists. Terrors waited outside, interior terrors for you and who knew what varieties for your companions, terrors abounded. The light and the books were a Good Place for you all who needed one. Protection was ensured. In little under a year the B&N would close and get gutted, replaced by a Huck Finn’s Warehouse. She was busy and you were sick thus your gang couldn’t make it for one last wavelength. Can a place be a nucleolus for friendship? It must be, because you didn’t see her after they demolished the last bookstore in the region. Your friends searched in vain--through gravel, smiles and discount hovels--for a new Good Place. Drenched, they never found it.
Deadheads referred to the song “Dark Star” as “IT” after the 19-minute composition became rare in the band’s live repertoire. The shadowed mass awaited it breathlessly. “Jack Straw” wasn’t the same. “China Cat Sunflower” wasn’t enough. “He’s Gone” wasn’t enough. Something happened to the loyal shadowed country of amorous ears. Select band members, Weir, Pigpen, would talk about men leaving their women behind forever when the song began. Others would melt into the ground or melt into each other to form gelatinous new humans. Women kissing their men would be impregnated by that one simple kiss. Confederate soldiers would stay and listen and not attempt to reenter the linear tear. It was a naked audience, clothes inferior to Dark Star. Rainfall drowned them but also made them whole and new. “It’s coming,” they would tell each other when the chords of a new song made jetfires across the night. “It’s coming, it’s Dark Star.” Either they would get bitterly disappointed or else they were right, generations before and since would know Dark Star swallowed them whole.
So. Was she the Dark Star in your life, or were you more likely the Dark Star in hers? You know I’m not talking about just one person.
For nearly three months you were a crestfallen machine. There was born a sudden new urgency. Every opinion you’d left unsaid over the years came blattering out. Every week brought a new essay, one finished and posted before you even realized you had started working on it. Speculative riffing on pornography, horror fiction, snuff films, songs, bodies, failure and planets, all coded meditations on your own caved-in heart. You were always good at hiding.