I am the passenger
and I ride and I ride
I ride through the city’s backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, they’re bright in a hollow sky
You know, it looks so good tonight.
– Iggy Pop & Ricky Gardiner
I am of the opinion that even when life is at its shittiest, it is also beautiful and full of moments that demand our attention, that remind us of all the love around us. Even when everything seems to be at ends, falling apart, maybe disintegrating right in front of you, when you are least sure of anything in your life – if you’ve done things right, if you’ve loved the people around you and not severed all ties, then there is so much around you to be grateful for, so many lovely moments to look at, to be conscious of as they happen. It is definitely this belief, more than anything else, that has kept me from sliding down that deep slope of sadness that certain times of my life have seemed to push me toward. The people in my life (some gone, some still here, some destined to be in and out of my life over and over) are amazing, caring, loving, hilarious and masterful distractors as well as patient and compassionate listeners.
I have been overwhelmed lately, over and over, by the luck I have in amassing this motley bunch of people around me. Sometimes it feels like no matter where I turn there is someone who makes my life better – like I have spokes shooting out from all around me connecting me to a large circle of fun and joy and love that is spinning around us all, rotating and turning and turning and turning whether we notice it there or not. It is always the small moments that remind me of this – an unexpected laugh in the middle of a tense moment, a joke shared, a small toast among friends or the head shaking of a friend who can’t believe you will still do that, the undeserved joy of a nephew’s smile for no other reason than you appeared right in front of him. Here are a few of the recent moments that make me grateful for my people, my family (by blood or by heart) – who bring me joy and break the fall when the world slides out from under me. A series of brief odes to these great folks, big and small.
Seeing my nephews’ faces peer through the wavy glass of their entry way – their toes stretched to raise their faces high enough to see – and then my name (missing a syllable, vowels shoved together with love) loud and animated as their front door swings open. Their arms around me, one set around my waist, one set around my legs, making it hard for me to walk. Having to tell them to wait while I hug the rest of the family. Sitting on the floor to watch the end of a movie with them, B sprawled out in front of me on his belly while I hold his ankles and wiggle his legs around. His giggle. The look backward when I stop and the scoot, scoot back so his feet are resting on my leg, skin to skin, heaven. Filling my plate with homemade tri-tip and pilaf, knowing that the whole family was waiting there for me, post-work, surely tired, but ready for a late dinner and the chaos of three or four conversations going all at once, intertwining and overlapping and loud.
Picking up B and taking him to pick up N from Kindergarten. Hearing N yell, there’s my auntie as we walk up, hand in hand. Ice cream with my boys, their faces a horrid mess, N slamming his cup up into his face and reeling backward with laughter. Dancing spastically in the car, N slowing his moves to a slow robot to make me laugh. Spending the afternoon with my brother and his wife. Holding little N while we all talk about big stuff and little stuff. Knowing this will happen more and more often as the miles between us shrink.
An evening spent with an old friend, her son and my dogs. Seeing her son bounce around the house, excited to see me even though I am so new to him, looking at his contagious smile – so wide and energetic. Watching old videos we haven’t seen in fifteen years (if ever at all) and remembering that then, like now, was beautiful and awful and hysterical in almost all senses of that word. Talking and talking until you realize it’s almost five in the morning, like we are not almost forty, but maybe almost twenty, all things so much like they ever were despite ages and ages of life happening for each of us during the lost years of our friendship. Feeling content, knowing that some people just are your friends, for no good reason, for no thing you’ve done, maybe just because the universe keeps you connected and you can fuck it up, but you can keep making it work, too.
Starting a roller derby class with a far more fierce friend who may actually join a team someday. Falling and lagging and trying and trying until we are so sore even talking seems to hurt. Being aware amidst all the pain that these are moments we will always be able to laugh about, to relive, time spent together before we live so far apart, before it gets even harder to find time together. Her split chin and my sweaty, sweaty face. Our energized voices talking rapidly as we exit, the messages back and forth the next week about the pain, the pain, ohmygawd the pain. Joking about the teacher and her topless rollerskating banjo playing dreams. Stories we could not have made up but will retell over and over.
Watching N miss a soccer goal because he sees me walk up and he waves, a smile spreading across his face and even though his dad and his coach tell him to watch the ball, he watches me. Knowing I should feel a little bad about that, but only feeling the love, the certainty that what I am doing with my life is right, right there in that wide grin. Kicking a soccer ball on the edge of the field with B, the sound of his giggle, both deep and high pitched all at once, when he kicks it at me and I miss it. Getting to go to the pumpkin patch with everyone, watching B fearlessly climb up the bounce slide steps – slipping more than once the first time, but never hesitating, just going and going and pushing forward – his bravado even at such a young age so inspiring. Watching him adjust his second climb up to avoid any slips, seeing the little boy who chickened out watch him and then make it up himself, with N cheering them both on from above. Their stretched out, laughing, smiling faces flying down the slide.
A happy hour event with one of my closest friends, refusing to miss her even though soon we will not live in the same city, or even the same state. Commiserating over work and bosses and other friends. Laughing at each other that we need pictures of our drinks before we can drink them, admiring her skills at staging the photograph and enjoying even that lag in time between getting the drink and drinking it. Losing track of time, the windows darkening and a candle lit while we talk over the arm that reaches in, ignoring the insanely loud atmosphere of the bar to tell stories and make plans and relax in a small pocket of time set aside for nothing else but hanging out, nothing else but this.
