Oshun’s Sadly Swoon

By the time the delivery guy brought me the wrong order yesterday, I was once again done with the human race and the complicated triggers and traumas we bring to every interaction, all of us butting up against each other like bullies in a sandbox, crying big tears when no one’s looking but fists balled just the same.

The irony of the delivery guy kerfuffle was that on Sunday I’d given an impassioned lecture about Jim McKay’s excellent En El Séptimo Dia, a neo-realist look at the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant working as a delivery person in Brooklyn, where white hipsters with leftist politics treat them like shit. And here I was grappling with the dilemma of how to get my food without causing this delivery person trouble. Especially since, judging from the slip he was wielding, the wrong order was not his fault but his boss’s.

I sorted it out with no permanent harm inflicted on anyone, I think, though not quickly enough to avoid the low blood sugar blues. By the time I finished eating I felt sorry I’d ever relied on other people for anything, even supper.

For the last six weeks I’d been trying to smooth my edges so someone could come close and by yesterday just felt gobsmacked–run over, if you must know.

I’m not sure if you must, though. Not sure, once again, if I’ll post this. It’s indiscreet, for one thing, possibly a dealbreaker within the relationship universe. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way it’s that inhabiting the relationship universe–filing myself down in general–has mostly made me dimmer and less effective. Less sharp.

You get into this clusterfuck of balancing your baggage with theirs–ahem, of learning how to cooperate–and you can’t find your own line of thought, inspiration. Can’t be of greater use. It becomes all about facing each other rather than the heavens.

It becomes about being afraid to write lest you break some relationship rule.

Here’s a secret: I’m not convinced relationships are the healthiest way to go through life, not the way we modern people have been taught to worship them as the pinnacle and foundation of every social structure.

But here’s a bigger secret: I long for a relationship that feeds me and another person more than it drains us. One that connects us more deeply to our true selves and the divine, not just to each other. Readers of this blog know I never dreamed of getting married or becoming a mother in a traditional sense, that even now I believe those institutions rarely benefit women who harbor other dreams. But since I was a teenager I have longed for a relationship in which I and another creative person nourish each other and our work. In which we create beauty and truth together that we might never create apart.

Instead the other night I had one of those conversations on the street. You know: the type where one person wails and the other stares off stonily; your stuff, their stuff, too many feelings shutting down the feelings only causing more feelings, my trigger their trigger my trigger. Jaysus, that drill!

And when I woke the next day, all I knew was I didn’t want to do that again anytime soon.

I tried to work on my book and it was crap so I worked on my practice and that worked just fine because it’s about something besides The Trigger, the worst dance craze Motown never launched.

After work and the disaster that was takeout and a stupid run-in with my passive-aggressive millennial neighbors (can you turn down your music it’s interrupting my weed smoking which is hanging heavy in your living room), I picked up my keys and tied on my Harriet the Spy sneakers and started walking.

Ostensibly it was cold for a June night but I was running hot–hot-tempered, menopausal hot. I thought of this beau who was at an event I was supposed to have attended. I knew what he’d say: Sweetie, you’re hot, period.

And I winced, because I didn’t know where to put the affection that conjured in me after feeling so shut down the night before…

And so I strode further into the deepening blue of the day, angry at first and then–no surprise–really sad.

I’d hoped to have been walking my way into more book ideas, but instead found myself unpacking all the emotions that, unacknowledged, had been holding me hostage all day. I felt panicky, stomachy, wheezy. I lengthened my stride.

It wasn’t until I neared the waterfront that my breathing smoothed out and my shoulders dropped. There she was, there she always was: the river goddess Oshun, assured, sinuous, she of the great flow. It was sunset by then, and local teenagers were crowded on the pier. I didn’t begrudge their presence. I was glad someone else was relishing the sun’s departure and the East River’s swoon.

I sat on a bench and tried to exhale my sadness but instead started to cry. All the fears, all the frustration. All the hopes too.

I thought of my last love, whose studio was located only a few feet from where I was sitting though it may as well have been a galaxy away. I thought of what this new person had and had not left behind from his past and what kind of space he had thus far made for me. The space I had thus far made for him.

Then I fed the Lady a copper penny and whispered a prayer into her waters:

Let me be less alone. Let me love and be loved more and let the past finally lie in slumber.

I gave her the reins to my music shuffle to accompany me on the rest of my trek. Here are the songs she fed me in turn:

“Solitude”–Duke Ellington
“Lost and Found (Find Me)”–Ledisi
“Forward”–Beyoncé and Blake
“Help Me”–Joni Mitchell
“The Weakness in Me”–Joan Armatrading
“Shoulda Known Better”–Janet Jackson
“Tip On In, Part 2”–Slim Harpo
“Your Thing Is a Drag”–Sharon Jones
“Respect”-Aretha Franklin
“Beginning to See the Light”–Ella Fitzgerald

The list was so finely tuned to my particular cocktail of frustration and longing that I felt for the first time in days like I was part of something bigger than my broken line. That I had been heard and held.

I rounded the corner toward the park, and looked for a place to a pee. Though I’d been walking for three hours, I never feel it’s a true hike until I pee outside, even in the city. At the southwest corner of McCarren I spotted a bunch of bushes parted by a narrow path and, entering their tiny world, quickly pulled up my skirts and crouched down, basking in the night air and rising thwack and chatter of nearby soccer players. Basking in my flow.

When I started again, one more song came on: “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” by Jason Moran, a song I’d loaded onto my phone but not yet heard. I smiled: Another little wink from the river goddess. Then the horn section kicked in and I gasped. I’d have known that trombone anywhere. It was his, my last great love’s— soft and insistent, pure as he ever got.

And so I wept some more, collapsed in that dirty city grass. For the love that never finds its way. For the darkness that eclipses the light. For the ways we fail and miss each other. For the chemistry that explodes more than it creates. For the hope that hurts.

But may someday help, hope being hope and all.

I stood up, and walked myself home.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy