I've talked a little about my days as a roadie, back in the day when shorts were small and socks were tall, but it's been a while since I've thought about what I gave up to take that job. I had wanted to work for SHOWCO ever since I knew there was such a place, and had already made one ill-fated move to Dallas to try to get hired on. In fact it was the fallout from that move (long story best left untold) that found me living in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the Fall of 1977, sharing a studio apartment with a part time accident photographer and working various food service jobs to make my half of the $125 per month rent. (That's not where most of my money went, believe me.)
About two months after moving to Fayetteville I met Anne. She had attended the college where I met my roommate, and they apparently renewed their acquaintance when both moved to Fayetteville. Anne was tall and blond and beautiful -- I mean really beautiful -- and for some reason she seemed to like me. The next six weeks or so comprise one of the most amazing periods of my life. Without going into detail, let me just say that we enjoyed each other a lot. A lot. A lot. She taught me to drink spiced tea with milk and honey. I don't know if I taught her anything. I don't remember a cross word passing between us. She got frightened once and I was the one she called. We went everywhere together. No wait -- we didn't. We went where we wanted when we wanted and we both seemed good with it. It was perfect.
And then the first week of November I made the call. Every time I called SHOWCO they always told me to check back in a few months. So I would call and they would tell me they didn't have anything and I would live another chunk of my life. Except the first week of November when I called, they had just lost someone and needed a replacement and the RCO All Stars are playing in Fayetteville tonight so why don't you go down and talk to this guy Buddy Prewitt and he will tell us whether we should hire you or not. And I did and he did and they did and I was gone two days later.
And just like that Anne was out of my life. Well, not just like that. We talked of her moving to Dallas after I got settled, and for a couple of months I really thought it might happen. But she got a job she wanted in advertising and our relationship did what long distance relationships tend to do, and within a year or so I had completely lost track of her.
Since then I have evolved really mixed feelings about those weeks. I don't think Anne ever knew how close I came to turning down that job. If it had not been my life's dream* I probably would have stayed where I was. She also has no way to know how long I pined for her, or how close I came to packing it in on multiple occasions that first few months, when I was lonely and homesick and the new job wasn't what I expected. I had some pictures of her that would almost (but apparently not quite) disqualify someone from being Miss California, and I kept them for far longer than was appropriate. My ex-wife finally threw them out during a move about a decade later. No one would ever have suspected how much time I spent looking at her face in those pictures, though the other parts were good, too.
On the other hand, it was six weeks. Almost all good relationships are good for six weeks. And I don't even know how much we really had in common. I'm sure we carried the seeds of our destruction, and if I look close enough I can almost see them. There was probably a sad or bitter or fiery end in our future, and we just never had to live through it. I think in some ways we were too much alike, which I only found out was bad many years later.
Or maybe that's all just rationalization. The entire weight of my life since then conspires to ensure that I am happy with my choice. Either way, the direction of my future balanced on a knife point one day many years ago, with two of the best things I can imagine on either side. I chose. What else can we do?
In the end I decided to treat those six weeks as sort of a capsule, like a great book or a favorite song**. Those weeks are almost completely disconnected from the main thread of my life, no longer food for regret or wistfulness or nostalgia. At the same time those weeks embody for me a feeling of love and relaxation and good fortune that is as personal and private as anything can be. It is without cause or effect or consequence, except to remind me that I have been blessed. Wherever Anne ended up, I hope she remembers the time half as fondly.
*I know. I was 20. Shut up.
** Or the time when I was fifteen and an eighteen year old girl I had never seen before stuck her hand down my pants on the Silverton railroad. It was a really good day.