Tuesday, December 18, 2007

#7. I Wish I Had a River I Could Skate Away On.

(You don't need to watch the video -- nothing happens, this is just the only version of the song I could find to post.)

The last time I saw Richard was Oxford, Ohio in '81.

Until I was 19, I used to say that I didn't like Joni Mitchell because all her songs sounded the same. My sophomore year of college, when I was home for Christmas break, I met a boy. There was a small college in my hometown, and, through high school friends who were going to school there instead of leaving like I did, I met a group of music and theater students who lived off campus, and I would spend most of my evenings with them whenever I was home for breaks. This boy's name was Richard. He was a voice major, smart and funny and effeminate. He wore a bright yellow crewneck pullover sweater.

The two of us ended up alone together after a couple of parties in his room, drunk and stoned, and he played Blue for me. It may have been the first time I'd ever heard it. It was the first time I'd ever heard it. I had never heard anything so beautiful as those songs. I still haven't. Richard and I sat on chairs facing each other and caressed each other's stocking feet (winters are cold in Indiana) and I fell in love -- with Joni Mitchell.

A week or so later, Richard drove to Oxford, Ohio, where I was back at school, about a three hour drive. It was different. Most of that year, my best friend and I (we were also roommates) struggled painfully with whether or not our relationship was sexual, so Richard suddenly in the middle of that was emotionally too complicated, and I couldn't handle it. I snuck off to bed that night, and, when Richard joined me, I pretended to be asleep. He got out of bed and kept my friends up for hours with stories of men who'd mistreated him. He was gone when I got up in the morning.

That was the first time I was passively cruel to a man who didn't deserve it. Not the last, though.

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