Monday, April 04, 2011

Dancing with Myself

I promised myself that starting today before I started real writing I would do some personal writing. Or at least before I started paid writing I would do some personal writing. I miss being able to go back and read about what I’ve been doing. That is my own failing. So to fix that I need to start remembering exactly what it is I’m doing and write. Write, write, write.

From New York, Last Summer:

It was the length of the working day more than anything else that prevented much writing. I would crawl out of bed around 5:45 am in the morning so I would have time to work out before work. I had to be out the door and into the subway before 8 so that I could be walking through Times Square to the office, and in my cubicle by no later than 9. Good times.

The cubicle was only really a passing thing, a place to rest or retire for a few minutes when I wasn’t in front of a dozen people trying to do my best to impart the mystic ways of language teaching. The day started for them much later, but for me, much earlier. All day working, finishing up around 9 p.m. for the trip back uptown. I was usually walking the mean summer streets of the Dominican neighborhood around 10 to get back to my place up on Riverside Drive.

Hot summer nights, after a hot subway ride, after a too-cold day at work, were both a respite and a drudgery. More sweat in a business jacket, and this intense tightness in my stomach from having not had a proper dinner or even a proper lunch. There is this pervasive sense that at any minute I might fall over from the sheer exhaustion or stress of the business. There is the crushing loneliness as well. Of being stranded on a life with less of a plan than I usually have. How did I up here?

I exit the subway at 186 and begin the fifteen-minute walk to my place. New York City is quiet some nights. At least in my neighborhood everything is shut down and buttoned up tight by ten at night, with only stragglers on the city streets. It makes me wonder if I am really safe walking home.

And then one night I walk past a man wearing a large, bulky set of headphones. When I see these types of headsets they make me think of modern-day boomboxes. A headset that pumps so much sound into your brain it blocks everything else out, while still be respectful of the public at large. The boy that wore the headset was lithe and lean, a thin, dark body covered in sweat. Wearing heavy jeans, an unbuttoned blouse, and a hat on his head under the headphones.

At first I thought he was just pacing up and down and listening to his music, but as I drew closer, I realized he was dancing. On the street corner, under the New York sky, with its dim stars trying desperately to spark through the light canopy of the city, under a streetlight, on the hot, muggy night, he was dancing. He would spin and strut. Hold out his arms and run backward on his feet, only to spring forward and pirouette. I wanted to stop and watch him dance, to revel in his pure freedom on the streets at night.

He was oblivious to the passers by, the late-night commuters, the people quickly walking to get into their apartments. He was immune to heat, and business jackets and the stress of long work hours. He was beautiful and fantastic and free. I was in awe of his unfettered spins; and at the same time all too aware that I would walk on, not stop, not stare, not look back. Weighted down by a need to get home, and a desire not to be looked up on as a yokel; shackled by my own inability to let the world go. I watched him dance with unadulterated joy and I wanted to join him. And, as I think back about my experiences in New York, I think I did find some strength to free myself, perhaps because of his freedom, or maybe my own grim determination not to live a life half lived.

Now that I am back again, almost a year since I landed and did my trip to train in NYC, I keep thinking of that dancer. What I wonder now is how I can start dancing on the streets and let go of my own fears? That is the question.

1 comment:

Gryffan said...

This is certainly the kind of story i love. thank you for sharing it.