BENJY

(reading)

You are your truth and yet it is given to you in so many ways.  There comes a time when you realize you’ve been lied to and you must despise them.  You must despise the lies.  You must despise the lies and love the truth.  And this is no easy thing to do.  To love and hate at the same time…  I look back now.  I look back and wonder if I’m a bitter man.  Sometimes I still see that crossroads in my mind and that time in Biloxi before the war.  My friend Johnny Tribout and the woman he loved.  I remember the siege of Bastogne and the children I tried to save.  The Goliath I defeated…  And then my time in New Orleans when she came into my life.  Making it better.  Making it worse.  It’s been over twenty years.  Over twenty years since I placed that electric guitar ‘Ol Scratch gave me at the crossroads against the door at that roadhouse which led to our escape.  Johnny, Nina and me.  How it came back to me through Popovitch missing a string.  Our prison time before America entered the war.  And sometimes the memories escape me and other times they leave me insomniac with harrowing dreams…  Yes, wintertime in Bastogne and the West Bank—how she crossed the river to knock on my door.  Those first recordings of ’47.  Which she heard.  Which Popovitch heard.  And a drug deal gone bad.  Johnny wounded and moving to East St. Louis, to my home.  Popovitch dead.  Pete Southhouse—Bethany’s first husband—dead…  And I remember what my father told me, on the eve of my becoming a father.  He told me to get righteous.  Get righteous again.  How it haunted me in my wife’s eyes when our firstborn died…  I started this journal then.  Before the war in Biloxi.  I started writing in it back in ’41 and for fourteen years I was diligent to hasten my thoughts for the sake of losing them to my life.  This last journal started in 1955—my children seven years old.  And now it’s nearly 1966—they on the brink of becoming adults.  Over twenty years have passed since I picked up a pen as foreign to me as when I first rested that acoustic guitar, Jonathon Bonnor’s guitar, on my lap and found my fingers on the frets.  I look at the bullet hole in it and remember.  And I don’t know what to tell them—my children—my son and my daughter.  I don’t know what to tell them to love and what to hate.  For their truth is theirs and mine is mine…  Perhaps I’m better at loving my daughter than my son.  For what my father told me I should tell him, but I don’t know how.  It’s one of the horrors of old age that a man who has no memories makes one out of paper.  But I’m sure I shall look back on this as I have done on past journal entries and fade to black in what these reminders meant.  All I have is my hands.  Their proprioceptive memory.  That old Gibson ES-150 I can’t seem to get rid of.  My confidence in reason perhaps left there at that crossroads when I accepted it as a gift.  And I feel myself losing it.  Losing my good judgment…  I have become as sounding brass.  Tinkling cymbals.  Now I know in part, and perhaps I shall never know even as also I am known.  The truth given you in so many ways.  The truth I’ve given my children.  What I’ve told them to love.  What I’ve told them to hate.  I want him—my son—to succeed not as I’ve succeeded.  But I know my words betray me.  He will want what I have wanted and like your birthday song sang to you for hours on end so comes the self-effacement of all you’ve accomplished in your life worthy of note.  I want to tell him to be simple.  Have simple needs.  Simple pleasures.  I want to tell him to avoid his own edification—that fruitless chase.  But I know he will be just as lonely as I.  There are so many voices in this world, and none of them is without signification.  I want him to hear his and not mine…  And so I look back and wonder if I’m a bitter man.  Tired.  Old.  Divorced.  Passing only weekends with my children since before they could speak.  All for the stage and my banter there with sound and a spotlight.  All for a tribute paid to what, for we are attached to this world but by a few slender threads, and without family it means nothing.  My years no use.  My experience.  The charred remains of once hot glands.  The roots of a dead flower.  Any wisdom I can bestow on them—my children—my son, my daughter, is now but handed to them when it’s no longer of benefit.  My sorrow to see them suffer as I have.  My prayer to Jesus to have a daughter as my wife once was, and that my son learns when to listen and when not to and thus pretend.  For this is how you become a man…

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