Fools, Friends, and the Great Beyond
Tom Jolu
Tour Journal: Bridges

Tour Journal: Bridges

There are people all around me. I can feel them. I feel the room change in temperature as the door opens, the smell of cigarette smoke and pot blowing in from the outside. I feel the bass of the band playing in my chest, the bass drum rattling the room, the people next to me tapping their hands to the beat of the music on the bar. I hear a woman next to me yelling her order of a long island iced to the frazzled bartender. On a normal day, I’d be here with everyone, listening to my friends’ band play their first gig, laughing with my band mates. I’d be amazed and excited that the bar was packed with people coming to hear us. But today I’m somewhere else.
I’m in a place I haven’t been since my father decided to remarry:

It was 2014, a little more than a year after my mother died. My father and I decided, after a day of doing yard work, to get pizza. I could tell something more was on his mind than just getting a bite to eat, but I brushed it aside. Between work and going down to visit his girlfriend, he always seemed to be thinking about something.
 After we had run out of the normal things to talk about (school, work, the family), we sat there for a while. He was looking down at his plate, playing with a bit of pizza crust.
“So, uh” he said, “what do you think of me and my girlfriend getting married?”
I sat for a long time. My hands started to shake, but before he could notice I hid them under the table. I looked up at him. I was angry and hurt that this was even an option to him. After all that time being married to my mother, he would just decide to do this with someone he barely knew? Someone we barely knew? But the longer I looked at him, the more I thought about his feelings. He’d spent most half of his life with my mother. She was his best friend, his everything, and now he felt like he had found that with someone else. They talked non-stop, even when they weren’t in the same state. Despite the five hour drive, they visited each other almost every weekend, so who was I to judge their feelings?
I cleared my throat. “Yeah,” I croaked. “That sounds cool.”

. . . 

I’m in the van staring at the clock, waiting for us to go on. My band mates gave me a look when I said I was going out to the van, but I told them not to worry.
“I’m just getting my harmonicas.” I said. 
My friends’ band still has about 45 minutes left of their set, and I don’t know if I can last that long. I’m trying to zone out, but every time I do, everything keeps coming up. I thought these were all settled matters, but as life goes, nothing is ever truly over. I hear a couple walking down main street, arguing about something. Should I crack the window open to get the details on the pointless drama that doesn’t concern me? Should I go down that rabbit hole? Am I really in that great of a need to be distracted from my own thoughts?

. . .

Months passed after their marriage. My father’s house, that was once a place where all of the siblings and grandchildren were welcome, had all of the locks changed. Our family, that was once one of laughter, even after my mother’s passing, changed.  Soon after, I heard rumors of my father’s wife starting fights with almost all of my siblings. The more animosity I heard, the louder her insecurities had become – her insecurities about their marriage, about her place in her new family, about how others saw her, about how all of us saw her. She always said it was about “respect”. But the more she said it, the more I feel she didn’t want respect, but to be thought of as an authority figure. 
It’s funny what a marriage will do to people.

. . .

Years go by, fights break out, people say things they regret, people say things that they mean, and bridges are on the verge of being burnt. I’m still in my van, mulling it all over, waiting for this damn set to happen, and hoping I’ll get a moment of release, a moment to let all of this frustration out. I’m hoping that through all of this that I can still get up there and play, ‘cause if these small things continue to weigh down on me, if these things affect how I let everything out, I’ll need to make some changes. I’m hoping this won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but if it is, I’m walking away and never looking back.