BY D. GILSON
THE SUMMER I HALF DATED A ROCK STAR
How much longer are we going to look
for Arby’s? I ask Jakob Dylan — son of Bob
and front man of The Wallflowers — as we ride
a spotted Palomino down Cesar Chavez
Street in the east end of downtown Austin.
An hour ago Jakob said, It just makes sense,
riding a horse in Texas. And it does, maybe,
but Jakob doesn’t have much of a chest
to hold onto and today I wore my cut-off
Levi 501s, which despite claims of Levi
& Strauss in early 1914 advertisements,
are not well-suited for bareback riding.
My thighs chafe. We pass Starbucks.
Want to stop for an iced soy latte? I ask, but
he just keeps riding. I have come to know
two things about Jakob. One: Do not ask
about his father. Two: When the man wants
a beef-n-cheddar with a Jamocha shake
you might as well ride along or get off
the damn horse. No stopping this cowboy.
I’m not a cowboy, he tells me and I say,
Please, Jake, stop reading my thoughts.
Three: Jakob is a sometimes clairvoyant
when he is hungry. Three weeks ago
we met in a Baton Rouge gay bar. Anything
good to eat in this place? he asked. Hell
if I know, I said, But you are one cute cookie
What can I say? I was nervous. It was Jakob
freaking Dylan, who wrote the 1997 hit song|
“One Headlight,” which Rolling Stone later
named #57 of the 100 best pop songs of all
time. One thing led to another and Jakob asked
me to tour the Southwest. Ride off into the sunset
with me, I thought he said. But I was wrong
about everything. In Arizona two weeks from now,
I will buy what passes for a Navajo blanket, some
Diet Pepsi, and a used copy of Anna Karenina.
At a truck stop I will say, Jake, I journey alone
from here, and he’ll know I mean it as I walk down
the road, throwing my head back, laughing.
There are a thousand ways to say it is not the heat.
In Maryland, the mosquitoes, in Missouri,
the humidity. In Montana, the heat is always elsewhere.
But what about Memphis? That July we matriculated
to the Elvis Presley School of Hardknocks, enrolled
in Persistence 101 at the Motel 6 on Interstate 40.
These are the thousand natural shocks the flesh inherits.
Saturday morning heartache, that July I could not bring myself
to leave the boy with the worst tattoo: a forearm rabbit, beloved
Jolene in memoriam (she died licking bleach off the bathroom floor).
Watching television, its endless loop of Law & Order,
I knew the littlest things are capable of change. Like Mother,
who lost all that weight in 1993 to star in a cable access Subway
commercial. I have never been more proud of her, lunch every day
a six-inch chicken breast on wheat no cheese no mayo, extra
large Diet Coke. I will not quote Brokeback Mountain and I will not lie
about Memphis and I did not want to quit you. That was my July
of bisexual boys, hunka hunka burning preacher atop the crusty
bedspread — Both dick and pussy, you said, that is the quest, son.
That July, there were a thousand ways the bug zapper
just outside the window lulled us to sleep (no chance to dream):
one, a mosquito flies into the light; two, the bedspread imprints
a chorus of our flesh (grunt, sweat, another mosquito caught
in the zapper); three, Jolene glistens as you snore; four et ultra,
I am watching another episode of Law & Order, forever.
D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush (Punctum Books, 2014), with Will Stockton; Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize. He is a PhD candidate in American literature & cultural studies at The George Washington University, and his work has appeared in PANK, The Indiana Review, The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays.