I’ve tried to move forward in much the way the cautious will remove a band-aid: in little pulls, taking care to remove as little skin and hair as possible, swallowing the pain in segments. Would it be better, wiser to take the whole thing in one rip? I wouldn’t even know how to do that, but then again, my patience wears thin. I want so badly to get past this.
Yesterday one of my co-workers came in for a drink and said to me, “You know, I was driving the other day, and I happened to look over, and I saw this girl dancing around in her car, waving her arms around…” He imitated what he had seen. I immediately covered my face with my hands. What he was describing was my “You Can Call Me Al” dance. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, because in no way will I ever stop doing my favorite dance. It was more that the absurd humor of the situation, from someone else’s perspective, became plain. Apparently he’d been in the car with his whole family, too, so that was pretty ridiculous. I had to sit down and think about it. I do that dance, like so many of the stupid things I do, in order to extract some joy from myself. Joy can be a taxing, an exhausting undertaking. In no way am I happy most of the time, but I pursue joy with everything in me. How could they know, from their side of the road, that it wasn’t the flailing around of the silly or the mildly drunk that was going on, but the earnest attempt at looking forward to a better time by the very, very sad? I remember this time I was in the passenger seat in Tallahassee, and “River of Dreams” came on, so I rolled down the window and started singing as loud as I could to those in cars around me. My traveling companion said, “What’s wrong with you?” It hurt my feelings so badly, I didn’t recover for the rest of the day.
The same co-worker that saw me dancing a fool has recently been dumped. Last week I came into work, and he had with him a pair of shoes with elephants painted on them. I found out later he’d painted them for his ex-girlfriend. “Why?” I asked. “Why do that?” “Because she’s moving away.” What a strange and ridiculous impulse, I thought. But I understand. Why do we do these things? Maybe it’s because we just don’t know what else to do. It’s what we would have done anyway, I guess. It does not occur to us, maybe, that when we get hurt, it isn’t because we are lesser people. I look inward, I look downward. I put names to things, and make lists of things I should improve. I want so badly to be good enough, to be better.
But it wasn’t me that didn’t understand the impulse to sing Billy Joel. If only I’d swallowed my indignation and said, with no trace of malice, “There’s nothing wrong with me,” and then again, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
It’s hard to remember, at the grocery store, sitting in church, watching movies alone, writing stories, at the bank. In my car, though, listening to Queen and Bowie and Paul Simon and Billy Joel, I can consider the notion. There’s nothing wrong with me.