Jason Isbell Predicts My Future (How Can This Possibly End Well?)

...in which our hero announces his retirement and the world wonders if he's Michael Jordan or Sandy Koufax...
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Picture it: laying in bed, one dog beside you where she doesn't belong, her paws covering the hand not petting her, the other dog loudly licking himself, curled up on his bed in the corner of the room. Music fills the air, nearly at the pain threshold as it has to be loud enough to be heard in the bathroom and over the cascade of running water. The faint smell of Dove soap is wafting on the steam from the shower as is muted singing. It's slightly off-key and yet your smile is keeping you warmer than the blanket covering you. Leaving for work in the morning has always been a drag but this is different because rather than dreading what's to come you long for the next time you start your day this way. Moments like that and so many others have given you elevation. You can touch the face of heaven and feel joy beyond mere happiness, exceeding your most daring daydreams. You've been changed by love and found bliss.

Okay, so you've never been in a bar fight (there was a close call in college but that's a story for another time) and the final act wasn't in a car but anguish filled the atmosphere like volcanic ash after an eruption, blocking the sun and darkening the skies. You heard the explanation and understood even though the reasons don't add up. They cycle on an endless loop and you realize comprehension is pointless because it doesn't change the only thing that matters: she's gone and now the world is emptier, nothing tastes as sweet. That tiny apartment seems vast, the king-sized bed down the hall feels planetary.

Forgiving others is never easy but forgiving yourself is infinitely more difficult. This unwanted freedom leaves you with abundant time to convict yourself for 41 years littered with screw-ups ranging from minor indiscretions and momentary lapses to catastrophes. It's been your fault enough times blaming yourself is easy, so why not now? It doesn't matter that she says it's not you because there's no one else to blame. You think to yourself how you really need a drink but you know it won't stop at one and nothing bottled or brewed is going to put a stopper in this. 

A soundtrack to life has emerged, cobbled together by coincidence and experience. The songs remind you people and places. They also teach and expand your view and understanding of the world. Music plays constantly, sometimes quietly in your head and other times at high decibels through speakers and headphones. It has been a constant companion, in the presence of others and when you're lonely, you press play. The soundtrack has almost become your life's work. You spent the early days sharing songs with one another, sometimes sharing the stories that went with them, and finding new ones, together, that became the soundtrack of a love story that surprised and thrilled. The songs still do but you lost the plot and the story is something else altogether.

There is a story of a missionary working in a leper colony in Africa. It's his last night there and they are taking requests for which song to sing next. The young missionary is taken aback when one of the more afflicted among them requests, of all things a famous hymn entitled "Count Your Many Blessings." The missionary started the song but couldn't finish, relying on those assembled to carry them through. Someone approached him afterward and remarked, "I bet you'll never be able to sing that one again" to which he replied, "I will, just never the same way."

Songs what have been pieces of your soundtrack for years resonate in new ways and the ones what are specific to this saga remind you of Obi-Wan Kenobi's prophetic warning, that being struck down would make him more powerful than ever. You're not surprised these songs have done the same but what you didn't expect is the strange twist upon your lips when they visit you. You're smiling because you can't be anything but grateful for her and the journey. She taught you to fly and launched you into orbit. The takeoff was exhilarating, the flight electrifying, the landing excruciating. The view of the crash site still evokes disbelief. A ghost is born when something dies and that's what these songs have become. You still smell the soap and the dogs, and hear the echo of her voice. You have faith. Some days you even have hope, but love no longer lives here and it never will again. The "No Vacancy" sign flashes and buzzes courtesy of the ghosts that have taken up permanent residency in the form of memories and music.