They were the best of times. I just wish somebody had taken a moment out of their busy day to tell me before they were gone. I looked into her eyes and this time I saw it, hiding there like a cat ready to finally hit the canary’s cage on one last leap. I’m ready to tell her about the best of times – how good it was and how nobody today could possibly understand. The long nights of youth when you were so close to having it all right, but the tiny, key bits you had wrong turned it all into a tragedy. And now, decades later, you’ve figured out the missing pieces but the original body was dead, never to be reclaimed. I was ready to tell her all that. Again.
But staring into her eyes I saw the moment when the canvas was ready to paint you instead of you taking the brush to it. She’d heard it all before. I’d tried to tell her, so many times, each one a failure on some small level. I never managed to get it across. Always coming close, but missing by those small key bits, just like the ones we missed in the Good Old Days. They were the important ones, almost within reach. But there was something stopping us from seeing them.
So close. Blood on the Tracks was playing in the background and we were certain… so gods damned certain, that Dylan had figured the whole thing out. He’d managed the puzzle and if we listened and applied the words it would all come clear. But it didn’t. It never did. Maybe Dylan was full of shit after all.
But I clung to it. Not “it” as such… not a real thing, but the memory of what I thought I had and somehow lost. The trouble with time is that it flows through your mind in the same way that a stream cuts away a river bank and adds to the other side in sedimentary deposits. It takes the bits you can’t stomach and replaces them with things not yours. Things you borrow from Dylan and Springsteen and Jane’s Addiction and When Harry Met Sally and Trainspotting. You let the bad pieces float away down the river until they were Somebody Else’s Problem and you replaced them with the debris of people who seem wiser but are probably just as fucked up as you are.
And then you find yourself in that room. You’re looking at her. The words well up in your throat. You’re going to find a way to make it all right.. to turn back the clock. You’re going to explain exactly what that little, key item was that you missed and, in doing so, you’ll make the world of the future a better place, even if you – like a latter day Moses – will never live to see the Promised Land.
Then I look in her eyes. She doesn’t see Moses looking back at her. She sees a sad old man who missed his chance and now wants to pin his sorrows on the breast of the next world like a funeral corsage for the Prom of the Dead. She sees through the mask. She’s heard all of your music, but she has new music of her own. She has her own answers. And the one reason she’s sure that she’s right is that she knows.. KNOWS in the most certain terms possible.. that you were wrong. You messed it up totally, but she’s seen through the feeble warts of the aged and found the right answer at last.
She doesn’t need you. She’s learned what she needs from you and discarded the refuse while keeping the golden bits. She’s ready to take on the world. She’s the new mirror looking into the old mirror.
And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a b-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free
Keep telling yourself that, sister. Enjoy the freedom. It comes at an awful price, but thankfully you won’t have to pay it for a while yet. The final price you pony up is to the ferryman, and the fare is two pennies. I wish I could take them from your eyes before you board, but that’s a task beyond any mortal.
Ride captain, ride, on your mystery ship. What the cartographers didn’t tell you was that there really is an edge out there, and someday you’re going to sail over it. Beyond that? Dragons. And they’re really not as romantic as the poets make them out to be.