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POV: Discomfort.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.
  

Months ago, a friend from college called me on the phone, her voice choked with tears. Her relationship had ended, she said. The shock of sudden solitude had hit her.

“All these years,” she told me, “I thought I was so lucky.” And then she listed the reasons why: to have met someone; to have been settled; to have known at such a young age what she wanted, where she was going.

I listened. I said the only words I could think to say: “I know.” 

“I’ve never felt so bad in my life,” she continued. “Everything hurts.”

I lay in bed, the phone sandwiched between my face and the mattress. It’d leave a mark later, warm and red and wrinkled. “I know,” I said.

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Not long before, I’d sat with Lily at a party, a bottle of Jameson on the table between us. We didn’t know each other well, but we’d spent enough time together to establish that we were both broke, both single, both confused. We were also both very sad, in ways that felt unfamiliar and hard to explain.

“I didn’t know it was possible to feel this bad,” I said, and she nodded. I wondered, though: if I couldn’t control the ups and downs of life, what would happen if I embraced the discomfort of not knowing where I was going or what I wanted?

I tried to explain this to a group of friends at dinner one night, and between forkfuls of chocolate pie, found myself delivering a rather long-winded, semi-delirious soliloquy.  “I’ve always tried to protect myself from pain,” I told everyone. “But now I want to know what it feels like to be uncomfortable. I want to mess up, and do the wrong thing, and stay out all night, and fall on my face.” I drew circles in the puddle of melted ice cream on my plate. “I’m not afraid of getting hurt.”

I thought about a text message I'd received from someone earlier. Life is beautiful and exciting and not comfortable and that’s ok, it said.

I looked up to a table of blank faces. I felt confident, and lucky. I felt, I remember, like I’d discovered the secret of life.

--

Last week, I met a friend on the Lower East Side. He’d come by bike. I hadn’t. We were hungry.

“Ride on my handlebars,” he said. “I’ll carry your bag.”

I hesitated, my foot on the wheel. “Is this a bad idea?” 

He shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe.”

I got on. We rode in traffic through the Lower East Side, the East Village, Chelsea. I sang Father John Misty all the way, my feet in the air. I waved at other bikers, at taxi drivers, at dogs on leashes. I stretched my legs. 

“I wish you could see my face right now,” I said, because it hurt, from smiling.

We arrived at our destination. I hopped off, skipping a few steps on the asphalt to catch my balance.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I laughed. Stood up. 

I was.

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You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, hereThank you so much for reading!
 

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