Bluegrass Blues (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, read it here.

♦♦♦

If you’re gonna leave, then go,

Don’t need you standing at my door,

‘Cause I can’t keep pretending,

I don’t love you any more.

-Kenny Taylor

When her face appeared on the screen he felt his heart constrict, packed tight into a snowball. He couldn’t remember the last time it didn’t hurt to look at her. Even their happiest moments – skinny dipping in Old Hickory Lake, signing the lease on their house in Sylvan Park, Bea’s first tour and the barely street legal Ford Aerostar that hauled them around – all felt so distant, like remembering someone else’s dream. Just thinking about it left him cold. The person in his memory was so sure of everything. How could any of that have happened to me – this mass of uncertainty? Nothing made any sense.

She forced a smile. It almost touched her eyes. Kenny didn’t bother. He knew his face would betray any nobler intentions. “You look good,” she finally said. Truth was he looked exactly the same as he always had, which, given enough time, gets confused with looking better and better. “You too.” Bea didn’t call him out on his lie. Another subtle reminder of how things had changed. After a long period of silence that was becoming more and more familiar, he asked about her show.

“It was good,” she said. “Good crowd. Denver’s nice. Chilly, but nice.” She wondered if he believed her. He didn’t press it, just nodded and said, “Nice.” “How’s Nashville?” she asked. “Chilly… but nice.” She felt a tear forming on the corner of her eye. Smiled it away.

It’d been two weeks since she told him. Two weeks since he’d said a word. Being out on the road without him to talk to felt like being thrown from a plane without a parachute. Ever since that first night by the bonfire in Mississippi, he was always the one who’d been there to catch her when she fell. She cursed herself for only realizing that now.

“I miss you,” she said. He wanted to believe her.

Me too, he thought.

The tear reappeared at the corner of her eye. She forced her smile even wider. This time it fell, tracing the side of her nose until it landed on her lips. His snowball heart melted. Then she whispered, “I should go.” Frozen again.

♦♦♦

I keep on movin’ from show to show,

Hopin’ to change my luck,

My good ol’ days are just a memory,

But I just can’t give it up.

-George Strait

“We need to talk,” she texted him earlier in the day. She was headlining a festival just outside of Dallas and was stuck in interviews all afternoon. It was her third tour. The first one he hadn’t joined her on. He wondered what she meant, but figured she was just drained from the road and was going to try to convince him to come back out again. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, but they had the dog to look after now, and he had songs he needed to write, and it was nearing Christmas and someone had to put up the lights.

“Just a few more weeks,” he prepared his speech. “Then you’ll be home and we can do whatever you want.” He listed all the things they would do. Most of them involved him eating all the food he’d missed while she was away. Mississippi Mud Pie, he smiled at the thought. He looked over at Jennings, a mammoth German Shepherd with a red dirt streak of hair down his spine and a track of mud from his massive paws trailing behind. He decided it was best not to mention that he’d yet to train that dog of theirs, and laughed when he pictured Bea chasing Jennings out the door with a newspaper. She was so funny when she got mad. It made loving her that much easier.

♦♦♦

My country Queen,

She sings me everything,

It don’t matter if it’s malice,

Still sounds like a dream.

-Kenny Taylor

“I slept with someone.” He heard her say that sentence clearly. Then scattered words. “Road… fan… drinking… mistake…” He hung up after “sorry,” more shocked than enraged.

♦♦♦

I got a week’s worth of work,

I’ll never get to,

‘Cause every time I get to start,

I start to think of you.

-Kenny Taylor

Kenny wrote more songs over the next two weeks than maybe his entire life. And not just cheating songs, but songs of falling in love, of building a life with the woman of his dreams, of bonfires in Mississippi and that feeling of nostalgia that grows with growing old. Three of the twenty some songs he wrote went on to become number one records on the country charts. The first one, “Every Time” – half written before she told him of her indiscretion and half after – features the ominous chorus…

There’s a footprint on my heart,

Right where you used to be,

‘Cause every time I walk away,

You walk right over me.

