I always wondered about the romanticism hidden within the precipitation; what natural phenomenon made any kind of kiss, dialogue or action set in the rain so much more important then an overcast or even blue sky. It’s dark, that’s a plus, this would make a great opening scene for an idie film: I’m sitting on top of a cold, grey concrete picnic table out front of the Otterbein College Campus Center, it’s a little after ten, chilly. I’ve just closed up shop for the night. Scribing these very words on my laptop, my fingers dance in the same bouncy fashion as the rain striking the ground all around me, it’s starting to make more sense.
Conor Oberst’s former music act, Bright Eyes is moaning some earthy toned “Landlocked Blues,” out of the cheap standard built in speakers standard in most Apple laptops. There’s kids playing guns in the street / one points his treebranch at me / I put my hands up / say enough is enough / and he shot me dead / I found a liquid cure / for my landlocked blues / it will pass away like a slow parade / it’s leavin but I can’t tell how soon” He chirps with that Arkansas drawl that mystifies teenage heart-throbs and listeners galore; a fact proved to me as recently as this month at the Conor Oberst and the Mystic River Band show I saw earlier...but that’s not my point. Although my point does lie in the lyrics.
He’s talking about alcohol. He’s talking about drowning himself in booze and finishing off his island of woes and problems, and it’s a dark, terrifying song when a kid can see through you enough to shoot you dead in the street. He’s talking about saying, “fuck it, take me,” and letting the slow, parade like process of passing away take over. It’s scary. Anyone that knows Conor Oberst, or Bright Eye’s music knows he’s driven by his addictions: lovers, drugs, alcohol. Most of which end with a toxicity point higher then he’d like to remember. His detox, a combined efforts of Bright Eye’s final album: “Casadega,” to the transformation to the Mystic River Band, Conor’s clean, now. “Landlocked Blues,” is a gem off of the album, “I’m Wide Awake, and It’s Morning,” which was my first Bright Eyes record. Maybe that’s why this rainy setting is washing me in overwhelming waves of nostalgia.
Like I said, he’s talking about alcohol, but I’m not. I’m talking about the rain, it’s my liquid cure. I’ve been sitting in a four walled office all day, hell, I could use some intangibles. I can see how perfect each droplet is: they know nothing of the ground, they’ve got no sense of our world. Rain is a social motion, as if one were to say to the other, “It’s all down from here,” but what is here anyways? Rain gets put down only to ascend back up; the perfect life cycle, right before my very imperfect eyes. They even hit the ground with grace, it’s not like an acorn falling, with a loud and fatal crack against pavement, or a body with that sickening thud followed most likely by some prepubescent cry for help. It’s just a patter, a relevant tapping that if synced up enough, sounds like a music box that’s four years out of tune. The tempo is universally consistent; I mean, the whole bunch might speed or or slow down, but that bad snare drum isn’t any more off then the rest of the orchestra so to speak.
It’s dark too. There are two light poles in front of me, not even on the street which I think would ruin this scene. One taller then the other, it’s almost like a bright yellow earth and moon, fogged by the rain burning off steam from the hot glass bulbs. It’s literally transfixing to stare into, overwhelming to contrast the ring of rainbow forming within the streaking pattern of downward falling sheets of rain, to the blackness around. After all, it is ten thirty in the middle of Ohio; no summer could last this late without superseding into night. There are two rows of trees, forming a walk way up to the front doors that are off to my right, so the effect is lost on me. Instead, I’m treated to a more scenic view: there is a patch of trees right in front of me, and through the wet mess of branches I can see the other row, and through that I can make out another lamp on the other side. That one’s a little eerie; vague almost. The outline of leaves is almost more definite then the lightbulb itself.
I shift my weight, growing slightly uncomfortable from sitting for almost a half hour of observation; the heavy table booms as it’s legs compensate for an inequality in the length of legs. It sounds like thunder but I’m wrong. I still wish it was. The thunder could be the simple country beat going alongside “Landlocked Blues,” and like that I snap back to my purpose of watching the scene in front of me play out: something in the marriage of this song and this rain is bothering me.
I look out into the street, almost nervous to find kids armed to the teeth with twigs, but there’s nothing but a small flowing creek of rain water making its way down Home Street. I take a moment to wonder if it’s flowing with the same amount of meandering fervor up by where I live, and how long it will take me to get home. The more I look at this makeshift ravine, the more the metaphor falls into place: here passes my slow parade. How long it will take to pass is reliant on how long the unstable Ohio weather wants to keep raining, which, could be any amount of time. I could use a cleanse anyway.
I’m going to put on Arcade Fire’s “Keep the Car Running” and go dance in the street.
Okay, so I played it twice, it wasn’t long enough to accomplish what I wanted too.
Yes it did, it was fucking magical.
I’m exhausted, part because it’s been a long day part because I really went for it out there. I’m breathing heavy, but it’s okay. It’s not the scary kind where there’s no chance for survival: hot air goes out, hot air comes in, the hopeless power struggle of breathlessness. It just feels nice, like every exhale is secretly an accomplished sigh, each breath in a cool comfort from the rainy air. It’s almost a blessing to be out here right now; I’m glad I’m sitting again.
