Ghost of Christmas Past (from Poems from a Garden Wall) link fixed
January 30, 1982
People never really change.
They roam the same avenues searching for the same versions of love.
Here, it is all about one night stands, and uninspired pick up lines shouted over too loud guitars while pretending to dance in tight pants.
Tonight, I saw one of the girls from the old band hanging out at the bar.
“Love is a cock,” she said slurring all four words. “It’s any guy who’ll buy me drinks and take me home, even if home is a motel.”
Years ago, she was in love with the lead guitarist of a three-piece band I worked with, and now hangs out at a slum bar in Passaic, drowning herself in booze because she never got the man she wanted even in the glorious old days, and always had to settle for other men who lured her with white lies, and white lines.
I’m the ghost of the past who happened to pop up in her life at an unexpected time, bringing pain only because I remind her of the man she still can’t have since he’s (un) happily married in some other state.
So she lets me buy her drinks but with no understanding that it will lead anywhere, and I’m kind of happy about that, since back in those days, I played a similar role, filling in at the bar until another man came into the picture she could use without feeling anything. She didn’t want to spoil the real thing with a man like me since I’m more than just her version of love, and always will be.
Since then, she’s developed a nervous tick, and eventually, starts to smile at some younger guy across the bar, a guy who won’t smile back because he has other ideas with someone else.
When she finally finds someone promising, I move down to the other end of the bar, and continue to watch her although it is clear she has forgotten me.
Her phony laughter rises over the loud talk and music, and I know she is really crying inside.
There’s no room for kindness in these kinds of places or subtly, and so when he makes his move, she nods and picks up her purse from the bar, giving the room one last glance and then cringes when she sees me.
There’s no cure. There’s only trial and error, and mostly error, her soft blonde hair now nearly brittle white, like a silver crown over her leather attire – which hugs her frame like a second skin.
The only love she will ever find either comes behind a zipper or at the bottom of a bottle.
And here I am more than a month after Christmas, playing the role of ghost, dragging her if only briefly back to that moment when she still had hope.
When she finally makes her way out, she lets the door slam, and we both know she won’t ever come back to this bar, needing no ghost like me to remind her of what she can never have.