A Verbal Agreement

April 29, 2012

My Dear Ones,

On the morning before everything changed
I took a breath, contemplated the day ahead with optimism.
We were on the road in one of those two-bedroom/living room/kitchen suites at a Residence Inn in Massachusetts.
We had one gig and a whole week to revive before Arizona.
We were going to drive across. My sense of adventure was to be sated.
We were going to stop at places on the way.
October in New England ~ Autumn leaves. The colors of fall. I wandered into the living room area and noticed a note on the desk ~ it was Peter’s writing ~ it in essence said Melanie and Beau--thank you for the time I’ve had with you. Angels are always with you ~ I love you forever.
It was a bit more of a proclamation and in his best handwriting. Nothing but this to signal a final farewell ~ when you’re not looking for signs, you can miss them. He wrote love notes regularly. Yes, and many over the top. Sometimes on the bathroom mirror in soap, which I was left to wash off, but didn’t complain. I re-read the note, made coffee. When he called me upstairs, I commented on the beautiful note and told him I only needed to make one spelling correction. And with pride, he said “you really liked it?” “Yes it was beautiful.” And I commented on the handwriting. He was in the lobby making calls. He didn’t like me listening to the business calls. He thought certain conversations concerning me would give cause to worry. And he said it was just business.
We were going to go shopping.
Room food ~ some cosmetics and he needed to upgrade his phone. Now, hours go by and he’s still on the phones. He would always pluralize even if it was just one phone.
Mostly, there were more ~ many times, there would be a phone on each of his ears.

I am not in that deep grief at this point.
I am able to function with a bit more clarity.
I can’t tell you there isn’t a serious lump in my throat right now.
I won’t say my eyes are dry but I am alive and life is for the living, as my friend Jim Kaufman told me, and I repeat as litany.
It’s a deal we made, a promise we fulfill.
So October 27th, 2010, a day after everything changed, “Here’s something. Take this.” ~ I put these pills in my vitamin box ~ it was good to know they were there. “There is a support group, grief counseling.”
“Oh, okay” ~ it’s good to know it’s there.
I did start meditating ~ I do chant, especially when I forget to breathe.
It’s important to breathe through it.
And then I am okay.

We drove. Me, Beau and the woman who always wanted to see Route 66, with Peter’s remains in the car.
We drove and drove and then we drove further.
And then we drove some more.
Beau, who had never driven, and the woman, took shifts.
And the sightseeing part is in my memory, slightly nightmarish.
The World’s Largest Rocking Chair.
Route 66, the restaurant-souvenir shop.
Route 66, where we waited for our second driver.
She doesn’t have a name, it wasn’t pleasant.
We checked into motels, bringing the ashes with us at each check-in. Beau and I going to bed in a huddle of tears and fitful sleep. Going on and on ~ Route 66 to Phoenix where Peter had booked shows.
It’s that dark carnival scene in the movie where the music goes sour. Agony set against the backdrop of celebration. The extreme suffering of two people, zombie-like, going through the motions, ordering food which made me want to throw up ~ but I didn’t.
I didn’t take the pills ~ I read excerpts from “how to deal with grief” books, unsatisfying ~ empty.
Leaving me to wonder ~ the deal, wasn’t it just a verbal agreement?

Arizona ~ we were going to move to Arizona ~ Peter said we’d look for a new place to live in Arizona.
Now we’re here. We do the shows ~ we’re brilliant.
I feel you’re there with us.
Jeordie is in Arizona.
Leilah is in Nashville sorting out the business or lack of. St. Dorothy dealing with Peter’s mom. We hadn’t told her yet. “Why Pete no callum?” ~ He always calls his “Mommo”.
I couldn’t. Mostly I couldn’t speak at all. I could only sing.
Arizona. Yay. Hooray.
I wake up in someone’s house. Samm and Mike, the good-hearted friends of Jeordie.
They smoke. We cough.
They offer me their bedroom.

I hold out my little fingers. I’m reaching.
I’m at the mercy of time and space.
I’m on a ride I can’t get off.
I reach. I would gladly leave this everywhere I am in. But I made a deal, even if it is a verbal agreement.
I’ve heard the expression “sacred contract”.
God, why do I have to believe in such a thing ~ again I reach out. My fingers, they touch ~ “Oh, hello. I’m Melanie. You are Jim Kaufman. Oh, thank you.” The first higher ground my fingers touch ~ then my bubble stretches with the reach of tiny fingers, and it’s Jodi Floyd, a most unique angel with an edge, offering sanctuary and I live in Arizona ~

Now, one year later, the screen reads “one year later” ~ I’m in Nashville and doing gigs. I’ve gone through four agents and one foreclosure. I make mistakes. I am far away from the one who was protected from upsetting business calls. I am actually making and receiving them myself.
When I speak, it’s a character I play. In this mode, I can do it. Mostly without crying. Sometimes it takes a few beats of holding my breath ~ the scream of a pregnant pause.

I have to leave Jodi’s ~ I am afraid ~ we put Peter to rest in Sedona.
My heart is in Arizona, my car is going to leave the 101 South.
We’re going to leave the first sanctuary. Jodi said we can go back anytime, but I don’t want to leave.
I don’t live anywhere, I am on the road.
I don’t have the right personality to be a gypsy. Peter was the true gypsy ~ his mom was a gypsy. He was a refugee.
I’m a New Yorker. I like to say that as if it were true.
Beau is Southern.
Goodbye Jim, Jodi, Jeordie ~ Peter ~ my little fingers reach and I hold onto the past-expiration-date pills, the thoughts of therapy ~ I chant and meditate and sing, ‘cause you can’t keep crying all the time.
I’ve written this before, my dear ones. I’ll probably write it again.

Love,
Melanie

Feel for me 
feel for me
when I’m gone
I’m not another empty space
I’ll hear your voice from a million miles away
So darlin’, feel for me
I used to live gypsy style
eight in the back and I’m up next to the driver
I put my foot on the brake
but I just keep on ridin’
So darlin’, feel for me