I really do feel cleaner though, cleansed, pure. My liquid cure has proved itself to be a solid prescription. I also was able to identify my aliment. I’ve been suffering loneliness. It’s hard enough to identify yourself as half a person made complete in a relationship; imagine severing those bonds. And I mean, who hasn’t missed someone or something before, but it’s been getting harder and harder the closer I come to being reunited with my partner. I begin to wonder, to think terrifying thoughts:
Will I be less the person she remembers me as?
Will she have found someone better then me?
Will she realize how she could do better?
Will I have forgotten how to kiss her on the neck the way I know she loves?
And it begins to hurt, it makes sleeping hard, it makes staying awake a chore, it adds complication to something as simple as clear skies.
And then it all snaps into place in my head. Somewhere underneath the mat of damp hair the cogs of my imagination are turning and I’m not overanalyzing a perfect relationship towards troubled seas and dramatic icebergs surely big enough to sick our ocean-liner hearts steadfast on making port on time or early. I can even ignore the poppy Phantom Planet’s lo-fi “Lonely Day,” which reminds me every morning “I can tell from the minute I woke up it’s gonna be a lonely / lonely day / rise and shine rub the sleep out of my eyes and tell myself I can go back to bed.” As if I needed another reminder, but I can face facts: she’s gone, for a long time, and she’s pretty far away, and I can’t really cross state lines easily. Or make it to New England.
But this rain, this on and off rain. It’s as inconsistent as lines on an equalizer when I play music too loudly, something about it is having no problems washing my troubles away. I listen a little bit closer to Phantom Planet, “Even though the sun is shining down on me and I should feel about as happy as can be / I just got here and I already want to leave” and I realize, freaking Phantom Planet gets it, why can’t I?
That romance under a full sun and blue skies bullshit has never been my thing. We kiss in the dark, lying in the grass, under the moon, in the rain. And I am satisfied with my liquid cure.
I turn around in my mind, completely cleansed with an after sense of euphoria as the rain, not only for the purposes of this essay but also luring me out of cover and into the street. My toes are still wet, but my almost-dry shoulders are collecting warmth from the lamps. The poles are like their own black and plastic Atlases, bearing worlds of illumination above them. I see nothing but light in these worlds: moments of joy, sadness, loneliness.
“Put ‘em up! Reach for the stars! One move and I’ll blast you dead!”
There is an army of children surrounding me; armed like a mob of insurgents with sticks, branches, trees they’ve pulled out of the moist earth and all aimed directly at me. Shit, I think, this is my moment, do or die or these kids are going to see right through me and pop me once in the heart and once in the head. I am struck with a moral decision: I can show weakness like poor ballad crooning Conor Oberst, find refuge in the bottle and let this children’s gun game overpower me; or I can rationalize, give definition to my attackers.
I turn the tables, satirize and critique the very creation of my mind that is attacking me. Each acorn and branch that strikes me is my own poking sense of longing. Loneliness is the forest that has taken root and seed in my heart and spread around my whole condition. I analyze in the silence and comfort of friends’ company days after the events of the rain, and the dance, and the songs that generate some kind of dramatic thought process thinking me down my way into the jungle of absence; I realize.
The rain is something beautiful, as pretty as a scene of reunion that I will undoubtedly see in a few days. It is my liquid cure, my detox from the unavoidable armies of loneliness that has been assaulting my heart. No amount of comforting sunshine can was that away like the rain can. I walk confidently to the beat of the slow parade, be it the racing pools of hopeful water dreaming of conception with fertile grass, or the busy rush of catching a Connecticut-bound airplane in the early morning in Columbus.
My Landlocked Blues are simple and obvious, I miss my partner. Something every couple should suffer but never for too long. I’ve done a fairly effective job in realizing this that I should avoid the whole, ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder,’ bullshit. But it’s true, it’s like the question Shakespeare poses with Romeo and Juliet, ‘is it better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all?’
I have both, loved and lost, and never loved at all. I am content with this absence in the long term consideration of a lifetime. Fonder? Absolutely, but I feel like any good couple shouldn’t have to endure some agonizing trial like this to determine their fidelity and commitment to each other.
I dream of an ocean, a visualization to help the metaphor this song generates going. I am on a small island, but unlike the tropic paradise the mind would usually see, it is a city block, cold, rainy, Chicago by the factory row in the winter; and just that. The rest is a tempest f rising waters. It begins to rain and I am worried about drowning in my isolation; then I realize and accept that it is just my love, as she saturates me and cleanses my sadness away. The city block becomes more opportune, Broadway not Cannery Row and I realize I am at him with her in this perciptation. The globes are glowing, those noble Atlases’ holding the weight of light to keep the darkness from negating my sudden happy thoughts. I am missing her but, she isn’t gone. Poor Conor Oberst had a different opinion on the matter: his solution was not patience, silence, loneliness, his was an alcoholic binge. But that’s not my story to tell, it is a drama that belongs to him.
So listen to his “Landlocked Blues,” once you’ve finished mine.