Here’s a confession:
When I was young my mother would sing to me while I fell asleep. She had a few songs that were staple. Of these my favorite was a James Taylor song called Sweet Baby James. Especially, I loved to hear the last part of the song:
There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway;
A song that they sing when they take to the sea;
A song that they sing about their home in the sky;
Baby you can believe it if it helps you to sleep;
But singing works just fine for me.
Goodnight you moonlight ladies;
Rock-a-bye sweet baby James;
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose;
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams;
and Rock-a-Bye sweet baby James.
I had been feeling lately like a sick dog then. As on all fours, locked into an empty heave above my own puddle. Embarrassed and helpless and muscles strung tight. There was nobody on the streets that late. After the bars close and near Laurelhurst Park where the streetlights and the lights from the cool houses shade a pale green dream when you’re lonely.
I was walking in the middle of the street and singing this last part of Sweet Baby James. When I began to feel restless walking I would break into a sprint; pushing my body to move faster to the point where I thought I might lose control, forget a movement, topple over myself into the street. The feeling of teeth cracking against the asphalt was a palpable fantasy. My mouth would water and jaw clench.
At the edge of the park I stopped. I saw something unexpected and maybe rare.
Once I took some mushrooms with Harrison and he played Kid A for me and i realized how genius those guys were. Methodical. Afterward we took a walk through the golfcourse near his apartment. In my trip the grass had flattened and would blossom in patches of cubes, little ripple explosions into the third dimension. What I saw in Laurelhurst park was that feeling. The curiosity leading up to release. When a child squeezes a grasshopper and sees that brown liquid and wonders at it and so squeezes another. The smell of a woman.
It was long past curfew of course. A police truck drove through the park on patrol. When I got to the tree where the night had seemed plaque static I stood for a long time, humming in the shadows. Building up the courage was exhilarating in itself. Catching glances at the houses I wondered if any of the darkened windows were faces that could see me. I knew they couldn’t.
The rest of the park was lit up by the tall fluorescents but this tree was a darkness on the lawn. First I took my off my shirt and waited for a change. Then my shoes, pants, and then the rest of my clothing.
I stood naked and looked out at the park, the city surrounding. There were people, certainly, in their homes that stood naked like I was, but the night was on my body. I felt happy like I once had before.