Like so many things in my life, there have been special lyrics that have caught a moment in time and place and are etched in my memory like writing on a stone. Such has been the case with my ex-wife’s passing. I have been silent for so long as poisonous vapors swirled around inside of me, sometimes obscuring the reality, sometimes splashing upon my face with the all the bracing power of cheap aftershave.
I have loved Bob Dylan ever since I fished Blood on the Tracks out of a local drug store album bin. I have forever marveled at the sheer magical irony of that moment. I thought at the time that I was living, not exactly in the very sphincter of the world, but at least somewhere on the lower back where a thick trail of coarse black back hair leads down toward the butt crack, and it was there I first discovered, tossed in this neglected bin up front by the cash register, an album wrapped in plastic containing the voice of God translated as closely as our feeble intellects would allow us to understand into the vernacular.
Even so, most of people who walked by that bin on daily basis didn’t grasp its significance. You had to be searching, your feet walking on squishy ground, eyes constantly darting back and forth looking for a vine hanging from a tree, a mountain with a perch where you could sit and think for a moment, or a hidden room behind closed doors where you could meet and mumble revolutionary thoughts as quickly as you could pull them out of a cloud of smoke.
This is not to say that over the years, I have not often neglected Dylan. Such as those moments when the nasality of his voice added to the feeling that life seemed to be constructed like a cheese grater ripping off layers of my consciousness as if it were trying to garnish a taco salad with shreds of my self doubt and secret longings.
That’s okay because you always come back. You eventually learn that the universe gives as much as it takes, and that for every blister, there is a sweet scented balm to remind you that there is a boundless center of love somewhere broadcasting from a hidden radio station somewhere off the coast of California, a station where Wolfman Jack still resides and fills the mornings with the joy of music made for the sake of making music and not the corrupt caterwauling that the inbred spawns of hell are selling like cocaine saturated Twinkies to a clueless generation of youth who have no idea of the majesty of music and words.
Since my wife left me over ten years ago, I have cried every time I have heard “If You See Her Say Hello”. For me, it is proof solid that Dylan is the end all of everything, the lyrics as poignant and penetrating as a flash of sunlight bursting through a beat-up window shade as you suddenly understand something you realize you should have known all along. The words pierce not only to the bone but way, way down to a molecular level.
"We had a falling-out
Like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night
It still brings me a chill
And though our separation
It pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me
We've never been apart"
And then there are words written in black lipstick on a bathroom mirror, words that force you to reflect as you try to shave.
"If you get close to her
Kiss her once for me
I always have respected her
For doin' what she did and gettin' free"
The quavering voice of the prophet, calling the devoted to prayer, oozes with the truth that love, even lost love, is the only thing that can move us to a better understanding of ourselves.