road dust: I'd Like to Put My Love on You

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the alleged grandfather a story about mistaken identity

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›bio: vera

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I have a crush on John Anderson's voice and songwriting. Not a lot of people I know like twangy country music, but John's been in my life for more than 20 years and I won't let him go. He sings to me about loss, grief, farming, drinking, and honky-tonk love when I drive on the back roads. I know all the words. The trees, farms and hills I pass are a blur; my soul is in a different place, where John describes what is happening, and I'm a pseudo bystander who knew what happened back then, but rarely speaks of it.

I dislike and avoid most country music and was appalled when my six-month-old daughter was be-boppin' in the Fred Meyer shopping cart to the overhead country music. Yet, I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.

I loved a good country song then, but some vital cord snapped when I left my parents' home for the high life. It was as if I could no longer stand the venue of Country because I'd left my country-girl life behind. Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker,"Wrangler butts drive me nuts." It made me laugh, even though I felt derisive and like I was being pulled towards a feeling that I willfully killed long ago. I never aged into Garth Brooks or Colin Raye, et al.

I ran into him the other day. We spoke in a shadowed room and while I stood there in the doorway going back in time, he sat there with his whole self, and it was enough in that moment. The feelings I have when I really look at him, especially like I used to when the temperature was 120 Fahrenheit, are apparently never going to die. They remain subtly hidden, submerged in a deep crevasse of longing and futility. It gives me an ache all over when they suddenly rear up to ravage me.

John Anderson sings about the wind which "stripped the topsoil from the ground, where the corn grew yesterday," and I know that a bitter wind of jealousy and time stripped the topsoil from my feelings and nothing is growing now, just fermenting.

Still, those old feelings have immense power when unleashed. They torment me with an overwhelming urge to put my hands on his face because his eyes are asking questions and I want to answer by touching him. He sat in the shadows four feet away, moving his lips in words, tossing his head in emphasis and my fingers itched, my heart squeezed itself. I didn't hear what he said. Instead I lived alongside him in my world, where I had to frequently look away and remember not to send unspoken messages. I imagined my cool hands on his face for eternity, palming the form of his bones, across the wide planes of cheeks and down the stubble-stone of his jaw, answering the silent questions; finally holding his big face still with gentle hands because if I dropped it, it would break.

The next evening after seeing him, when everything else was quiet around me, I wrote, "I'd like to put my love on you" on the front of the magazine I had been reading. I felt shaky after that and the future smelled desperate. Because I'm getting older now and time is swift and cruel, and all too soon my life is going to be, all of our lives are going to be, a barren corn field where the wind blew yesterday.

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the alleged grandfather a story about mistaken identity


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