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Return of the Radical

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So anyway, I've thought it all over, and there's a couple of conclusions I've come to. One of 'em is that life was easier back when I had zero fucks to give; sure, stuff may mean more now, but back when things were simple I could just coast. Nothin' bothered me. It was nice not havin' a purpose. I didn't have to think about how empty life can be sometimes. When you're all alone, too many chances blown, no direction home, nobody callin' on the phone, nothin' to do but get righteously stoned and crank up the Stones. Or play our late hero Ziggy at maximum volume, just like the man suggested. Puff a cloud of the sweet leaf, log on to the local net, and 🎵freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah.🎵

The other thing is that time seems to speed up as it goes on. And Edward thinks she knows why: Not so long ago, one year was ten percent of my whole life. Nowadays it's like five or five-and-a-half percent at most, and that number's just gonna go down more and more as the time ticks away, an' a year looks smaller every day. Dig on that for a while. 🎵No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.🎵 I used to not let stuff like that get to me, but one day I saw it an' ever since then I can't unsee it. I guess you call that growin' up.

Man. Growin' up sucks sea-rat balls.

Balls, walls, prank calls, waterfalls, echoes in empty halls.

Still, even before I knew the rules existed I wasn't playin' by them — and when I got old enough to notice 'em, I didn't give a damn then either. Growin' up doesn't mean you gotta sit down, put a clamp on all your fast-and-loose, and play the game by somebody else's rules... there's always a choice, a chance to reprogram your system and write your own code while there's time. A chance to 🎵drop off the key, Lee, an' get yourself free.🎵 If travelin' with them taught me anything, it taught me that.

But like all good things, livin' on your own terms has a downside — it means a lot of alone. Used to be able to just hop into a network, twist it till I could squeeze out its secrets like orange juice, and feel like I was really gettin' somewhere. Like who's afraid of isolation when you got a whole solar system at your fingertips? But damn it, time insists on passin', and one day came the realization that all that wasn't enough anymore. I can track a crook right to his doorstep an' collect a nifty commission for tippin' off the law, all without leavin' the bridge of my tiny little ship — but it's kinda hollow, you dig, when you got nobody but your dog to celebrate your victories with, no matter how smart he is. (And he is pretty goddamn smart, I'll tell you.)

I didn't use to be lonely being only. Sure it was nice havin' someone an' somewhere to belong to, but it wasn't nothin' I couldn't do without if I had to. And God knows I had to... You try bein' a scatterbrain raised by someone who's an even bigger scatterbrain, so much so he keeps forgettin' his kid exists and havin' to be reminded. Wasn't till I got older I figured out that wasn't normal... but I've never lived close enough to normal to know for sure what it looks like. 🎵Zigzag wanderer had a zigzag child.🎵

But eventually, after a couple years of running around tryin' to hang on to his attention, I realized he couldn't give me what I was lookin' for. Being Fran was starting to hurt, especially being Fran alone, you dig. Nah, Fran couldn't really be Fran again... but Edward could be Edward. And there used to be a place where it was easy for Edward to be Edward, where bein' lonely couldn't hurt me 'cause I knew I wasn't alone... but nah, I can't go back there. Get back to where you once belonged? No chance. That's over. I've known too many people who wasted their lives chasin' after things they couldn't have — an' I see now that I'm one of them, you dig. Stuck between wantin' to live free, outside of the rules, and wantin' to have someone I could turn to, a place I could go back to that would always be there. Two urges, fightin' in my heart like yin and yang, and poor Ed never knowin' which one to listen to... 🎵You're lost, little girl, you're lost, tell me who are you?🎵

Okay, sister, cool your jets. Why all the jabber, blabbermouth? You're talkin' in circular circles, but around what? What's at the center that makes you skirt the edges? What's all this noise and wasted time tryin' to avoid?

[Long pause]

Him. Him-on-a-whim. I'd already jumped ship a short while before he popped his clogs, but he's the reason I can't go home no more. Not to that home, anyway. We all went our separate ways after he was gone, so far as I know; I was kinda wonderin' if one of the others would come scoop me up some fine day, but they never came. When I read the news an' realized he wasn't comin' back, some of the color went outta everything — and I figure that was the moment I started growin' up.

