I went back to the places I grew up and played music for a friend of mine. I played the best songs that I knew with the new chords that I had just found and owned. He called them beautiful and he felt inadiquate. I told him that he wasn’t and asked him to play for me, which he did.
He played me something sad, and then I played him something even sadder. He showed me the stories he had been working on in his head and I showed him the ones that were being tattooed on the printer paper that only ever saw my block letters.
We shared those moments on a dark winter night and we mourned the loss of the freedom we knew in high school. His sister, who knew me longer than just about anyone kept asking me to play more, so I did. I played the song that questioned her god and she got quiet and reflective. We both knew that we had become someone different. That our scars had taken us to different places in the lonely college nights.
I remember how their house always smelled like rain, and how the sadness of their father’s death always hung around the kitchen and the family room. I remember how we would talk about books and movies and music and always end up somewhere more meaningful.
The winter holidays are melancholy if you let them be. And they are giving and hopeful if that is what you feel.
I don’t wish to be back there or to know who those people were back then. I do miss the music, though. I miss staying up late and talking about the things that I have written that only a few other people had heard before.
Every time I go back to the beginning of the year, I feel as though I have to own it. I feel as though I have to commit it to memory as the year that was mine. And every year, I make a promise to be honest and hold up my end of the bargains I commit to.
I kissed my friend’s sister once, too. Just one night, and it was not something we ever talked about again. I went back to my college and she went back to hers and we knew that if we were different people and needed different things that we would be perfect for one another. As it was, though, she was just the one that knew what was in my voice. She knew when I held on to lies and when I let go of the truth.
These special spaces I make now and think through aren’t the warm ones of my youth. They are calculated and spacious. They have enough room for anyone, and they don’t fold in on themselves when given half a chance and disappear.
When I was young, I pursued the cold reality that I knew was somewhere else. Now, I know that everything I care about I can hold in my hands. It wasn’t a mistake to leave the guitar in the corner. I am singing out these songs without the need to fret my fingers.