All I really wanna do
Is baby be friends with you…
So wailed Bob Dylan as I listened, very closely, not doing anything else, lying on the piece of the el-shaped silvery crushed-velvet couch that only had one arm rest on the narrow screened-in porch with the stone floor, listening to Bob Dylan as if he were talking to me, as if he were narrating the movie I wanted to be in -- really wanted to be in -- wanting to be wrapped in that voice and the arms that went with it, somewhere that had nothing to do with this screened-in porch that was my father’s territory, a sort of office he had created with his heavy desk in the corner, a desk that looked like it came from another time in history, something perhaps my parents had rescued from a sale in Columbia county. I could see it had that gummy sheen -- my mother must have stained it -- back when she did things like that. I was a little girl then and it seemed that she would always be staining bits of old wooden furniture, as if that were part of who she was. But she didn’t do that anymore or develop pictures in a darkroom or sell clumps of myrtle, their roots lightly wrapped in newspaper, clumps pulled up from our woods and sold to people who came in cars, having read the ad.
My father’s grey filing cabinet stood next to the crushed-velvet couch, the filing cabinet completely his, as was the couch – silver and crushed velvet, something prettier, more modern than my mother ever would have chosen. It came from that apartment he had lived in by himself near Washington DC and had furnished with a Panasonic turntable and speakers, white china with a tasteful green-and-gold pattern around the edges of the cups and plates, and the el-shaped couch, part of which was crowded into the living room now, part of which was banished to the screened-in porch. I lay on the couch in summer afternoons and listened to my records – not many of them, they were expensive – looking out through the mesh of the screens, listening to Bob describe love affairs and cities and foreign countries and complicated feelings, sometimes Leonard Cohen – men who lived out there in some kind of land I wanted to be part of.
It’s why I hitchhiked across the country – thinking if I just got out of here, away from my high school and my mother’s station wagon, away from everything, if I went out there and stuck out my thumb, then maybe they would stop for me and let me in, welcome me, make it easy, let me into the song.
Most of the trip wasn’t like that and I came back feeling like I had failed again, though now at least I had some marijuana seeds someone had given me in the back seat of a car where a purple copy of Be Here Now had been tossed, seeds I could sprout in secret between damp paper towels, and I had been in bed with a man – an old man, but still better than going to a dance in a gym with a shy high school boy, I had more materials to make believe with but I knew it wasn’t real yet, not at all.