Last night Jen and I went for Cuban food, which was lovely. There were these mojitos that were so, so good, the best I've ever had, pretty much, and I've never really counted them among my favorite drinks. But there I was, halfway through a steak and sucking on these gorgeous, fresh sprigs of mint, happy to be alive.
I felt the waves of an astoundingly good mood, rode them, held them at arm's length, hoping they'd stay. "Let's hold onto this, shall we? We've seen them in the wild, shh...and here one is," I said out loud to myself as I parked the car, because if there is a thing I try to do daily it's crack myself up.
It's good to keep in mind when you're down in it that it can all turn on a dime, right? Get better, feel good? It's just elusive, the real deal, sometimes, a little moreso lately with a cranking daily routine, some strange upheaval and endless introspection that lends itself to everything but happy most times. But there it was, proof for later, like that stupid butterfly of happiness you're not supposed to chase. Or the setting it free and it'll come back to you if it likes you nonsense. Green streetlight through the window, one of my favorite people in the world -- she holds my feet and my delusions to the fire with kindness -- you need one like her if you don't have one, those drinks, a fried potato appetizer that did just what it was supposed to do, leaving me wanting more more more. The waiter was a sweet and flirty older man in a pale blue guayabera, charmed with Jen's smile and Spanish fluency that could make a much stronger man than he fall in love. He tolerated me, which was fine, he was kind, he brought me steak and then coffee and tres leches cake. It's good not to be the center of attention sometimes. I am not always so good there.
On the way home I drove under the railroad bridge just underneath the Mormon temple, "Surrender Dorothy" spray-painted on it as it has been for all my life. I don't even know if they bother painting over it anymore, that's just what it is, a tagged command hovering over speeding cars in the shadow of this enormous Emerald City-structure, golden Joseph the archangel blowing a trumpet at the very top. It must be jarring to see it if you've never driven by it before, but for lifers here it's just part of the landscape, a flying monkey landmark, no witch in the sky, just the words, in paint, not broom exhaust. Joseph always looks to me too precarious, like he will fall into the suburban trees and houses way before Armageddon comes, but that's the danger of calling the troops, I guess. Besides, I know he never will. I'm sure he is specially protected.
I wisely nixed Delilah for my own playlist, and "Rock of Ages" came up in the queue and I didn't skip it, as I've been doing for some reason lately on this particular mix. Maybe because it was 60 degrees at 10 p.m., the sunroof open, and something about the night and the old song and the weather and my life came together and I hit the button on the steering wheel that miraculously (to me, I don't get wires) raises the volume. Up up and up, although now I was on the Pike and I usually try not to bother people at stoplights. I hear some dreadful noise from other cars there, and I try not to be part of the problem, but I broke the rules of street engagement just this once.
It's better to burn out than fade away.
I remembered an ex yelling because I let Def Leppard claim that line when Kurt Cobain wrote it in his suicide note (like he would have quoted them? I don't know what I was thinking), never having heard Neil Young in my musically scattered youth. It still makes little difference to me, although I know from "Harvest Moon" and "Ohio" now. I screamed out every word of that song, remembering the week after my grandmother died and how twice, so strange, "Coming Home" came on the radio while I was night highway driving, and how then I'd done the same thing, thrown open the sunroof on the Beetle because even though it was January then, I just needed to feel the freezing cold air to feel alive in the face of so much death and over and gone. I screamed the words then too.
"I took a ride in a world, I'll be spinnin' for the rest of my life...Are you tough enough for my love...Just close your eyes to the heaven above..."
Are you tough enough. Who wants to have to be, really? It's an interesting adjective to apply in this case, but it's probably best not to overanalyze some things, Cinderella songs among them.
It felt good again, last night, the loudness and the air and the silly lyrics. It felt like me, not just me 20 years ago driving home after a restaurant shift, all the windows down, smoking and singing and probably crying sometimes, the way you do when you're growing into your first grown-up version of yourself. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to go back there, although there are parts I'd like a do-over on for sure if I didn't think it would upset the outcomes even worse, mindful as I am of the impact of one butterfly wing. Somehow it all shook out this way. Who's to say we should change anything.
It felt like me now, too, at least the best one who's in there, who needs some things, who will cop to wanting some too, who is still trying so hard, just like back then, to get out, to be heard, to rock in her own way, if she's honest.
Just say you need it. And if you need it say "yeah."
You should, really. I should too. But mostly I have got to remind myself to turn it up, because that is when I remember the best of who I am, or at least the most real.
Bridge photo: courtesy UPI International