DATE: 1/15/2004 11:49:00 AM
Tears on the Sleeve of a Man
So I ran faster
But it caught me here
Yes, my loyalties turned
Like my ankle in the seventh grade
Running after Billy
Running after the rain
These precious things
Let them bleed, let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break their hold over me
In the shop, in the mornings--they only work from 7:30 am to 3 pm down there--they pump the radio through some kind of speaker system powerful enough to be heard over the whine and buzz of the machines. And that means that it's loud. LOUD. Every so often one of the trucks backing into the garage door where we sometimes go to smoke accidentally hits a wall with the side of the cab or the corner of the flatbed, and the whole building shakes; sometimes someone loading a truck drops an I-beam and the impact makes my teeth rattle upstairs. All day long while the men are working down there--mostly Latino men, mostly immigrants, which might make you think that it's an unskilled job but it's not, Americans just don't value working with our hands anymore--there are shouts and the sounds of things clanking together. It's a sound I grew up with, the sound of my father and grandfather in their workshops feeding plywood through a table saw while my sister and I covered our ears and screamed as loud as we could, delighted by the fact that we couldn't hear ourselves over the screech of the saw. Only in his workshop my grandfather listened to the classical music station, humming along mindlessly with Beethoven and Brahms as he put together intricate wooden figurines and my father listened to a tape of Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special. The strange combination of the roar of machines over a drowned-out hum of music is not a new thing for me. In fact it's so old it's going out of style.
Between me and the virulent life of the workshop there's a wall covered in soft blue burlap and pinned to that wall like talismans are pictures of the Red Sox and the Patriots and Tom Brady and Chuck and Trent and Steve. Every new person who passes by notices something different. Bernadette said, "Oh, Bless!" when she saw my pictures of Steve. Renee thought Tim was my brother. Most people see Trent and ask "Who is that?" Most people see Tommy and roll their eyes (most people here are men). Usually these surroundings, a near-solid collage of pictures like my personality is radioactive and has left its residue on the walls that surround me day in and day out, are enough to make me feel secure. Not today, though. Today the 50th rendition I've heard this week of "Old Time Rock and Roll" over the muted chaos of the shop finally got to me. I pulled out my Tori Amos CD, Tales of a Librarian, and popped it into the small silver boom box I've left on my desk. It's the first time I've used the CD player on it, the first time I've continued in the grand tradition of being surrounded with revealing music while working at a solitary task.
But what if I'm a mermaid
In these jeans of his with her name still on it
Hey, but I don't care 'cause sometimes
I said sometimes I hear my voice
And it's been here
Silent all these years
Maybe the music and the pictures speak for me because I won't out loud. Maybe they show that I'm somebody. Or that I used to be.
This is not really happening
You bet your life it is
Ever swim in a pool with a beach ball? I used to swim quite a bit when I was a kid. Right up until I realized that the way I looked in a bathing suit was a problem. I always used to take some kind of bouyant thing in the water. I'd push it down with my hands and balance on top of it on my stomach. Sooner or later it'd pop out again, driven by the inexorable forces of physics, and I'd repeat the whole process. Sometimes when it popped out I'd scream, "Ba-KAWK!!!" like a chicken.
Lately there are thoughts in my head, most of the time pushed down below my consciousness, and I float along comfortably nine times out of ten but then that one time, they jump out and pop up in the air with all the force of being suppressed, and they scream, too.
I've been looking for a savior in these dirty streets
Looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets
I've been raising up my hands
Drive another nail in
Got enough guilt to start my own religion
Maybe this is how I'll be forever. Is it? Just with that little seed of Something Wrong eating away at me like sand inside an oyster.
I have other thoughts, though, that are like worry stones. I use them just like that. I run over them over and over with my brain like a tongue on sweet hard candy. Sometimes they're Nine Inch Nails and beautiful Trent, sometimes they're Chuck Palahniuk and his beautiful words, sometimes they're Tommy with his beautiful face. In times of struggle I often direct the energy I can't cope with toward something outside myself.
I've figured out why it's athletes this time. Before it had always been musicians, authors, writers, dark haired, pale, skinny young men, mostly. Why all of a sudden baseball players and football players with their massive, magical bodies? Amazing how I can do things--and do them repeatedly--and not understand them. But I usually figure them out, and then that means I can't use them anymore.
So I figured out why sports. Because athletes are talented and pretty to watch, but unlike many other people that description suits, they're not doing something I should be doing myself. I have all the coordination of an 18-month-old baby. I have the speed of a wounded elephant. There's no way I'll ever, ever be able to accomplish what they accomplish. So watching them doesn't make me feel bad.
Everyone else, though, well...
It's like I'm waiting for something to happen. I'm tensed and waiting and the slightest thing--just one more refrain of "Old Time Rock and Roll", for example--is going to set something off around me. At night I have horrible, violent, stressful dreams. It's like waiting for a storm to break. Like waiting, and not knowing if what you're waiting for will ever happen, or whether or not that's a bad thing.
Maybe I'm safer without. Without what? Who knows. But that's all I can come up with right now. Meanwhile I'll pull my music and my beautiful boys around me like the afghan the temp in Customer Service is huddled under at her desk right now because the heat in this building isn't working today.
Outside this building, outside my head, the cold is sadistic. The wind is howling. It's the worst cold snap on record. Everything else is frozen and waiting too. So for now I'll stay hidden in this cubicle and I'll listen to Tori sing like a news report from the other side.
The other side of what?
I don't know.
Maybe I'm the afterglow
Cause I'm with a band you know
Don't you hear the laughter on the way down
Yes I am the anchorman
Dining here with Son of Sam
Hear too much to chatter on the way down
Gonna meet a great big star
Gonna drive his great big car
Gonna have it all here on the way down
Way down, way down, way down
Way down, way down, way down