One of the interesting things about submerging your head under water is the moment between your neck wetting and when you feel the liquid coursing into your ear canal. (I always imagine it like a flash flood — the desert after a rain. A clear blue day and suddenly, with a trickle and then a roar, all the cacti are washed away and the tumbleweeds go all soggy.)
My life is like water in my ears right now. For some reasons which don’t bear going into and some which do, it feels like, as my mother would say, “someone has upsot the apple cart.” (The apple cart being me.) It’s restlessness and discomfort and exhaustion and exertion.
Nothing’s going my way. Everything’s harder than it should be, takes longer than it ought to. Just this afternoon I went for a walk in the park to cheer myself. I saw a huge leaf pile, and instead of walking around it, I thought it might do me good to skip through it. I hit a rock and twisted my ankle. You see what I mean.
It’s a tough time. But what makes it interesting is that I know I’m in it. I know the water’s about to trickle into my ear. Somehow I got lucky enough to be aware of how much fun I’m not having. And I can’t decide if that makes it more bearable or less.
I know it doesn’t make it any better. Yesterday, I was slouching down 42nd (not to Bethlehem, but Times Square, where there’s no room on the inn), scowling and feeling pretty tough. That area of New York is always crowded and seems particularly prone to wanderers or little lost citizens who get in the way. I was not in the mood for packs of tourists. I was about a block away from my subway — I could see the glittering yellow circles, smell the grease on the turnstiles — when I slammed into a girl about my age, walking the opposite way. I was knocked a little off balance and turned to scoff when I saw the crash had made her drop her purse and most of its contents had spilled on the sidewalk. She was frantically trying to scoop them up amid the tangle of feet, more treacherous than jungle vines, and people were starting to complain. Even from my haze of misery, I knew I should help.
I didn’t want to. I wanted to give myself a break. “I’m in my blue period!” I said to myself. “I don’t have the strength to do anything I don’t want to, and I shouldn’t have to pick up some chick’s lipstick that’s in a shade too kitsch to bear anyway.”
And as I walked away, I realized that acknowledgment doesn’t make things better or worse. But it does change who takes credit for things. And I wondered — what if every time you feel the ground shifting beneath, maybe, like in the old disaster movies, it’s just you moving your feet.