🎵Something happened the day he died — Spirit rose a metre then stepped aside — Someone took his place and bravely cried — I'm a black star — I'm a black star.🎵

It's him I miss the most. Not Big Brother Black Dog, not Big Sister Faye-Faye. Them I could see again anytime I wanted to, if I ever wanted to — though I dunno what the hell we'd say to each other. I could find 'em in ten minutes flat, right from this very chair. But I look out into the night now, and I know I could look a million years an' never find him again. "He died. He is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?"

🎵The memories always start 'round midnight...🎵

What's so special about him, anyway? I don't even think I know, Joe. But I guess part of it is the way he always took things in stride. He didn't get hung up tryin' to understand when things got weird. He accepted. Even when he felt things strongly, he just rolled an' bowled with it. Be water, my friend. That was kinda how I made it, too, back then — and I wish I could get back there. I got years an' years ahead of me, if I play my hand right, but it's the years behind me I always catch myself thinkin' about.

And the dude had style for weeks, man. I wasn't tuned into that so much at the time, but when I look back on it... I dunno, is it still called 'swooning' or has somebody finally come up with a better word for it? I hope to God and Charles Mingus I get to be even half as cool as that by the time I'm his age. (...Crap. I just realized I can't remember what his age was.)

Cool is having an answer for everything an' always makin' it look like the right answer. Cool is havin' enough control to stay chilly in front of other people even when you feel like you're losin' your damn mind. Cool is bein' able to pick up whatever life drops on you an' carry it an' make carryin' it seem like the easiest thing in the world. Cool isn't something you work hard for, you dig — being hip means workin' your ass off to stay hip, to stay ahead of everyone else's game. Cool ain't like that; it's somethin' that just comes to you natural if you let it, when you figure out the knack. Cool is timeless.

I learned all I'll ever need to know about being cool from Spike Spiegel. He knew how to handle the heavy stuff with a light touch... But him being gone is the all-time champion Heaviest Thing ol' Ed's ever carried. He was there, and then he wasn't, and the universe feels emptier now. Hi ho.

🎵They laughed at his long black hair and his animal grace... And he was all right, the band was all together... Oh how I sighed when they asked if I knew his name.🎵

My deepest darkest secretest secret is about him, too; I ain't even had the guts to talk about it till now, but I guess I might as well lay it on you. One long and very lonely night on my little bitty ship, while Ein was sleeping, I was alone in my cabin, in my bunk, doing — well — the sort of thing you do when you're alone, when a sneaky little thought snuck into my mind, and just for a moment I imagined my hands were his hands... I died. No, really. Six seconds flat, I swear to God, and I exploded. There was a fireworks show behind my eyelids like never before and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from screamin' — and it ran through my nerves like flames and it just went on an' on an' on and it was so damn good I seriously thought if it didn't stop it was either gonna kill me or make me break the bed. Even after I came down I wasn't down; I lay there writhing and squeezin' my wrist between my thighs and moaning Spike Spike Spike with tears in my eyes until the last of my strength was gone. 🎵All for you, body and soul.🎵 Woke up with an ache in my heart and a metal taste in my mouth and salt tracks on my cheeks an' I found twelve hours had got behind me while I was zonked out.

🎵I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey...🎵

I'm glad I met him while he was still around, but not so glad he went and did the stupid thing he did. He was a real gone cat, an' then he was just plain gone... It was the uncoolest gig he ever pulled, goin' off into the dark knowin' he'd never come back; it doesn't help that I'm certain he didn't wanna come back. Sometimes I get this dark feelin' that if I'd never met him I'd be a happier Ed today, but I don't really buy that, not deep down where it counts. I'm better for having known him; you better believe I believe that, Jack. With all my heart. He was the one who made me wanna be a cowgirl, the one who made me stick with it. Nobody can run from Radical Edward now, not with the memory of him cheerin' me on, pushin' me forward. But it's a lonely life, even if it is more free... I learned that from him, too. You gotta be ready for bein' out there on your own — I thought I was ready, but when you stop bein' a kid an' learn to look up, you realize how small you really are in the universe. I'd a' felt better about it if he was still here, but them's the breaks, snakes.

