Might I tell you a story?
There comes a point in suburban middle class, after a stretch of being, among other things, disconnected from my body, when I begin to feel the need for every manner of taste and texture on my palette. I care then not about how it feels and what I eat just so long as there is food nearby and accessible for consumption, often.
Similarly, in these modern times, just about any song is accessible.
For weeks—and one week not so deep into November but on the threshold—I had been listening to the same song on repeat. I let it find me a suitable November chair; a throne made for all the souls who successfully made it through the rigors of the calendar and lunar year.
Songs like these are not settling but make ions out of moments. They express intensely sad stories and sound suspiciously like the voice we have when we finally give thanks for every gift we’ve ever received and every tragedy that changed our vantage point even if ever so slightly. There is a room in which we can dwell where we lay around us all those we love and every moment of grace, forgiveness, kindness and then pain. And, in that room we become frozen in grief for the loss of time, watching said gifts melt away and become memories.
Memories make us itch in a place we can never reach for scratching.
These songs worthy of repeat give us a place in the room of mounting gratitude. Their words are deep and solemn and true but they also share an important characteristic: they have been ingeniously laid down aside a modern, tasteful dance beat that leads us to a steady bodily hum, adding to the already smoldering intensity, and we sway our bodies to the push and pull of those thoughts of which we are afraid to let go.
My husband once said to me so matter of fact that “dancing is just simulated sex.” He is a sly creature but I wonder if he knew the weight of his words upon my ego. I still remember the remark, noting to the air often how I have been dancing vigorously since the age of five.
And yet, in suburban middle class, as stated, I find there are stretches of days wherein I feel disconnected from my body. In the case of this November, the chair of the ninth hour, the hour that is the most intense, I was the heavy, dark syrup that had collected in the nooks of my being. My jeans were tighter. My face was flushed with exhaustion of eating.
And so, for that early week, I had the sad disco in my room. But, like clockwork–our spirits, how they pull the reins–I heard a new song whose major purpose is to compel the listener to actually stand up and dance. It was a tune totally new to me and during the hours between first hearing it and those alone at night, in peace, after rest of my family was in bed for the night, I couldn’t wait to be alone.
In this song the composer is posing questions to the self that is dead. He asks the validity of his decisions way after the fact saying, and not without a little irreverence, “Did I do it all wrong?” And once he asks, he simply lays the past to rest truly and proceeds to make a sound for a certain arena setting. It’s as if he assumed that his every listener will be one of 10,000 all moving in unison to a tremendous hurricane in a space with a very high maximum occupancy rate. He meant very much to create an elixir so intense that it tells any listener to move every bit of his body in response to the sound moving so rapidly through the bloodstream.
It is so in the suburban middle class.
Now you ought to know that all of this after hours heaving is happening while I am performing my regular mother and wife duties. You see, my days are largely filled with the acutely unglamorous. Despite this, and almost by virtue of it, I have become so accustomed to seeing big in the tiniest of blood spills.
Being old has its virtues. Yes, it is true that a young woman has a tautness and a long way off expiration date that instinctively enlivens men and enrages them into all manner of war against women. It is for good reason, by nature’s design, that often young women, despite what they claim, are wobbly in their skin, embarrassed by their desires, their aromas, their imperfections, their sins.
But, being old and hitched has its virtues. All the heat becomes concentrated. And, so it is important to point out that in the concentrated heat, a typical Saturday with the family becomes like no other.
What is the name of this coagulation that becomes days in the making, the need to call attention to one’s self, the rouge of the lips, the heavy foot on the accelerator while your husband and two children ride along with you in the car?
It started in the morning when I became conscious of my need to hug him; to press myself against his body standing up and hide in the private exchange. This substance that formed in the building could be better identified as that Saturday wore on and wholehearted recognition of it finally set in while shopping in the afternoon.
