There was a time in my life where waking up, or coming to, in strange places wasn’t that big of a deal. Alcohol was sort of a geography game of Russian Roulette where drinking in one place might land me somewhere else by the end of the weekend, and I never knew where that might be. There was an old deserted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and I woke up there one morning with no clue as to how I got there or who I had been with, or how to get away from the place. I burned a joint and considered the options. Back in the 70’s hitch hiking was still very safe, but at the same time I couldn’t very well get a ride if I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. The people I had been partying with the night before finally showed up and they were fairly pissed at me. I had wandered off in the middle of the party and they assumed I was at the farmhouse but didn’t really know. It was the only thing near where the party was, but ti was still three miles from one to the other. It wasn’t the same farmhouse I ventured into at Frog Town, and that is another long story, really.
This farmhouse was in Early County, I think, and Frog Town is in Alabama somewhere, I have no idea, because it all blurs. The farmhouse where I was had a pile of clothes in a corner, and it wasn’t like me to go through a pile of clothes, and no reason for me to do so, but I remembered that the Manson Family did that. They kept all their clothes on one big pile. No one owned anything as far as clothing went and that made identifying individuals much harder when the police got to looking at who was who. They traded off nicknames too, and for some reason I thought about all of this while I looked at the pile of clothes. Really, it was getting a little weird. What if the people who wore these clothes showed up and wanted them? There were all sorts of clothes there. Baby clothes, adult clothes, big jeans and little pants. There was a Corduroy jacket that was a different shade of blue. Sort of blue green, and faded, with two pockets in the front, up top, and a very wide lapel, the jacket looked like something a woman would wear. I thought this because back then men generally didn’t wear clothes that color. Blue-green wasn’t one of the primary colors and men just didn’t wear outside that group at all, and sometimes not even within it.
I can’t explain it. The jacket meant something. Not to me, no, not like that, but it meant something to someone and I could tell it somehow. I looked in the pockets and there wasn’t anything there at all, but just touching it I could feel something. It felt like stealing to touch it. None of the other items had that. Okay, now to make this as surreal as it might be, the touch of the jacket wasn’t like touching the woman who wore it, or the woman who owned it, but rather something else. There was something that happened to her, and the person who had last seen her alive had seen this jacket. I didn’t think it was murder, but some sort of odd accident like a penicillin reaction that was fatal. It wasn’t that, mind you, but that was how it felt. But that was when my ride showed up.
I forgot about the jacket. What was there to remember?
It was a year or so later, I was in my senior year in High School, I think, really, the late seventies is such a blur, and I was on the verge of a condition I called “free fall” because I was too drunk to catch my balance. The world tilted a bit and even though I was still doing shots of Irish Whiskey, it was damn hard to hold onto the tabletop. I was being a de facto bartender, pouring shots for anyone brave enough, or stupid enough, to drink the good stuff straight. A guy sat down across from me and started telling me about his girlfriend and it freaked me out. First off, I couldn’t have a conversation with a stranger and not freak out. People terrified me. I was just eighteen and socially awkward to the point of pain. The second reason is this guy felt familiar and I knew I had never met him before. No one else in the room seemed to notice there was a stranger there. I tried to concentrate on what he was telling me but the words made no sense. And finally he stopped talking and laughed. I remember what he said next because it seemed so real.
“I’m telling you this because you aren’t going to remember any of it, and even if you do, I don’t think you’ll live long enough to repeated it, and even if you do, who would listen to you?” That seemed funny, even to me, and I asked him if he wanted a shot of whiskey and he sat there and drank with me, and told me things that did not make sense at all.
He got up and went to a book shelf, studied the titles for a few moments, and picked out a book.
“She died trying to figure out the things I told her, and when she did, it killed her.” And he put the book down in front of me and the man walked out of the party and I didn’t see him again. I did another shot and looked at the book. It was a textbook from grade school; a souvenir from the host’s fifth or sixth grade classes. The book sat there like a coiled up snake and I wondered if I remembered what the man has said if I, too, would be killed. The book was the same color as the jacket and for some reason, I remembered every detail of that jacket perfectly.
Since then, after I quit drinking so much I thought about what he said, and it didn’t make any sense at all, still, but you know what? Every once in a great while something will happen, like the space shuttle blowing up over Texas, or the wars in Iraq, or the president being impeached, and I’ll remember that man, and that jacket, and somehow, what he said seems to be related in some way to what happened.
I can’t remember. I can’t. And I wonder if that is why he told me.