In Japan, back when there was a Japan, they called it the sadness of things — and brother, is it ever a drag... the bringdown of all bringdowns. You get to know something, admire it, love it, and then zoom it's gone, an' that's the way of the world. Nothin' constant but change. Hi ho.

I'm changin' too, every day. Time passes, Jack, an' you learn how to watch yourself change. I remember when I used to be more comfortable sleepin' in zero gravity. I remember when I'd rather die than put shoes on; I still don't like 'em, go without 'em every single chance I get, but I used to hate 'em so much I didn't even bother owning a pair. I remember when I used to hang from the ceiling just for the heck of it, instead of for exercise. I remember when I thought his kung fu stuff was funny — or whatever that was — when I used to laugh at it instead of trying to reconstruct it so I could do it myself in case I ever needed to layeth the smacketh down on somebody's ass.

Fact is, I remember a whole lot of things I used to do that I don't do no more. 🎵Oh look out you rock and rollers, pretty soon now you're gonna get older.🎵



Where was I? Like, I just played this whole thing back an' I can't even tell where I was goin' with it. I was buildin' up to somethin', I'm pretty sure of that — but Tomato threw up a big alert message an' I had to go to work. The guy didn't get outta my clutches, brother, believe that. 🎵I got a name and I got a number, and I got a line on you.🎵 Nailed his ass to the wall for the cops to swoop in on, and I didn't have to walk more'n five feet to do it. No camera is safe from a girl with chops like Ed's, you dig.

So that's over, I made my bones for the week, and I'm on course for Ceres to pick up a refuel. And here I am again, takin' five, lyin' back in my captain's chair, talkin' to myself... It'd feel kinda funny talkin' to Ein about all this. Dunno why, fly. Just dunno.

🎵And I do what I'm doing 'cause I don't know what to do when I'm not doing it...🎵

Who ya makin' this for, kiddo? Just passin' the time? Or d'you want somebody out there to hear it someday? Maybe after you're gone? Man, that's another thing I used to do — not care about cornball stuff like that. But I'm old enough now to see nothin' lasts forever, not even the legend of the galaxy's most radical an' almighty hacker. And so it goes, and so it goes...

Yeah, I dunno where I'm gonna leave this thing when I'm through with it. Think I'll just keep it with me. Maybe I'll add a little to it, here an' there, left an' right, high an' low, whenever I get the urge. The Diary of Ed — I dig the sound of that, Matt. It'll pass the time. Time, time, said old King Tut, is something I ain't got anything but. Hi ho.

I ain't quite the girl I was. Hell, just yesterday I was different than I am today, and I'll be different again tomorrow. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, goin' on all the time, inside and outside an' sometimes upside down — like the way I'm sittin' now... sorry if my voice is a teensy bit muffled, by the way. But Edward is Edward, and that'll never change, not if I can help it. I guess my understanding of who an' what is Edward will change with the years, but it'll still be me; there's some kinda core of something deep down in there, somethin' that no touch can break. And when I imagine real hard, I feel his hand on my shoulder and his voice tellin' me: Don't stop now. Don't get lost in lookin' back the way I did. Keep your head in the game, kiddo. Nobody ever gets everything they want, but you might wind up with somethin' you like, somethin' you can live with. Persevere. Spiral out. Keep going.

Yeah. I'll keep goin'. For my sake, for his. Guess one of these days I'll see you, space cowboy... but for now, Radical Edward rides on. Excelsior, my shootin' star daddy-o. We'll talk again. Some other time. 🎵Smile a little smile for me, 'cuz I'll be thinkin' 'bout you.🎵

Okay. Guess I'm done for now. Let me spark this one up an' let's have some 'Trane, Tomato. Gimme "Giant Steps" — and give it to me nice an' loud.