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

Tour Journal: Time Zones

The early morning sun peered through the crack in the towels we put in the van windows. I laid in our makeshift bed and turned my head to see Ty was still asleep, his head shoved in his pillow. I laid there for a while thinking until a car pulled in a few spots away from us. Four doors opened, and the sound of light up sneakers on asphalt echoed off the walls of the rest stop.
    “Slow down!” a voice said. “You’re going to hurt someone.”
    “But” the light up sneakers said, “I gotta pee!”
    “Yeah” another, smaller voice said. “We gotta pee!”
    I opened the door of the van, and with my bare feet on the asphalt, I stretched, watching the man a few cars away. He shook his legs as he took long, slow paces in front of the car. A woman came up to him.
    “Are your legs sore?” She said.
    “Not really,” he said. “Just a little tight.”
    “Aren’t we only a half hour away from Indianapolis?”
    “I think the GPS said ten miles.” He looked down at her and smiled.
    She smiled back. “Well that’s good at least.”
    They stood there, holding each other until their kids ran back to the car.

After the family left, I brushed my teeth, checked to see if the vending machines had anything good, and took a walk around the rest stop. Finding a patch of grass off in the corner of the property, I sat and checked my phone to see if I had any text messages. My girlfriend still hadn’t texted me back. It’d been almost a full day, but it was okay.

. . .

Maybe she’s pulling away? I’ve done it myself before, so I know what to look for. Nah, I think I’m overthinking it.
No.
You know what? I know I am overthinking it.
    It’s just been so long since I’d felt feelings for someone, and I’m scared of someone not sharing those same feelings. I’ve never been a fan of being this vulnerable with someone, but I gotta let her know how I feel, right? I know it’s a new relationship, and I know we haven’t been talking as regularly as we did, but that’s okay! We’re going to be fine. We’re just in different time zones.

. . .

I sent her a good morning text and walked back to the van.
After driving for a half hour, we made it to Indianapolis. So, we found a parking garage and decided, since we’d gotten here early, we might as well explore the city. Soon we found our way to a set of stairs that led downward. As we descended the stairs, we found that they were a part of a canal system that snaked through the city. We walked for about a mile, seeing mile markers, and signs pointing to staircases, telling us where museums, restaurants, and other attractions stood. All around us were families talking, couples walking hand in hand. In the center of the canal people were even more couples riding paddle boats and taking selfies.
I smiled and thought back to the first time my girlfriend and I talked:

    We stayed up almost all night, talking. I remember the rush of learning her favorite food, her favorite books, her hopes and dreams, and everything in between. It was almost closing time at the bar when I realized what time it was. I remember spending an hour after, leaning on her car, still talking, and in one moment, I was ballsy enough to reach out and hold her hand.  

As we walked through the canal, I kept looking at the signs, looking for our next destination, until I saw it: “The Kurt Vonnegut Museum 0.25 Miles”.  My eyes grew large and I ran up the stairs. Ya see:
    When I was In college, we were asked, as an assignment, to read “Slaughterhouse 5” and write a report on it. After devouring the book, I made it a point to find every Vonnegut novel I could and learn whatever I could from them. I never considered myself an intelligent person, and the way Vonnegut wrote, felt like he was taking ideas I’d struggled to grasp in philosophy books, and broke them down into their most basic parts. After reading his novels, I felt I could read anything and finally grasp their meaning. So, I knew I had to learn more about the man behind the words. Once I learned we were going to Indianapolis on this tour, (Kurt Vonnegut’s hometown and location of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum), I knew where we had to go.
    We arrived at the small brick building and I stood in awe. Though I’m not a religious man, it felt as if I was arriving at holy ground. 
After soaking up the sights and the air conditioning, I stopped at a simple display. It was a short letter dated for 1953. It was a rejection letter. I stood back and read it over and over again. Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most influential fiction writers of the 20th century was rejected. It turns out he was rejected many, many times. That small letter reminded me that no matter how many times I think I’ve failed, that it was just a small step on a larger staircase. All I needed to do was get back up.

. . .

