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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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The Prodigal Father
There is a consciousness about warm summer nights in a city. Different from back home, back in the country, back on his split foyer with the patio that overlooked rolling pasture and timber, there at the edge of town. Not that he could describe it. And if he tried, ‘consciousness’ wouldn’t be it. It just feels different, he thought. Had his self-awareness been better tuned, he would have recognized that the background hum of insects and wind was replaced by people and traffic and music, that the glow of moon and stars was replaced by streetlights and neon, that the eeriness accompanying the sight of a lone human being at night is replaced by the eeriness of a street deserted of human beings. As he walked through another of the city’s music districts, he thought how back home on a warm summer night was like being close to the Almighty, while the city sinfully replaced God with Man.
His daughter, whom he was looking for and who, unbeknownst, was only a couple blocks away by then, sitting on the street strumming her guitar, its case open for the occasional couple bucks or few coins people tossed in, had a different take. She found her old home in the country to be claustrophobic and suffocating, a dark pool of hypocritical dogma that she couldn't wait to escape from, but this city was like being plugged into a hot, beating artery of humanity. It was electric, it was visceral, and she loved it.
Months ago she’d cleaned out her accounts, played a last gig at Marshall’s sad little restaurant, told everybody off and hit the road, fast, before anybody could stop her. Came straight here just on its reputation, sold her old beater for extra cash after only a few days, couldn’t find a paying gig but met lots of people scratching by as street artists and joined them. They were her family now, five of them, three guys and two women, crashed in a single loft not far away.
That old beater eventually became her father’s only clue. He’d gone to the Sheriff the day after his daughter left – disappeared to his thinking – to file a missing person’s report and thus get law enforcement looking for her, but was told, no, has to be gone at least 72 hours. “We can check the hospitals, but that’s about all at this point,” the Sheriff told him. And that was another thing! How the heck fire his little county had elected a female sheriff was just to him another sign the world was taking a bad turn.
By the time he went back three days later everyone knew what his daughter had sang and how she’d sang it on the way out the door. How she’d basically told everybody off and to stay away from her. The Sheriff told him, “OK, I can put out an advisory, but not much else. She’s of legal age and she hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“She’s my daughter – she’s just a girl!”
“Sir, she’s 20, she’s a woman, and she basically told everybody, in front of a room full of witnesses, that she was leaving and to leave her alone.”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean it. She was confused about how things should be,” he told her. “It’s like the prodigal son; I just want to find her before she gets hurt.”
Corners of the Sheriff’s face curled up into a slight smile. “You know, sir, the Prodigal Son parable is more about the son who stays home than the son that leaves, blows his wad, and comes home with his tail between his legs.”
His brow furled. “How do you figure?”
“The son that leaves recognizes his transgressions and comes home,” she told him. “The son that stays becomes prideful, and judgmental, and arrogant, and is just as far removed from the father as the son that went away ever was.”
He thought for a moment. “Well, that can’t be!”
“You know, if she doesn’t want to come home you can’t force her; you can’t tell her how to live her life.”
“But I’m her father.”
“Would this be different if she were your son?”
Incredulous, he said, “Of course it would!”
She rolled her eyes. She really didn’t want to send the guy out feeling like she wasn’t doing anything, so she told him, “Look, here’s something I can do – she left in her car, right?”
“And it’s her car – your name isn’t on the title or anything?”
“Tell you what; I’ll assign one of my deputies to conduct a VIN search. That way if it shows up for some reason – traffic stop or whatever – you’ll at least know where she is. If he doesn’t find anything right off I’ll have him check every week or so. Okay?”
It took two months, but the VIN eventually showed up in Florida, on a used car lot. It was another month before he learned the dealer had purchased the car at auction in Georgia, then three more months before he traced it back to a dealer in Nashville, and yet another month before he tracked down that guy, who finally dug his records out and told him he’d purchased it outright from the buyer – his daughter, as it happened.
Nashville PD was no help – “Buddy, a thousand new kids show up in this town every week,” they’d told him, but did at least suggest he wander through the city’s music districts; maybe he’d see her.
So he strolled through the various music districts night after night, five nights running now, and had little hope of finding her in this one that didn’t have anything like the country music he’d taught her to play. And that was yet still something else – turns out there were kinds of music played in Nashville other than old time country. That wasn’t right! But as he walked along he looked closely at every street musician he saw, looked into every building he heard music, any kind of music, being played, holding hope by the neck. Terrible, terrible, godless place, he thought, and as terrible as it was he knew exactly what would happen when he found his daughter. Her eyes would widen, he imagined, and the look of despair that this place must be affecting on her would be replaced with a gasp of joy. And she would run to him and throw her arms around his neck and cry ‘I’m soooo sorry, daddy, please take me home, please, please’! He just knew it. She’d see her error and be so happy to come home to him.
Then he rounded the corner and saw her. Across the street, sitting on the curb outside a club, dressed in worn clothes and strumming her acoustic. She wasn’t using the soft, little girl voice he’d taught her to sing with; it was something much gruffer, and not a nice country song, either. He decided not to push too close, just to remain across the street and position himself where she could see him, a strategy he would later decide had been a mistake. Because she looked up, took a few seconds to recognize him, furrowed her brow, gave her guitar strings a couple hard whacks, cursed, and fast as possible threw the guitar in its case, snapped it closed, and disappeared into the club.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.