Rage permeated the room faster than I could clasp my hands over my mouth and shade my eyes. The piano’s sheet music was still floating down to the old, scarred hard wood floor like fall leaves floating back and forth until they rest safely at their long awaited destination. It was one of those slow motion moments where everyone knows damn well that everything is moving as quickly as usual, but the senses are suddenly acute enough to take in extra information. The way Sam’s eyes bulged with euphoria and fear; my arm muscles quivering in reflex; the steady hum of the window unit air conditioner; the smell of burnt matches; the foreign taste of regret on my lips. Teddy ran outside onto the porch. No one dare go out and check on him. Instead we crouched down under the window and pulled back the curtain ever so slightly. He was standing on the porch shirtless and shivering, trying desperately to get his cigarette lit. It’s a good thing that we had just gotten back from 7-11, otherwise he would have been cigarette-less and even more ill-tempered. We sat, watching him for what seemed like just a few seconds, but was actually more like 25 minutes, before I decided to brave it and talk to him. I put on my jacket and nodded back toward my friends before leaving the living room. I felt like an eighteen-year-old draftee, forced into action, who has bit the proverbial bullet and knows what has to be done. “His life or mine,” I kept thinking. It didn’t really have anything to do with the present circumstances, but something about the thought softened the dire severity surrounding me. Probably not too distant from a soldier’s meandering thoughts. The next thing I knew, I was standing awkwardly next to Teddy with nothing much to say. He puffed away, seemingly content to let me suffer there, while I racked my brain searching for the right words to break the 6 foot thick ice. I started with “So,” but before I could say anything more, he interjected. “Dude, it’s cool. It’s enough that you’re here.” There was something sort of funny to me about hearing him say that. He always seemed like such a savage. No woman could ever have his heart, because, well, he didn’t have a heart. That sort of thing.
This is something I wrote a while ago, but since Zach posted about Manhattan, I will too.
Last week I was presented a feeling that I’ve since been trying to define. Nick called it a cereal bowl shaped hole in my heart: that feeling in your stomach that seems like something important, but is really just a hidden, acute desire for Fruit Loops. While this seemed like a plausible explanation, I decided to investigate further. It was a vague sense of yearning, the filling up of warm compassion, the flooding of my mind with cozy memories called away from their regular spot around the hearth of my heart. The interesting thing was there were no memories that were summoned; it just felt like it does when they are. Likewise, it was a longing for something more, a loneliness for love. An unnatural feeling hope; one that could be easily misunderstood as hopelessness for the void it produces. James Taylor, who possesses one of the most enduring talents of any artist that I’ve ever come across, has a lyric that I was struck by in considering all of this.
“There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist,
There is a burning in the center of my chest.”
Well put, James. That’s what I’m talking about. I love it when art hits the nail on the head (for another example, see the chorus of Paul Simon’s song “Graceland.”)
In pondering my mystery emotion, I also had the impression that I was investing in dangerous business; that I should exercise unmitigated vigilance to put a careful finger on my emotion. Sometimes it’s easier to not know how or what you’re feeling. To discover the expanse of my divorced self would mean a long road of reconciliation and my walkers are weary and weak from lack of use. Well, I decided a few months ago that the destination of self-awareness is worth the traveling, so I once again decided to continue to explore.
I tried to describe the feeling in as many ways as I could in an attempt to key in on a definitive answer to my ponderings.
An emptiness that needs to be filled.
A puzzlingly pleasant hollowing out of the soul.
A hole in your heart where things can fall through the cracks.
A desire for something more than what is immediately here.
A hunger for conclusion, answers or the next step on a journey.
A secret that you want to keep, but desperately want to tell.
A step out of the shadows and into the light.
A fear of mystery.
A long exhalation.
From this list, the most intriguing insight is the apparent similarity between ambition and loneliness. This correlation had never really struck me before, but, in hindsight, they do feel much the same. John Eddy told me the only difference between the two is simply that with ambition you have a plan to do something about it. That makes sense, but I don’t know.
I guess all of this is to say, despite the dull sense of pain that accompanies it, I think I like the feeling (whatever the conclusive evidence decides it may be). If for no other reason, I like it because it’s real. Like most things in this life that are real, it is neither purely good nor bad, happy or sad, black or white. Nor is it easy to figure out, and that’s the most encouraging thing to me. I’m grateful to be able to feel anything real.