An insane evening on a school bus with this friend and her husband, meeting another friend of theirs for the first time, wearing plastic viking hats and clip-on mustaches and laughing until my eyelids hurt. Knowing that there’s nowhere else I would rather be in that moment and with no one else. Dancing and shit-talking and trying to think through the fun to come up with trivia answers. Wowing them with the speed and efficiency I can create a Snookie bump, without a mirror, without a brush, on a moving bus at midnight – such skills to impress them with. Seeing the startled shock on their faces when I quickly stand up at one bar, take off my shoes and threaten to beat them all with my shoes after being called a killjoy. Falling into such deep, hysterical laughter by the end of the night that I can’t do anything but form short sentences. Causing one friend to repeatedly fall apart with just one simple gesture acted out over and over. It never getting old, for either of us.
Deciding to attend a concert, at the last minute, with friends who used to be employees, but from the beginning were much more than that. Feeling giddy from the moment they get in the car, knowing that dorking out is always the goal, but so is catching up and talking about the real stuff. Talking so fast, over each other, because we all have so much to say and never enough time. Shared glances that require no words when we see way too many pairs of shiny spandex leggings and braided headbands worn across the forehead. The facial-expression-shorthand of women who had to communicate about customers without saying a word. Plotting with the only other women in the world, that I know, who are excited about dressing up like Chuck Finley in all of his 70’s mustached glory. Feeling alive and independent and capable of creating this whole new life I have set up for myself to invent.
Making a rollerskating date with a college friend who has always been there, to pick me up or help me through, and then unexpectedly finding a few extra hours to meet for breakfast the day before we were to skate. Lounging through breakfast, talking and talking about roller derby and writing and family without feeling time rushing by, without feeling like I need to run off to the next place. Commiserating over being almost forty and entertaining the notion of roller derby, of realizing that we are not old, neither of us, and we will not act old. Enjoying eggs and potatoes and coffee and the company that feels so easy and comfortable and peaceful.
An unexpected visit, a short amount of stolen hours with someone I didn’t expect to see anytime soon. Relishing the time trapped between two days, trapped between being with and being without, knowing that soon I will not see this person very much if at all and refusing to be sad about that in the moment. Both of us laughing at my dog chasing her own tail, startled by her own butt, spinning and spinning and spinning. Both of us enamored of my littlest dog, her fraggle face and monkey belly, her wide eyes lit up and her ears back. Locking out the sadness that will come from missing this person even the next day to just be there, laughing and smiling and submerged in the minutes that are passing, refusing to be sad before it is time, refusing to think too much about that right then. Allowing myself these moments when they happen, without reserve and without overthinking.
|Photo by Cesy Mitchell|
An elaborate performance by N and I while visiting my sister at her ‘camp’, where she is ‘camping’ for a very long time. A ridiculously costumed, unrehearsed free-style rap performance to brighten my sister’s birthday. Helping N into the costume in my sister’s room as he can hardly talk for the giggling. Blowing up the inflatable ring for his Rap is Phat rapper costume. His pursed lip smile, when he tries not to smile, his dimples coming out full force when he does this. This dimpled, pursed lip face as we walk out of her room and down to where the family is barbecuing. The instant change in his stature as he approaches them, the character taking over his body, a swagger falling into step. My heart swelling when some strangers walk by and look, but he keeps on rapping, keeps on beatboxxing, keeps on dorking out. His hug and B’s hug when I have to say goodbye only a couple of hours later. That was awesome, Dann-a, as we wave goodbye. My sister’s smile in the middle of all this other stuff. Wrapping my arms around her because I can. Holding her that extra minute – so grateful for her and my brother, my left and right side, the family that is meant to last with you into old age
Spending an evening out with other friends, celebrating a birthday, so much laughing that my voice begins to give. Friends who know me as the girl who will do almost anything for a laugh, without fear of looking the fool, who don’t seem at all surprised that I still act like this at almost forty, even with a camera toting friend in tow, even in the age of Facebook and instant mass humiliation (but you have to be embarrassed to be humiliated, right?). Who don’t seem at all surprised when I climb on a dumpster or pull wigs out of my trunk or climb on top of my car. Who know I’m not drunk, know that I don’t need to be drunk to do these things. I only need an opportunity and an audience. I only need to know you will laugh – and that so will I.
|Photo by Jennifer Majarian|
Driving home way too late, way past when I should have been too tired to function but was propelled forward by the rare moment in time of us all together. Driving home and consciously aware (for what might be the hundredth time in the last few months) that I am a lucky, lucky girl to know so many people who know me, really know me, and still they love me. Still they join in and participate and revel in the hours we can find to be together. Who will also be there when I need them, show up for the shit, too, be there to hand me a tissue to dry my eyes or open their doors even if I am carrying a suitcase and a devastated look. Countless faces and eyes and arms to hug me, to push me into a silly situation, to smile at me and make me laugh even when, especially when, there seems little to laugh at. Amazement at finding myself standing here, in the middle of this circle, of people who don’t even all know each other, but still circle around me, magically present, appreciated and so valuable, so needed and so loved. They are all certainly my bright in a hollow sky and they all look so good to me tonight, and every night.