Things got a little hectic yesterday morning. I’m going to try to tell this story, which involves other people, while keeping the focus mostly on myself. I’ve never stated so explicitly but there’s a reason I do that and it’s not because I think I’m such a fascinating character. Letting my focus shift to other people would make for better storytelling but less effective mental health exercise. When it comes to my well-being, the things that other people think, say, and do are irrelevant. Really, they have nothing to do with me and are none of my business (or at least none of my concern).

The Lipstick Homicide and Bloated Kat houses are about a block apart, so our crew was split between them for the night. It was about time for us to get on the road from Iowa City to Carbondale when Noelle called me and said she needed my help. “It’s nothing bad or serious, is it?”

“Andrea broke up with me and is driving back to Florida without Jessica.”

Since 2008, Rational Anthem has had an incredibly sensible rule: no girlfriends on tour. Relationship problems are bad enough on their own, but when they come up on tour, they become the whole band’s problem. This trip though wasn’t quite a tour and an exception was made. Noelle’s girlfriend rented a car to drive up to Dave Strait Fest, but also to stop along the way up and back for two of the shows Rational was playing between Florida and Minneapolis. In the car with her was a friend of Noelle’s (and – at one point – possibly of Andrea’s as well).

What happened isn’t important. There was now bad blood and Andrea didn’t want to drive back to Florida with the other girl.

Rational Anthem has three members. Their van has four seats. I was along for the whole trip and Zack’s summer in Minneapolis was over, so he was hitching a ride with us back home to Florida.

I walked over to the house and sat down with Andrea. I offered a couple different ideas/options that might make her more receptive to driving back with Jessica in tow, as planned. She wasn’t having it.

There was a point in my life where I was so desperate to be perceived as a “winner” – as someone capable of pulling any trick or fixing any problem – that I would have pulled whatever emotionally manipulative bullshit was necessary to get those two girls in the car together and back on the road to Florida. But that’s not me anymore. Andrea was hurting and I felt for her. Whatever happened to spark the conflict didn’t really matter to me. Two (or three) people can have radically different versions of a story and neither’s is wrong. Perception *is* reality. If Noelle or Jessica were mean to Andrea, if it was all in Andrea’s head – it didn’t make any difference. Emotions are more powerful than facts. I didn’t care about the problem, only the solution.

The rental car was in Andrea’s name. On paper, the call was hers. Could she have been coaxed into taking Jessica and making life easier for the other people involved? Probably. But I consider Andrea a friend and – it’s a little strange but – my empathy was stronger than my need to be the clever problem-solver. It’s strange because I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I wasn’t willing to do anything to keep her from doing what she felt she needed to in order to feel okay.

I gave Andrea a hug and told Jessica she’d have to take a bus from Iowa to Florida. Not because she did something wrong (I don’t know or care whether or not she did) but because that was simply the situation we were in. Unfortunate but… things are as they are.

Jessica said she didn’t know what she had done wrong. I said that I didn’t either, but that it didn’t matter. She was upset (and reasonably enough so). Not being the type of itinerant punk rock fuck-up that so many of us are, a bus trip from Iowa to Florida was going to be a new kind of experience for her. I did my best to remain calm, compassionate, and supportive, and to alleviate any fears, but it didn’t go over much better than my initial proposals to Andrea. Jessica asked if she could go in the van with Rational Anthem and someone else could take a bus or ride back with Andrea.

Chris, Noelle, and I walked back to the other house. Chris wanted to keep the group intact as it was. Noelle said she felt bad about the situation Jessica was in so she was okay with Zack or I heading back with Andrea – so long as we were. I didn’t like that option, but was willing to do whatever seemed to make the most sense. Zack was too. I saw Andrea’s hurt, but there was hurt all over the place and I’d do just about anything for Noelle at this point. She’s my friend and – besides – I owe it to her. For all the times when I haven’t been a good friend to her. For all the times when the only thing she could really count on me doing was making trouble myself.

As it turned out, Andrea returned
the car in Iowa and made other plans. The five of us decided to hit the road as initially planned.

"Iowa." 8/19/13. Watercolor, marker, and pen. 9x12".
“Iowa.” 8/19/13. Watercolor, marker, and pen. 9×12″.

This was finished later that afternoon but drawn mostly the night before, on the way to (and at) the show in Des Moines (which was The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Rational Anthem, Tight Bros, and a few others). The text is basically journaling about the situation and some other stuff that was on my mind at one point or another.

The text that stands out most to me says, “What’s to come is what matters. We roll with the punches. We’ll do whatever it is that we have to do.” It’s kind of about what is as well as what should be. Or maybe just what is when we’re at our best. Human beings, I mean.

I’m really grateful for the fact that – even when I thought it might mean that I’d have to go home early – the thought never occurred to me that I should go back and try to talk Andrea into taking Jessica after all.

And I’m grateful that I’m still here with four of my friends. And grateful that I’m finally able to treat my friends the way a friend should.

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