Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For when your teeth come loose

 Last night I dreamt that all my teeth were falling out. And then I'd wake up and realize it was a dream, but that was a dream as well and my teeth would fall out in that dream and I'd wake up again. Finally I did wake up, for real, and I was chanting What is it? What is it? What is it?

Believe it or not, this is a reoccurring thing for me. My guess is that it's something leftover from a freak thumbs-up incident I was involved with in first grade. I was running through the playground on Clarendon street in Boston, shouting as I ran,  my mouth a perfect O. At that moment exactly,  Emily Lieberman was offering someone a show of support in the form of a thumbs up, arm fully extended. And would you believe it, her thumb was positioned so perfectly that as I ran past, it went right into my mouth and then pop! sprang out as I kept running. I stopped, bent over, knowing something was wrong but not quite sure what. And then I spit a mouthful of teeth into my little hand. Although they hadn't been lose, somehow her thumb had pried them straight out.

I've since had an understandable aversion to the thumbs up, preferring instead the relatively harmless 'A-OK' sign. But I gained something from that moment. Three feet tall in the playground and drooling blood onto my shirt, I had the sudden realization that if this moment hadn't made me cry, than nothing would. I decided, right then and there, that I would never, ever, under any circumstances, cry in school.  And I didn't! Not until high school and Reed Cooley kissed Veronika Cameron-Glinkenhouse the night before she was kicked out for having 'relations' with some playboat boy (who never got punished and now lives in Portland and commits check fraud). I was in my third and final year of high school when that happened, and I went into my car and cried for the life of agony and torment that the universe had so obviously singled me out for. But I'm not sure that counts. It was a boarding school, so the rules of what really counted as school proper were sort of gray.

Actually, the rules regarding what constituted school was really a gray area in every element of that school.
Life is so absurd. But overall it's pretty charming, wouldn't you say? Unbelievably quirky and unpredictable and unstable and weird. Not a lot of sense to be made, but you get used to that. Still, there are so many things to do and see and touch and look at.  Especially right here.

Someone told me lately, "Your writing used to be a whole lot funnier." And I said, "That's because I used to be a whole lot more miserable."

It's a trade off, I suppose. I've been this walking vessel of cheerfulness lately and I'm not entirely sure why, although I have a vague suspicion that it has to do with my friends and their gopher-like ability to pop up all over the place. Friends with boundless creativity and imagination and intelligence, friends that eat and run and drink and climb and read and study and trip on the sidewalk. I love seeing the calendar black with ink, and showing up alone at the climbing gym after a useless day at work and having three, four, five, six people show up and climb with me.

Having friends around is not a small things. I spent the last two years exploring foreign places, counting in my head the number of fingers and toes I would trade just to have one meal with an old friend. And now, on any given evening, there are like 100 to choose from. And I don't have to perform any amputations.

But you know, I'm not completely happy. I mean, who is. Even in a city brimming with people you love and adore and fight with and cook with, there are still the makings of frustration and loneliness.  There is the frustration of wanting to kiss someone but they don't even know your name and you can't figure out how to tell them. Then there are the people who are wanting to kiss you, and you are not wanting to receive a kiss from them, and what do you do about that. There are rainy days like yesterday, and commuting through the dark to eat dinner alone at your messy coffee table. And the distance between boys and girls continues to be phenomenally large, almost irrevocably so, even though we're all adults now and should know by this point how do deal with each other.

But either way, if you can at least remain curious, it's worth waking up to see just what will happen that day.
 I have a friend in Boston, who traveled with me in high school, who is waiting to feel better about his heart. He did what many of us have done before, and he gave it away to some girl who put her spike heal through it. He sounds exhausted when he asks me, "When does it get better?"

I've asked that question before. After the land masses tremble and break violently inside of you and the well loved atlas of your life shifts forever. You resist it for as long as you can, stand with one foot on each continent as they go sliding away from one another, until your choice is to either let go or split in half.  Might as well not let yourself get broken just yet.  I promise that your life will become familiar to you again.

I have no idea how I got here, but I told myself I'd sit down and write whatever came to mind and here I am. To the people who might feel like their teeth are falling out or their interest in the world is evaporating- I know it's tough now, but things will change.  Things will change because change and death and taxes are guaranteed. Sometimes you're up sometimes you're down, you know? You don't have to be happy all the time, and you won't be. Imagine if you were- you'd have very little perspective, very little empathy. And there is a great need for these things in the world.

In fact, everything you're learning as you break up or break down, especially what you're learning as you recover, these are things the world desperately needs.

I've found through my own experimentation that if you need to, you can actually prove to yourself that you will come to life again. It involves becoming very cold. Put on running shoes and go outside, and stay out there until you are wet and freezing. I mean don't just stand there, run around. Have a good time. When you can't take it any more, go inside and strip off your wet clothes. Get in a hot shower or stand by the fire, put on a warm sweatshirt and feel the rush of blood as it courses through your body.  That is the feeling you need to hold on to. Life returning to places of you where you thought you'd be numb forever.

Will took a plane to India and some time ago he crossed over to Nepal. Nobody heard from him for the first month and we all thought he'd drowned and in my dreams I'd confuse Will with Ben, there had been an accident, someone had fallen and someone had drowned, and I'd wake up confused and start crying at the thought of Will being dead.  Then I got a terse, three line email saying he was still kicking and the paddling was rad. And what was there to say in return? Nothing. I'm glad you're alive. I love you and I want you to keep your head above water, but I don't miss you any more. Not like I used to.

1 comment:

elissa said...

I hope you're right, my friend. And, I love you