A Hole in the Ocean Floor

I wrote this piece about a year ago, and in my post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas haste, I remembered it in a burst of deja-vu. The feelings are still fresh. 

I thrive in the pendulum. I know it’s stupid, clinging to the smallest of vignettes in what people tell me is the biggest, most integral time of my life, but it’s what I do -- what I will continue to do because maybe it’s the year, but deja vu has been up my entire a$$, these last twenty-four hours.

Take this, for example: I'm in the sixth grade and my cheeks are a little pudgy. And I know it sounds like a weird thing to note, but whenever I look back at pictures of myself, I note just how long my eyebrows were (are?). I feel as if that’s enough of a description. Picture me, folding linens and belting ballads from a musical called Dogfight. Trying to write it down, I realize just how problematic the plot is -- cute boy asks homely girl out as a joke to win bank in his friend's Ugly-Girl-Date-Competition, and then he falls for her in the aftermath and the angst of the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, this musical was my jam. This musical defined my adolescent life. I remember eagerly showing my grandmother (the frequent target of my rants, as she was the one to listen and actually ingest it all) the songs, making sure to keep my finger on the mute button, so I could press it whenever one of the characters said ‘dick’. 

You know, I had forgotten all about Dogfight. It got lost in my wishing I had been born Hispanic, so I could be a lead in In The Heights and my refusing to brush my hair, all relics of middle school past.

And then, last night happened, arguably the catalyst for my choosing this specific topic to write about. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s car, another friend behind me, all of us reeling on this very specific post-Red Robin high at 10 p.m., and we're looking, with infantile glee, at the Christmas decorations lighting up downtown. 

My friend in the backseat leaned forward to demand we drive to Target, despite it being closed.

My friend in the driver’s seat quickly shushed him. She said, “This is a sad one,” and gestured at the screen in the center console that displayed the songs.

I looked, and my mind kind of choked. I had gravitated away from musical theater and toward (surprise, surprise, if you’re reading this) writing. I had removed most of the songs from Dogfight from my Spotify a while ago, after years of constantly skipping over them. Suffice to say, at the sight of the familiar guitar strum and that maroon cast album cover, some old part of me awoke.

I remembered all of the words.

My friend in the driver’s seat was lit up in gold from the holiday lights outside. My friend in the backseat sprawled himself out and whined about the song’s length. My mouth quirked into a smile, despite the despondent subject matter in the lyrics. And there I was, eleven and folding the linens and picking the lint off my arms again, belting out my windpipes.

Something smaller. Something traced with melancholy, deprived of the hope that the previous instance donated to me.

Distinctly, for some odd reason, I remember taking out the garbage, the night after Thanksgiving in the seventh grade. Because I was dumb, I was not wearing a jacket, and my body reacted accordingly to the sudden burst of cold. I dragged the big bin down to the curb and, in the almost eerie stillness of the neighborhood in the depth of late autumn, something urged me to look up at the sky. 

I did. Stars smattered against the dark of the sky in a magnitude that my suburban-urban-sprawl-self had never seen before. I looked up, and everything felt a little bit brighter. The light in front of my house was on; it wasn't pitch black, and I recall thinking, rather stupidly, that maybe God was real after all. I puffed a breath out and ran back inside, rubbing my arms.

I have been fighting with my mother lately, in ways that sleepy seventeen-year-old girls applying to college usually do. Tonight, I went outside to bring the garbage to the curb, as I had done five years ago. Still stupid, I had not brought a jacket, and I felt the chill raise the hairs on my forearms. At the foot of the driveway, something about the sensory overload, the cold and the hard plastic feeling of the bin handle under my palms told me to look up to the sky, as I had done five years ago. Suddenly, I was that twelve-year-old girl standing in the dark of the neighborhood and looking for something to believe in, searching the sky, yet again, for the freckled stars, only to find an overcast sky. I sighed and retreated back into my house.

I was disappointed. I was fragile. I did not intend for this to end in such a heavy way, honestly. I was going to write an asinine something or other reflecting on myself, something light-hearted and funny, and now I’ve sat here for an hour and a half, pouring these thoughts on to paper, and I will definitely spend more than a couple more hours editing and rereading this. I suppose there’s a common motif, aside from deja vu. I just need to figure out what it is.

My mother interrupted this stream of thought and called me downstairs, just now. She was standing in the kitchen, and she held out the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey to me. I picked the weak side because it was the first side I saw. She got the wish. She had an olive-branch smile on her face. 

I mean, I also got a lecture, a couple minutes after that, so I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this moment sewed up any feeling of vertigo in my transitional life, but it was significant. I realized, as I was walking back up the stairs, why these memories crept up on me and insisted on being psychoanalyzed on paper.

Change makes us cling to what we had in order to make sense of what we had and what we could have. I think my subconscious is clinging to me, tugging my soul that is so desperate to leave and so determined to evolve in order to remind me of who I was, the self from whence I came. Maybe, no matter what happens, I’m still the same at the core. Time is circular and memories are recycled, feelings a product of preestablished bias and seemingly nondescript vignettes.

Or maybe I’m just trying to tell myself to listen to showtunes again. And wear a jacket when I go out into the cold.