Nashville, TN, August, 2012 (The Goodbye Party)

It was August and my time in Nashville was running out. Later in the month I would leave. It seems to me there must be more stories to tell about me in that city, but I would only be repeating myself. For instance there’s “Nausea Anecdote Number 2: the Fourth of July Party”—maybe that would make a good one but it bores me now. Life repeats itself apparently, with subtle variation. But perhaps I am not looking closely enough, and there is so much more to say, and I might say more, later. And there are also the stories of the people I knew, stories which remain only the vaguest of allusions here.

At the beginning of the month I moved into Abe’s apartment situated just east of Vanderbilt, as Lewis had moved to a new place with no room for me. For a couple weeks I was there alone while Abe took a small vacation. Strange, the feeling of living in someone else’s space; or maybe it was more like living in a hotel. Abe did keep a clean house, the place was immaculate, and the building even looked like a two story motel. I felt curiously alienated from life, not the normal alienation I was so accustomed to but the alienation of being a kind of vagrant soul, so light that it could be blown away at any moment. Forgive this moment of lyricism, I know it’s unlike me. I was given to bouts of anxiety, but also moments of great calm. I dived into my writing with renewed enthusiasm and produced the beginnings of a novel, which I later abandoned. I read in the evenings. At moments I felt moved and overwhelmed; a chapter of my life was ending.

The weekend before I flew back to the east coast I sent an email out to the coffee shop staff saying that everyone should come out for drinks at Springwater to celebrate my departure. This seemed vain to me, and it was, but it also struck me that to leave without any ceremony would be cold, in a sense.

It was a typical summer evening. Abe and I and a girl from the philosophy department drank beers at his place before leaving for Springwater. When we got there only a few people from the shop had arrived. The place was dingy and poorly lit. A few old biker types sat at the bar drinking and laughing. Abe and I played a game of pool with Jay and several times Jay cracked innocent jokes about me, guffawing —I will never forget that guffaw. My mind must have been elsewhere because my memories are vague.

More people came, but it was still a small crowd. I had hoped for a wild rager, and maybe some drugs, but for the moment things were rather sedate. And yet it didn’t matter, the important characters were there. The party was ostensibly for me but I didn’t want to be the night’s main character. I just sat at the bar and chatted with people as they approached.

Soon Randy, one of my co-workers, got up to perform, as that same night he had a show scheduled. The back of the stage was lined with gaudy sequin drapes lit up by the Christmas lights strung around everywhere. Randy wore his signature sunglasses and purple vest. His final song, “Last Chance to get in Dan’s Pants Before He goes to France,” was dedicated to me. I was flattered, still am flattered to this day. The crowd laughed while my face turned red. Naturally I looked around to see if there were any girls who might avail themselves of this last chance, but there were only aging bikers and co-workers from the café.

After the music we all left for the Villager. Springwater, despite its charm, was really just an old biker dive bar, and although the Villager was also a dive, it was a lesser dive, or more of a dive, depending on how you looked at it. Not all dives are created equal, that much is clear. There, we smoked cigarettes and drank at the bar. I was beginning to feel a little sentimental, though perhaps I am confusing how I feel now, as I write; it is difficult to distinguish the two sometimes. At around midnight Jane and Adam left, since they had to open the shop the following morning. We all hugged. These goodbyes were not as charged with meaning as perhaps one might think they should have been. Meaning operates of its own accord, indifferent to my intentions. I couldn’t have known the significance these people would later take in the stories I told myself.

In a general way, it seemed that more should have been happening, but it wasn’t.

Towards the end of the night when it was only Abe, myself, and few others, I filled the jukebox with coins and queued up the Replacement’s “Here Comes a Regular” several times, a song which, for some reason, even then I associated with my time in Nashville among so many musicians and heavy drinkers. I told Jay, who was noted for his musical tastes, what I’d chosen. “It has a special place in my heart,” I said. “Me too,” he said. That meant a lot to me, somehow.

But by the time I’d finished my drink, I knew I was getting too sloppy to stay. Not that I was on the brink of doing anything stupid—that, perhaps, would have been what the evening needed to truly set me off with a bang. I was simply spent, finished. I hugged Jay and Randy and said my goodbyes. My song hadn’t even played yet. Abe and I stumbled back to his place together.

When we got to his front door, I remained outside for a cigarette and a quiet moment with myself. But as I looked out at the evening sky and the tall Vanderbilt medical buildings, I began to feel indifferent towards myself. It was as if I was over-saturated in my own story. This was not an unpleasant way to feel, however, actually I felt fine. My cigarette finished, I went inside and passed out on the couch.