I’ve been trying to write something, anything but this for the past week. The Trisha interview threw me for a loop, and sent me reeling. She did so inadvertently, of course. She said “started back at zero.” She said she was cynical and biting to the point that she hurt people. She said that after her brother’s death, humor became the default operating system for all her social interactions, and that she stayed away from any other emotions.
It was the starting back at zero comment. I hadn’t heard that exact phrasing before, not outside of my own head. Then she listed a shared symptom, humor as both sword and shield to fend off and defend from real emotions, and people, and how people can grow into you, and how people can suddenly go. Then she said how she was sad for ten-plus years, and didn’t even really know it.
I came to Brooklyn at zero.
There was a girl, and she was the one I loved the most. Many years I loved her. Many years she loved me. Then a freak bout of lung cancer claimed her. I left my home in Georgia, because the heart I loved best had left me. My world was made beaconless. It is a profound feeling to become untethered. Value-wise there is suddenly no difference between the raindrops on your face and a parking lot; between the others dying in the hospital and these very live ones going about their day before you. No difference between your best friends and shuffling strangers. So, what do you do? Shuffle on now that you’re the stranger, for the way is forward, is it not?
Funny thing that. Forward is omni-directional. Any which way I face from here is forward.
I used humor in my early days to stave off bullying in my trailer park. Then to win friends. Then to make her laugh. I was an atheist heathen then, and she a faithful Christian. The God-loving, life-loving girl would laugh at my darkest jokes. I don’t know how we got along so well being so fundamentally different. She could get me out of my head. It’s been hell not having someone who can do that.
In NY the humor has been to beguile workmates and others into believing there is a friendship, but what have I ever revealed of myself? Not a thing. Trust me, make people laugh consistently and they won’t want you to do anything else. It’s nice. Yet, an interesting thing has occurred. I do not joke or act funny around these southern souls I’ve met and am coming to know. The notion of keeping up an act suddenly becomes exhausting to me around them. So, I smile and nod my head struggling to fathom what else is there to say other than a joke. “How’s it going?” That sounds like something regular people say, right?
I made jokes about meeting Amanda (of Barefoot & Bankside) in an earlier post. I joked about not knowing if I liked her or not due to her unending saccharine hyperbole. The truth is I glimpsed a spark inside Amanda that I came to recognize because of that girl. I know Amanda will read this. She’ll probably give me a big hug, which is a less irksome thing to me nowadays. In a dark little room in a basement, I think Amanda was the first person I told about her. Believe it or not, Amanda was actually quiet. In a good way.
That spark is in Jamey Hamm, and Trisha Ivy, too. It is in Amanda’s husband, Christian (he read my novel, he said he liked it). It is there in Andreea, the intrepid photographer. It’s just about damn near everywhere if you can find the right eyes to see it. Their music, their stories, their photographs have become my right eyes through which I can glimpse a world still full of kindness, and joviality. It’s still somehow a decent place to live despite her absence. The road southern is not the way back. It is not the road home. It only leads forward from here.