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November 7, 2009

My Conway Twitty voice says, "Happy Birthday, Darlin"

When Lark and I were living together in Tennessee we were in a teensy place, a single room with a bathroom and no kitchen. It was an apartment carved out of one of those great antebellum mansions that dot the southern landscape, divvied up into little spaces for starving students and singles on a budget. I have no idea what we did for meals, I don't remember, back then I was so less concerned about my stuff, my routines, I was too young to have formed any. I think we had a dorm fridge and a microwave. I guess back then we ate less and smoked more.

I had long blonde hair and wore patchouli and broomstick skirts and Lark was a rock star, the most famous person any of us knew, and he and I lived in squalor in this little place with candles and all my stuff and my first cat, Isabella. Little apartment on Main Street.

Every night I worked at the college bar, either manning the front door taking money and checking IDs (a strange job for someone not 21 years old yet) or I worked behind the bar serving draft beer and taking tips in a jar. Lark melted into the background during the first set of the opening act, later he seemed to spring fully-formed from the stage curtains, a tall, dark superstar in our midst. He worked the crowd, singing with his guitar and making the people sway, dance, sing along. He was a celebrity. Girls used to fawn over him after shows and I got jealous and angry and closed-up tight like a fist. All the guys knew the words to his songs and wore their jeans frayed and patched like his and they smoked like chimneys and none of them asked me out because they knew I was his girl.

I don't know how I was unhappy and happy at the same time but there you have it. The apartment had bugs and we'd sleep with the lights on because I was so scared they'd get in my hair. Even then I was particular and tidy, one weekend I set off five foggers in our tiny apartment and forgot to warn the other residents in the house and they thought they were being assaulted by chemicals (they were.) That same summer our hot water get shut off and bathing became a painful excursion into the cold. Lark and the band were recording in the studio every night until dawn, so after I ended my shift at the bar I'd go with him to the warren of soundproofed rooms and while he was singing and the band played I'd go into the ladies room -- it was completely empty at 3 a.m. -- and I'd run the hot water in the sink and wash my hair, shave my legs, and afterwards clean every spot of water off the countertop so no one could guess I'd been there. The soundproofing couldn't contain him. I could hear his voice carry through the vents as I washed my long hair in the sink, my entire decade's soundtrack formed by the one person I can say I loved and never lost.

Many of my girlfriends stay in touch with old boyfriends, old lovers, they email or correspond now and then. One of my friends even went on vacation with an ex-boyfriend recently. It's incomprehensible to me. I have always burned my bridges so thoroughly that no one ever speaks again, I cannot name one single ex-lover I stay in contact with but Lark. We're like a persistent cold, cropping up from time to time in the loneliest hours. Of all the people who have seen me undress and slept beside me he is the only one I still speak to.

He's a big-time music video producer now and I'm whatever I am, and sometimes we talk about packing up and moving back to Nashville and renting one of those old haunted houses and just for one year stepping back in time. Doing the unthinkable, re-creating lost youth. Fuck it, if anyone can do it it's me and Lark. I'm not sold all the way yet because I'm not even halfway there, I can't get my head out of L.A. and I can't get out of traffic and I'm in this apartment that costs a fortune and I'm still one foot into the future like always, wondering if tomorrow my fortunes will change as they are wont to do. It's that kind of town. But like they say, Nashville is just Los Angeles without a tan.

The memory of a love like that is hard to resist. How do you ever get over a true love, especially with a voice like that? Have you ever had someone write a song for you? Not just a good song or a sweet song, but a GREAT song? It's intoxication. It's pure addiction. I can't carry a tune in a bucket but there's a darkened, stealthy star singing my song. Who gets over that?

I never rule out anything. Maybe one day we'll do the impossible or maybe we'll always be fond long-distance friends, but everything in between is smooth and comfortable, like only someone who has known you twenty years can be. We talk about 'maybe' because it keeps a door open. I call him when I am two sheets to the wind and wishing I had accomplished more. I always know he will pick up the phone, and he'll exhale and call me darlin' in that voice, the one that seeped through all the vents and ducts at the recording studio and was the soundtrack to my life for ten years and a day.

He's not perfect. Don't get thinking he is. But he is the only one I hold on to and that means something. Today is his birthday, young as always, a voice that never ever changes.

Happy Birthday, Lark. Hope your show at 12 & Porter is luscious, I hope one of those A&R people try to seduce you like they do, I hope you get the hotel key of the prettiest girl. And when you are onstage, sing my second favorite song, Truth. It's no Dark Heart but damn it's a good song.

Truth and lies, that's all you need.

Download it: Truth download the mp3

More songs here.

Posted by laurie at November 7, 2009 9:44 PM