“Truth gets well if she is run over by a locomotive, while error dies of lockjaw if she scratches her finger” -William C. Bryant
Who isn’t a fool for some good old fashioned symbolism and foreshadowing? Hell if I know. But I knew somehow that, based on my own foolish obsession with old steam locomotives, the first time I saw that actual tattoo of a steam locomotive on her arm that this person’s path would cross with mine somehow, someday. That’s just too fortuitous for a suspicious bastard like me to ignore.
And cross paths we did, several times over the years, neither of our timing being just right. If you’ve read any of the past essays here, you know that a good solid portion of the last decade was spent trying to make something work that had a minimal amount of probability of success (heads up: it failed, to the shock of no one). But I’m always game for a good love story, and after some awkward attempts at the horrible art of flirtation, The Girl With The Locomotive Tattoo and I began dating. After several attempts at getting out there in the dating game, I felt that amazing click of just-right chemistry with this person. Fast, god she was fast, witty, smart, had seen some shit and lived to walk out on the other side, and it felt so damn good to let a rhythm build with someone again, after such a long period of dormancy and chilly winds.
Obstacles? Hooooo, boy, tons of them, and many of my own making. But, again, there was a sense of connectivity, beyond the chops-busting and laughing and into 2 hour phone conversations while on the road. We all need to laugh, each of us, and it felt good to laugh again, even if we were polar opposites in so many ways. Intensely private and content to be alone, she contrasted with my open-book story and love of connecting with folks in person, and it was good. And so a new chapter was beginning to be written, or so I thought. More and more as trust was attempted, there were tics of time where inner voices were telling me to yank back on the throttle a bit, that questions were lingering. But I longed to trust and to love again, for real, so I would ignore them. 14 or 44, we are all suckers when we love somebody, and it doesn’t always seem to get easier.
And in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary, we both tried again and again to get to the good. How do you witness someone so beautiful on the inside fighting her own demons and remain powerless to help? That is our nature, to fix, to solve, to offer refuge in times of crisis. And sometimes, that’s not enough. And, as your friends and family point out time and again that it’s time to recognize reality, the deep seated old man in your soul stubbornly holds on, hoping that this time, maybe, it might work. It never does.
Some people are willing to settle. They settle in marriage, they settle in work, they settle in dreaming because they don’t feel worthy of grand thoughts, dreams and hope. We might trade that for security, a sense of control, a surrender of our wild spirit to the norms mandated by others. And for some, that is all that their souls require for a sense of peace. But for some of us, to settle into someone else’s definition of normal and happy is a prison of its own making. And when we encounter another wild, unorthodox soul like that of The Girl With The Locomotive Tattoo, we become overwhelmed with kindred connection, our individual senses bouncing off the walls with what feels so good and different and right and real.
But, like so much else that draws in your every reflex, the power to love such a person is tempered with the notion that their own path is fraught with signals and sounds that only they can hear. As such, what seems like whimsy and inconsistency is actually the rhythm of their own pace, and rarely does it line up with your own. And one day, when things seems foggy but you’re still out there, hoping, you come across a picture, an idea, a solid fact that, indeed, you were so very wrong. Someone else is there, an angry relic of the past with a history that makes no sense, and just like that, the locomotive, the train, the entire reality you built is gone again. The symbol, the hope, the love, the dream of a future, gone as quickly as it came on the scene, and you’re replaced by some knuckle-dragger with anger management issues. It’s enough to confuse even the most free-thinking of sorts. It’s enough to make you doubt the sanity of symbolism, and replace it with the cautious ways of a more conservative type.
But, when you’re a sucker for a wild spirit and an untamed heart, you realize that it’s gonna take more than a locomotive tattoo to derail your own crazy heart. You just gotta keep heading down the track and see what lies around the next corner, chaos and all. Maybe I’ll see you there.