It was mid-afternoon and we were setting up our merch at the venue, which was another house show (I’m not complaining). When we were setting our merch up, we noticed one of the bands showed up and started playing Frisbee in the yard. As they were talking amongst themselves, I recognized one of the members. The more I stared, the more I thought that I knew him. I swore I’d seen him play, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. After playing Frisbee for a bit, they started to bring their gear out from their trailer. As they opened the collapsible table, I looked over to see the word “Listener” was spray-painted on it. In that moment, everything clicked.
    ”Holy shit!” I thought ”That’s Dan Smith from Listener!” :
Back in 2011, when the initial concept of Tom Jolu was sprouting from the soil, my significant other at the time showed me the band Listener. After hearing the lyrics, I was blown away, and found everything I could find from them. A few months later my grandmother died, and through the pain and the loss of one of the strongest women I’ve known, I found the song, “Wooden Heart”. That song would be an almost permanent part of my personal soundtrack for the next few months. In the crater of the loss of my grandmother, the words grew a garden of memories around the wound. In memory of my grandmother and of those times I had the words, “We only have what we remember” tattooed on my ribs as a reminder that she’s still with me.
    I wanted to run up to him and tell him all of these things. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to pull up my shirt and show him the tattoo, but I knew that might come off a little strong. I knew this was another band he was a part of and they were keeping everything on the down low that they were here. So I took a second, while setting up shirts to talk to my tour mate and best friend Ty.
    “Ty” I said in a whisper, that maybe wasn’t all that quiet. “Come here”
    He walked towards me, confused. “What’s up, Man?” He said.
    “Shhhhh” I said “I’m not trying to be obvious about this.”
    “You’re doing a really bad job at it.”
    “Well, yeah I know but that guy over there with the mustache. Do you know how I said that I thought he might be Dan Smith? Well he is Dan Smith!”
    “The guy from Listener?”
    “Yes the guy from Listener.” I stood there, pretending to fold a shirt again. “I want to go talk to him, but I don’t know how.”
    “Why don’t you just go up and talk to him.”
    “Well, yeah. I mean I’m going to, but I gotta think of something to say. I can’t just blurt out what I’m thinking. It’ll get weird.”
    “Dude, just take a breath and think it over. Aren’t you going to play soon anyway? Just focus on that.”
    “Good Idea. I’ll do that”
    I sat, pretending to write my set list in my notebook, doodling in the margins, having already written the set list the night before. I checked my phone to see if my girlfriend had texted me back, but still no dice. I looked at the time and her lunch hour had passed hours ago. She must have seen it by now, I thought.

. . .

So let’s take a second. I mean, let’s really think this through. I keep missing her, keep wanting to be with her, but I gotta pull myself away and actually think about this. Let’s take this at 30,000 feet:
    Ever since the beginning of the tour, we haven’t really talked. I mean even before the tour I’ve felt her pulling away. Yeah, we’re in different time zones, but Ty and I have been on the road for almost five days. We should’ve gotten a rhythm by now. Like I said before, I used to be like this. I used to ghost people. She’s just like I was! 
Think Tom.
    No. I can’t think about it like that. She’s not like I was. Or, at least I don’t think she is. I don’t know anymore. When she texts me later, I can ask her if she wants to talk. Then we can talk it all out.
    . . .

After both my set, Dan’s set, and a quick burger, I made a checklist.
Are your shoulders relaxed?
    Is your breathing slow and even?

Is your walking pace nice and easy?
Okay, you’re good. Go ahead and start walking.
As I walked towards him, my nerves were still there. I’d played countless shows in front of countless people, but my heart hadn’t raced this fast.This is it, I thought. When do you get the chance to talk to someone who’s songs mean so much to you?
    “Hey” I said. “So, I just wanted to say thank you. Your songs really got me through a tough time in my life.”
    A shy smile crossed his face. “Hey no problem.”

. . . 

As I look out from our secluded corner of the parking lot and watch customers trickle in and out, I can’t help but think how good of a day today was. I played an amazing show, I met a lyricist I truly admire, and I visited a museum dedicated to one of the authors I admire. Everything is finally going right.

 It turns out, when I was writing, I got a text from my girlfriend. She said she’s breaking up with me, but I guess I should’ve known…