For Kenny, it was always easier to express what he was feeling in a song. How else could he explain that he didn’t hate her for what she did – that he almost understood it? But that, as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t let it go.

Two weeks. That’s how long it takes to pack up a life. Two weeks to untangle a web woven over six years. The first few days were a haze. He’d mostly sat around with his guitar in his lap scribbling down melancholic crap. A boy with a broken heart, ignoring all calls and texts, secretly believing if he kept this up long enough it all might disappear.

Bea hated the road. Hated herself for being the type of musician who hates the road. Hated what she’d done. Hated the fact that he hadn’t tried to punish her for it. Most of all, she hated the silence. They had a rule about never going to bed upset. If anything was troubling either one of them they promised to resolve it before they fell asleep that night. On more than a handful of occasions, that meant they didn’t get to sleep until after the sun had come up, if at all. But at least in those days she never had to fear for her dreams. It seemed to be all she did now.

Last night she’d dreamt of Radnor Park where she and Kenny would take Jennings on hikes. She was at the bottom of the hill and Kenny was calling for her to come up, but every time she tried to take a step forward her dream body took one back. She tried to run, but that just sped up her descent. She called up to him, “Come down,” but he was too far away now to hear her. And so she just stood there at the bottom of the hill for the rest of her dream, knowing this might be the closest she ever got to him again.

When she woke up, she knew he wouldn’t be there. She checked the pillow anyway.

He looked at the empty pillow next to him. It still held the faintest imprint of her head and made him aware of all the things he was going to miss. Things so seemingly innocuous he’d rarely taken them into account before – the chalkboard in the kitchen where they left each other notes, the lint roller he used to get dog hair off the bottom of her dresses when he’d let Jennings inside and forgotten to close their closet door, the magnet that had held the ultrasound of their first child a month before the miscarriage, the half-burnt pan he nearly ruined while making blueberry muffins to try and cheer her up.

All these happy and sad memories imprinted on his heart. Forever.

♦♦♦

The sun ain’t coming up again this morning,

The day’s too busy hiding from the rain,

The screws are all collecting dust,

But I ain’t ever givin’ up,

Cause baby, you’re the perfect kind of pain.

-Kenny Turner

He called. No answer. Inbox full – one of those things you get used to when married to a famous musician.

She was sitting in the booth at 98.5 KYGO in Denver when she felt a buzz in her blue jeans’ pocket. The DJ was asking her what it was like to be married to a songwriter and whether or not she got first dibs on his songs. She told him “of course” she did and was going on about the perks of being with someone who could find a million different ways to say I love you. Right away she knew it was him, but was too scared to pull the phone from her pocket during the interview to confirm her suspicion. The next five minutes seemed to drag on for hours.

When the interview ended, she checked her phone – one missed call and one new message. “Ready to talk if you are,” it read. I am. The problem was she knew she couldn’t get more than 15 minutes free before the show and she didn’t want to talk around people and she didn’t want to cut him off. That’s how it always went in these big cities. “Alright if we Skype after the show tonight?” She needed to see his face. “That works,” he replied.

Time’s a funny thing. It seemed like only yesterday he was standing by the river pretending not to notice her noticing him. And today stretched on forever like the horizon while driving through the West Texas plains. He kept catching himself mindlessly rehearsing all the things he would say, then realizing they were all lyrics from his favorite songs.

She sat backstage in front of a million distractions and watched her life play out. Her make up artist, Tish, went to work on her face, while Sally took to her hair. They were running late. Everyone was rushing and didn’t say much. As she put the finishing touches on her lips, Tish noticed the streak of eyeliner running down Bea’s cheek. She looked up at Sally then nodded her head toward Bea.

“Oh, baby! What’s wrong?” Sally asked.

