Tuesday, December 19, 2006

the spewing exhaust of worry

I think I've always felt alone in sadness. I use the word 'felt' intentionally because my knowledge has always been contrary, I've always known to the core that I've been privileged to grow up in my family, in my hometown. And its not really a personal sadness, its a more general hollow feeling, rooted in the vastness of the earth, the collective loneliness of the human race, the multitudes hold up in apartments and divorces, out of work and out of love, belittled and burdened in the course of an average person's routine... Steinbeck called it a "World Sadness" -- I like that term... I've always felt on the outside, as an observer, as a person that maybe the fundamentals of life we're somehow not quite meant for, and I guess I've tailored my life around this, - at least for the time being - traveling, meeting dozens of people every day, seeing what pools up in people's eyes. We understand each other more than I think we let on, but are so anxious about letting eachother know. I am privileged to have a unique path through life -- it excuses all these normal and simple and satisfying and supposedly easy things that I seem to be clumsily alien to...

Somewhere in Virginia we're at a cafe and a strikingly overweight man comes in to inquire about a cooking position. The white-haired waitress informs him that the help wanted ad was printed wrong and its actually another branch of the chain restaurant across town that may have a job in the kitchen. He walks out and she turns and walks past our table, stops, and asks me what's wrong. I tell her how it troubles me that that man didn't have a job. The humility that he nervously lowered himself to in order to ask was so crushing to me. I told her it made me not take for granted that I have a job. She responded that folks often look for more work around the holidays to afford presents (now a crushingly hopeful thought that this sad man had love in his life after all, someone to care about, someone who cares for him, knows the intricacies of his life). She went on to tell us that she might need to get another job at night for the holidays ("that's the price of freedom" -- whoa!) that her boyfriend was getting out of prison after four years next Monday. As she came back around again and again we learned more about her various boyfriends who had been in and out of prison for long terms. One of them was an "outlaw biker" who had done time in Detroit and California. The other was a musician who played guitar in a band in prison. She told us how he had sold his guitar and amplifier and she bought him a new one... the greatest sign of desperation, addiction, general trouble for any real musician is a sold off instrument.

Sometimes when I'm alone (and alone is where my thoughts bloom, my imagination flourishes), when I'm sitting in traffic or outside a busy coffee shop, I'll picture the exhaust of worry spewing out from each individual, watch it collect in a dark plume above us. The multitudes are clenching their teeth in unison, sweating as they tear down the sidewalk, muttering to themselves in speech of deadlines and timetables, wringing the steering wheel in their hands...... But when I'm alone, when I'm truly and wonderfully alone, outside of this stress march... I smile. I feel the muscles in my face move like interlocking gears, they crash into each other one by one until the whole machine is moving, until I feel it in my heart, in my gut, in the soles of my feet. I focus on something beautiful, something intricate, something desolate but hopeful. I focus and I try to stay there as long as I can.