The holes to Heaven illuminate the dark blue tapestry that tapers and remains stagnant above our gazing-eyed heads. I finally notice and wonder how lonely the neighboring sky is- a big blank canvas of space that excites and questions our abilities as humans. “Does anyone in this commune of souls truly comprehend the simple beauty that lies in the horizon?” I think to myself. “It is far more extensive and more difficult to understand than any high school math class.” “What lies past the sea of nothingness,” as I blow pale yellow smoke out of my lungs and into disintegration towards the night’s lights. I lay on my back on top of my ’57 Plymouth truck, just over the Texas line, high on the moon’s shine, questioning my awareness and all of the knowledge that lingers off the top of people’s tongues. “I want to hear, see, touch, and smell everything in this lonely life in which I have joined and treasure them forever,” I demand of my friend Buddy, who lounges with this back and one foot on the side of the Plymouth, gazing at nothing while smoking a cigarette. It was the summer of ’64 and my bud Buddy and I were tripping across America in search for god knows what. I decided to embark on this venture with Buddy not only for the fact that we had been friends since middle school, but because we were in it together. We were searching for IT, the IT the older cats had found or had found them in any sense, but it was the unspoken agreement Buddy and I had. IT. Where is it and what in the hell is it, you ask. Well…IT is for you to find. I continued to ramble on to Buddy about life’s philosophical entrapments and games it plays for a couple of minutes until I even got tired of hearing myself talk. I hopped off the roof and pulled out a pint of whiskey a drifter had left in the bed of the Plymouth when he was hitching a ride. We swigged on the bottle while we continued to head through the Southern embankments of swamps and fruit flies. It was so hot outside you could reach out and grab the thickness of the steam. By and by we continued taking turns at the wheel, driving the Plymouth about 300 miles into no man’s land. I looked out of the bouncing window and into the consuming darkness that surrounded and pinned our truck to the road. It was almost comforting- knowing me and Bud were safe in our truck cabin from the swallowing darkness around us. It was still very night and I was starting to feel a little high from the pint. It was my turn to drive and Buddy and I had perfected this routine of switching positions while not exiting or turning off the truck. We climbed over top of each other while keeping a steady 45 mph until I was in possession of the leather wheel. I sat down comfortably in the driver’s seat when I suddenly saw a shadow in the distance standing halfway between the shoulder and the middle of the road. “Should we pick him up Bud?” I asked. “Yeah, sure, he might have some more whiskey.” That was that. I pulled over on the side of the road and turned around to see a live shadow running towards the car waving his hands in the air, placing a long case in the back. It wasn’t until he got into the cabin of our Plymouth did I see his identity. “Thank ya thank ya’ll so much! I been standin out there fo howas and no one came. Until you guys showed!” His breath was hot and thick, smelling like a bar. “No problem,” I assure him as we take off down the road. “I’m Jimmy Coleman.” He was a black man around the age of 35 and wore a tattered pin stripe black suit with a matching hat that was probably a very nice attire at one point. His face was covered in unshaved stubble and was sweating uncontrollably. “Where ya’ll from?” “Jersey,” Bud replied. “Awwwohhh, Joy-zeee boys eh,” which Jimmy said in an understanding tone. He unbuttoned his pin-stripe pocket and pulled out a dirty bottle of brandy. “You boys want a drink?” “I told ya,” whispered Buddy in my ear. Well, we got to knowin’ Jimmy pretty good after a could rounds of his dusty liquor. He explained he was a musician in search for music. I understood exactly what he meant, because that was just what I had been feeling all along. I was searching for life in the thrill of it all. We were all feeling quite high from the traveling brandy between us and we all decided to stop the car on the side of the road to listen to Jimmy’s musicianship. We pulled over on the side of the road at the junction between time and space. Bud and I sat in the bed of the truck, our backs against the cabin and stared at our savior who glistened in the stars above us. He gleamed like a fallen angel whose presence ignited inspiration for all of the things I could not do. Then he played. The first note struck me like lightning in an open field, pulsating and throbbing with emotion that had seen many unwanted years. I almost cried at the beautiful tragedy Jimmy portrayed in his song of unspoken blues. His eyes were never open and his cheeks were never flat, exerting every breath he sucked in from the Texas air into painful, wonderful notes of passion. I had no idea how long he played and I had no idea where we were in mid-America. For all I know we drove straight into Heaven and Jimmy was St. Peter welcoming us in. After he stopped it was as if time had re-assumed its position in the atmosphere and we were sinking back into its increments. Bud and I didn’t clap, I wanted to but I could not move my hands. I smiled a lonely smile and just stared. It was as if Jimmy understood by sulking off of the bed of the truck and back into the cabin. We entered the Plymouth once more and I could not speak. Every note Jimmy touched pinched all of my nerves into a state of blissful paralysis. I will never forget what he said to us after a couple miles down the road. “Don’t eva fahget about tha sky. Tha’s about all we got left anymohe.” We all were synched in that small Plymouth cabin truck- our thoughts, our emotions, our aspirations and dreams were completely understood without speaking. After a while Jimmy told me to pull over, he wanted to get off. It was barren and uncivilized land all around us and the sun was just coming up. “Are you sure? What’s out here?” I asked. “No worries. I get off now. Thank ya so much, I neva foget about tha Joy-zee boys.” I pulled over and Jimmy walked off of into the distance, his black saxophone case in his hand. I kept driving never taking my eyes off of the rear-view mirror, watching and obsessing over the image of Jimmy’s back walking towards the end of nothingness, where life itself was just planes of re-sized images and Jimmy getting smaller and smaller, evaporating into the steamy hot air of the Southern swamps. I speak for Bud and I when I say I would never forget the traveling musician searching for music, Jimmy Coleman. I was searching for life in the shadows of the mountains and long prairies of America, not realizing that Jimmy was who I was searching for. I laugh subtly when I remember that Jimmy never told us where he was going or what he was doing…he was just searching for the music.
A Live Shadow
September 24, 2007