Bea hadn’t even realized she was crying. She was lost in a daydream of being at the hospital with Kenny when Dr. Goldstein informed them that they’d lost the baby. For weeks, she was inconsolable. Kenny tried everything. Cooked, cleaned, kept quiet, and counted all the ways he loved her. Finally he wrote a song.

“The Perfect Kind Of Pain” would become Bea’s first number one record. She found a measure of comfort in the lyric, “Baby, you’re the perfect kind of pain,” and always thought about their unborn daughter when she belted it out on stage. Kenny never told her the song was really about her.

♦♦♦

I won’t have the heart to love again,

Just ask anyone who knows,

I won’t have the heart to love again,

You’ll be taking it with you when you go.

-Clay Walker

Their life had been so full of love. So full of music. She couldn’t let herself imagine that coming to an end. Couldn’t believe she’d been so foolish.

Sally and Tish listened patiently as Bea told them everything. About how angry she’d been that Kenny had decided to stay home for the tour and how she missed him and wanted to feel close to someone and goddamn whiskey and cute guys in Wrangler jeans and cowboy hats. They empathized with all of her points, especially the last two, and told her she wasn’t a terrible person, but a good one who’d made a terrible mistake. They said to read the lyrics of her favorite songs and she’d realize she wasn’t alone. True, it was usually the man who fucked it all up, but this was a new era. The era where women were just as likely to screw things up as their men had been. They reassured her that all she could do was her part and that he would have to decide if he could love her again.

Bea felt better. At least enough for Tish to reapply her make up in time for the show. Sally and Tish both kissed her head and sent her off with the promise that everything would be all right. She finished her set with a cover of “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart,” by Randy Travis. It’d always been one of her favorite songs, but took on a deeper meaning now that she could relate to the words – that ambivalent feeling that comes from desperately wanting something you had and not knowing if you’ll get it back, not knowing if you ever deserved it at all.

♦♦♦

I walked around our house tonight,

Took notice of what’s yours and mine,

But everything here blurs the line,

It ain’t easy leaving you.

-Kenny Taylor

Kenny knew what he had to do. Then Bea’s face appeared on the screen. Everything changes.

“I should go,” she said. It was her plea for him to make her stay, but he didn’t catch on. “You’re probably right,” he said. And then she lost it. She turned the computer screen away so Kenny couldn’t see her face. But he still felt it. His bones ached every time she cried. And if those other tears had been a trickle, this was a waterfall.

For two weeks he’d wondered if she really felt all that bad for what she’d done. Now he realized she felt worse. It never occurred to him that she might be hurting too.

“Babe,” he said. It was a word she’d heard him call her a million times. Only now she could appreciate its significance – the hope in it.

She wiped her nose and turned the computer back toward her face. He was sitting there with a guitar in his lap. He plucked a string. The right corner of her lip curled into a smile.

And then he opened up to her the best way he knew how…

Since the day I was led to temptation,

And in weakness did let your love down,

I have prayed that with time and compassion,

You’d come around…

Her smile grew wider. It was the same Randy Travis song she’d just played. There was no way he could’ve known. Sometimes people are just connected that way.

He went on…

And I keep waiting for you to forgive me,

And you keep sayin’ you can’t even start,

And I feel like a stone you have picked up and thrown,

To the hard rock bottom of your heart,

To the hard rock bottom of your heart.

Bea smiled, tears of another kind streamed down her face. Kenny nodded to her. She sang…

Now this home we have built is still standing,

Its foundation is on solid ground,

And do we roll up our sleeves and repair it,

Or burn it down?

And I keep waiting for you to forgive me,

And you keep sayin’ you can’t even start,

And I feel like a stone you have picked up and thrown,

To the hard rock bottom of your heart,

To the hard rock bottom of your heart.

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One thought on “Bluegrass Blues (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Bluegrass Blues (Part 1) – NAYLOR CREATIONS

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