19

The road goes on forever, and the party never ends…

                                                            –The Highwaymen

The say God helps those that help themselves.  And maybe you have to be at play to know that.  You have to be in the act of play to help yourself by helping someone else.  But do you remember?  Do you remember being a child at play?  It was before you could help anyone, but it was also when you were at your best, because you were being helped.  You were dependent, on your parents, on other adults, to help you.  And you did not begrudge it.  You asked for help willingly, with innocent eyes as to why you needed it.  You didn’t see yourself as a burden, and so you weren’t.  In fact, instead of being a burden you were a blessing to those that could help you.  For by helping you they were helping themselves.  They forgot their own troubles in helping you with yours, and this is how God helped them.  God helped them forget their own problems because of what you needed from them.  And that’s why we need children.  We need children if we’re ever to imagine God exists and helps us, helps us regain our own innocence—remembering what it was once to be at play.

You are a child at play when you fall in love.  And if you ever needed help it’s then.  But are you a blessing or a burden?  You don’t necessarily fall in love with innocent eyes.  You don’t necessarily ask for help willingly, but you are dependent.  You’re dependent on the person you fall in love with, and they are dependent on you if they feel the same.  In a way, by falling in love you are both being helped and are helping.  And so if two people are in love God is with them, and anything unrequited, any love unbalanced, has the groans of hell—a place without God, a place of isolation, where you ask for help, but you have no one to help, and you really can’t—you can’t help yourself.  Maybe this is what David Threnody felt after he took that ride, in Mississippi back in 1937.  Maybe it’s what Bethany Labeau felt after taking that ride with Denny in the spring of 1942.  They both had a memory of afterwards.  David remembered that night he stole out of Rosie Soledad’s window with the Gibson ES-150 on his back.  Bethany remembered Denny’s car driving away to cross a river and a pawned black onyx ring.  And they needed these memories to find each other.  Both of them happening to find themselves, and each other, in a place called New Orleans, just after the war—a place with children at play if there ever was one, a city that care forgot.

And maybe that’s the problem with love.  It makes you care too much, and it’s hard to forget.  Something none of us can help fix when we’re hurt by it.  Its true form, its most pure form, perhaps only an idea we read about in books, and I can’t say it really exists in this book I’m writing about David.  Maybe what I’ve written only captures love’s loss.  It merely depicts our human failures in helping each other and finding God in our lives—I don’t know—but then I guess it’s losing love that gives us our idea of its ideal in the first place, and every time we fall short we’re still making progress, for the next generation of lovers maybe, in how we help our children along, forgetting all our failures in them so that they can try again.

And maybe there are just phases and stages to it.  There are different phases of love, and we play out its joys and heartaches on different stages where sometimes we’re cast as the victim or the aggressor, the hero or the villain.  And sometimes it’s a comedy.  Other times a tragedy.  Sometimes we’re watching from the audience, wise and on the lookout for other’s pitfalls.  Other times we’re in the spotlight, shamed and proud.  And so maybe now’s a good time for a soliloquy.  It’s time for David to say something.  Something he wrote in retrospect from his journals after the war.  About how he felt after cutting his first record that summer of 1945 and what it led to—how it led to meeting Bethany one night in Pirates Alley, that little well-known street without cars just off Jackson Square and near the St. Louis Cathedral, how he saw her for the first time while he was at play on his guitar, and how she sat in with him for a song, helping him along as it were…

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