The hate of Jane. Somehow she hated me, learned to rue me, despise me, hone her hate like a Nantucket crone her scrimshaw.
And why? That was my question then and it stands today. Why. What did I ever do to you, Jane, my queen from 1983 who loved me, was nice, then mean, then really skinny, sickly thin, on a diet of hate. Who left me pound by pound, in handfuls of suddenly loose stonewashed denim, baggy turtlenecks. One day you didn’t come back and I don’t know what I ever did to you. Except love you and worship every wiry brunette corkscrew on your nasty, lovely head. And listen to you, the grousing and commentary. And have some suggestions for you, the gifts of my hard-earned wisdom. I loved you so much.
I wanted you to have it. To have me, the best of me. I had things to teach. I knew things, experienced my own unique and nasty early trauma. You could never imagine such treatment and I had no shame in telling you. A padlock on a fridge, can you imagine? You did try, Jane, I know you tried. You called it Dickensian, my childhood and youth before I emancipated and made my way, a busking urchin with a Gibson, a GED, and three Izod shirts. This was before I got my trust. I did everything myself, I was a capital S Survivor and I put food on my own little table. Bagels, jerky, Dinty Moore. Soap from public bathrooms as shampoo, going to bed hungry.
Jane said it made her cry when she thought about it but she loved how it formed me. I heard this for a year, her glowing empathy, Jane’s patient listening and spurring me to talk, to confess, to disclose all the bad shit. And then something happened. It was nothing I did. I don’t think I did a thing, I mean what could I do? I loved her and told her things, what she wanted to hear and probably things she didn’t. I was direct and honest about certain realities, things big and little that I saw and read about in the world. I wasn’t in college like Jane. I was and am an autodidact. And proud. Nobody paid my way. I’m not including the trust.
What I blame is a class she took at that fucking Barnard. It was George Steiner the philosopher, who Jane read with great gusto. He said some events transcend language. You can’t talk, you can’t bear audible witness, when things get truly bad. Holocaust bad. And I happened to disagree with the guy. I don’t like to make one bad event more specific or special than any other.
That I didn’t make the Holocaust the ultimate pinnacle in the pantheon of evil in the history of the world made Jane crazy. Hang up on me, stomp, slam doors, pound, rage and scream. She said I offended her. I was indecent. A rotten Jew. Reductionist. When I gave her examples from my readings in Greek philosophy and Zen, particularly Zen, she called me a crackpot, a simpleton. I called her a snob and not intellectual. She said I was jealous, she was in college full time. No Dinty Moore for her. No Dancing Wu Li Masters from the public library. She owned her books. She started hating me.
I could cope with some of that. She was resistant to my thought. She was younger, stubborn, insecure. I was willing to be patient. This was part of her growing, her rejection of me. At this point at least. It was part of her becoming a woman. I was ready and willing to do all the nurturing possible.
Then she turned full throttle on my music. I’m an autodidact and a philosopher, yes. But in a way that’s all cerebral gravy. My guitar stands at the top of my own Tree of Life. It’s like a kabbalistic diagram of a primordial Adam and the limbs are books and essays and maps and experiments. The spine and head: pure guitar. The guitar runs the show. It’s the brain. It was that way then, and it’s that way now.
Don’t fuck with my guitar. Don’t mess up my music. Don’t tell me playing is a waste of time. Don’t make me feel like a no-talent shit. No matter how much I love you.
It took years for me to learn what was clear to the other people in my life, not that there were so many but there were enough: that Jane had no clue. I believed that she had knowledge of me, the sum of me, of all of me. That Jane understood every part of me. I was her boyfriend Stevie, I was her lover, the one who knew her, who would protect her, teach her, encourage her, dote on her with gifts of Steiff bears and Beluga. My queen loved caviar. Black dots, squiggles, inky brine. I even bought her the proper spoon.
And it was all for shit. Because she didn’t accept me. Instead of honoring the me who honored her, the me who wanted to marry her, take care of her and see her pacing in my loft, in what would have been our loft, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen with a Dictaphone, Jane dumped my ass. She went away. Scalded me with her dislike. She disappeared. Parts of her went first, the fleshy areas I may have poked too much in jest, called baby fat, pinched. The sum of Jane subtracted. Minimized. Reduced to a painful, uncomfortable void. A lot of collarbone jutting in the winter night. Weird hair growing on her shoulder blades.
Then for years, no Jane. Nada, nothing. She was dead to me, she didn’t exist, I dreamed about her and asked myself why. Asked the current people in my life, why my Queen Jane hated me so. Violent. Vengeful. Enough to make her vanish.
And then it’s decades later, the loft is gone, so are my bunions she was really mean about, and I’m in SoCal, licking my wounds from the failed sound studio deep in the desert. I pick up the paper and I read about a plane crash. I was on the john with all the time in the world. It was a long article and the crash was pretty atypical. It wasn’t an automatic crash like these things usually are. They didn’t fall out of the sky right away. It went on and on, over an hour of a really fucked-up situation. I hate flying and I felt sick, thinking about what it was like for those poor people. I kept on reading. They had a list of names and I saw Jane’s.