Wild Horses


When I finish writing this, I’m going out, watering the flower pots on the patio, then taking a stroll around the garden to see who’s blooming. And I’ll have another cup of coffee. Not because I need the energy to survive another crushing, mad day, but just because I like coffee.

We put Pavement Productions, my theatre company, to bed last night. Sold out house, had to turn people away or risk a fire code violation. Good party afterwards. Loaded up the chairs and music stands into the big red pickup truck I inherited. Just as we got home, it began to sprinkle lightly. It was warm, a soft rain, and it was very, very quiet. Later, I went out on the back porch with the headphones and the Stones. I was going to smoke a celebratory cigar, but it just seemed too much, so I had a single pipe instead. Listened to “Wild Horses,” which I remembered playing over and over after the heartbreak of producing “Altered States of America,” a show the cast, crew, and I were very proud of and loved very much…as audiences seemed to as well…those that saw it. But there were too few of them, despite good reivews, and we took a bath, and, on Pavement’s profit-sharing model, for the first time in my producing career, I wasn’t able to pay my people. It was the most exquisite agony, like a protracted death, and I’d hear those lines:

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away

And I would cry. Sometimes. I’d play it until I was finally so exhausted I could sleep. But as I listened to it last night, it was like the soundtrack of a free-form film playing in my mind’s eye, images from shows past, friends faces–really wonderful irreplaceable friends, laughs at mistakes and the surreal moments that pepper life in the theatre, and the raptures of lights turning to magic, the perfect sound cue opening new levels of meaning, and actors, in the moment, finding their souls.

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

The song sounded so perfect, so beautiful, that it washed away its past connotations, and a cord, taut and twisted, loosened. When the song ended, I shut off the CD player and just sat, listening to little but a light breeze, a barely audible rain, my own breath, distant traffic.

Everything was all right. I went to bed. Slept deeply. Woke up to a gentle overcast. Sat up. Took a deep breath. The world had kept turning, both the same and altogether new.

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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