While my daughter kept occupied by her grandmother and my son slept in his car seat supervised by my husband, and while my father-in-law conjured interest in his surroundings as a means of staying out of everyone’s way, I shopped in the middle class. I buzzed around a boutique in a little tourist town near our home that is recognized by most to be a good combination of bucolic and hip. Among the female shoppers speaking amongst themselves of their petty aspirations, next to a honey bar at which one could soak in on the tongue golden varietals, I puttered among the many skin creams and luxury soaps and came across a scent.
She lives in a little, black bottle and since the moment of purchase, I have not been able to stop wearing her. I find myself spraying the stuff under my shirt often, to ensure easy access at any given shift of bodily position and, for the same reason, in my sheets before I settle down for bed.
I purchased the scent and then insisted that everyone in my entourage take a sniff and admire the musky combination; after which I devoured without any need for personal reflection a dense chocolate torte, remembering what I once read and what seems to be common knowledge: that the experience of eating chocolate is tantamount to passionate kissing.
Such a nugget makes me appreciate myself.
Now it is truly no real wonder, all this localized profusion and subsequent acknowledgement of it. November is always prime time for naturally occurring, strikingly succinct motifs. The photos are better. The art is dense but minimalist. The music to which the November sailor clings is both perfectly soothing and dark, tinged with the strange, the surreal, the absurd. As an epicure would describe a well-executed batch of wine or one who loves kissing would characterize well-made chocolate, there is something so tightly bundled about the output of November universe.
Since most of the leaves have fallen, this landscape has a clean (often spoken of as ‘drab’) feeling to it. Although it is inaccurate to say that the month totally lacks a teeming, it is far less alive than other times of the year. Even December with her punctuated hours of sunlight bears light.
In November, there is no such distraction. And, it is no wonder that married lovers have no choice but to flourish in play then. For she is the time for sugar most sweet; fruits and others boiled down to the basics, yielding a simple syrup.
So it was, that humble Saturday that mounted and then bucked its two hind legs in flippant but sure affirmation. Toward massive peak we ran bearing stones. Not just me. All of us…
After bathing eternally in the scent of Excess and the dense torte and another jar full of magnum tea that sent me reeling, time swung open magically at the playground. There my daughter met a boy who shared my name. And, in the omnipresent gazebo that sat next to the elaborated swing and slide set, this boy had laid out what he called, “a toy party.” All the cars and trucks that he could bag were there for the amusement of himself and presumably everyone else around. Of course my daughter followed accordingly and it wasn’t hard. The boy carried with him a stuffed animal, a cartoon snake that had stripes of white, orange and black. It flew every which way when he scaled the slide, the monkey bars, and all manner of ladders. And, when he took off to finally unveil his toy party the snake trailed beside him. And, we followed. My daughter and son at first, they followed. Someone says, “Toy party in the gazebo” and all those with fire for hearts must go to partake. My mother-in-law and I we followed the children while the men walked off to a nearby church to say confession to God. A belly full of euphoria-inducing food and tea made it difficult not to feel the Holy Buzz. My daughter, the boy and the snake circled round and round and round the toy party while my son stole tiny cars and pushed them the over the edge of the floor and into the rotting leaves. I spoke to myself in private, no one looking, whispered, “Fast mounting the train is lifting. Watch out these highs may leave you drifting…At home tonight you will show him you love him, when the kids are asleep and no one else knows how good this life can be.” A private knowledge; but the boy with the stuffed snake with which he hit us all at least once, he knew. He would listen half-hearted to his nanny, young woman in waiting; waiting for her own life to begin amid all manner of things that keep us suspended, halted. I am biased, I’m aware. Stuck inside the decisions that leave of us bound by what could be a syndrome of complacency. But, amid all voices of doubt, what could make such an ordinary Saturday feel so gargantuan, especially considering the pale grey of the late year’s tired sky? There is no shining brightly for the shoots of grass underfoot. The grass is dying. There is no promise of new prospects. Only a dim light and a hum drum rhythm that will surely, as it usually does, start to drive me crazy in the lonely alleys of the day.
But, I’ve got a cartoon snake with which I smash it. I impale those around me with marked venom. Their hair gets mussed. They curse the way I swing it sliding so fast down the slide.