“We were sitting on the front porch
With the weather rolling in
Laughing louder than the big south wind
You ran out to roll your window
Light rain falling on your hair….”

-A Tornado Warning, Turnpike Troubadours

“I don’t know why I’m always drawn to the toxic ones. Sometimes I call them ‘broken’, but in truth I keep turning back to the toxic ones”…even as I wonder these words out loud, the rich irony of speaking them to an ex-wife is not falling on (my own) deaf ears. But one positive development in the post-divorce years is that the space afforded by time has allowed for a friendship to re-develop, albeit slowly. And as the mother of my two boys, and someone to whom I was married for nearly a decade, there are few on this planet who know me and my demons as well as she does. So every once in a while, I find myself muttering my frustrations to her when the subject comes up.

“Kerosene to feed the flame
Your effect is quite the same
Shadows dancing on the wall and
Waiting for the sky to fall” – A Tornado Warning

“Oh, I don’t know…….I think you might need just a little toxicity in your life, or you might get bored. But maybe instead of…..I don’t know, say a TORNADO, maybe you should seek a thunderstorm instead.”

Holy shit. Within once sentence, the words of my ex-wife resonated, echoed between my ears. More than just a psych major in college, this woman is clearly wiser far beyond that which she shares with me (anymore), and I stand there for a minute, blown away, a la Kremer in Seinfeld. And my mind being what it is, I spun it out further and further, trying to continue the conversation:

“You know, you just nailed it. A thunderstorm is dangerous, sure, if you run outside with a metal ladder strapped to your back, but is actually beautiful, a visual and sonic delight, replenishing so much. A tornado, on the other hand, just destroys everything in its path, randomly.”

“Okay, weirdo. Send the boys out to the car now.”

And I stood there on my porch, my old and faded porch, wondering. The Girl With The Locomotive Tattoo IS kerosene to feed my flames. And our particular dance is one in which I am, indeed, always waiting for the sky to fall. She is, always, a tornado that I seem to keep chasing, to the bewilderment of everyone around, myself included. But there is a horribly destructive beauty to the whole scenario, one that causes me to respond every time her siren sounds.

“Couldn’t ask for better weather
You were saying with a grin
Until the sound of hailstone hitting tin
It’s loud enough you gotta yell now
The whole thing hits me like a song
A pretty one that won’t last long” – A Tornado Warning

And like me, she likely sees this as weather in which to grin, since none of it makes sense. And like those lyrics above, the whole thing, the whole experience with her, DOES hit me like a song….perhaps that’s why it resonates so loudly, and why I spend countless hours playing songs we both like on my guitar, late into the night, deep into the bottle. And why? Because somewhere, deep down, against my heart’s deepest wishes, I know what a pretty song it is, and it likely won’t last long. And no matter how beautiful the sound of the hailstones hitting the tin, it can really only mean one thing is coming, and it’s gonna hurt.

“In the broken morning light
That simple shade of blue
The kind that always follow you” -A Tornado Warning

So here we are, days, weeks, months later in the broken morning light of many a morning, no closer to any truth, nowhere knowing what causes the tornados to strike where they do, much less what drives their passion and their pain. And while I’ll always appreciate the raucous beauty that comes with the thunderstorms of spring, I know that somewhere close by, always, the looming roar of a tornado may once again grace the horizon. And for the life of me, for reasons I cannot explain, her particular tornado will always cause me to jump in and give chase. Warning or otherwise.


*see a live version of The Turnpike Troubadours “A Tornado Warning” here