So It Goes, Part 25: Let’s Dance

September 30th, 2009

We danced the suburban ballet. We twirled cans of peas, we used our shovels as swords. We drove our cars in circles like so many dancers. The men juggled wrenches and hammers, the women spoons and stenographers’ pens. What was the music to which we danced? Ah, that’s the surprise: we each danced to the music we chose to plug directly into our ears. We chose our own soundtrack. We moved in our own orbits and only occasionally did we collide and move in unison.

In the suburbs in the middle of America, you never had to be alone for a moment, and you never had a moment’s silence. Think of the shepherds on the high mountains of Pakistan, the pilgrims prostrating themselves over and over on the way to Mount Kailash, the elderly ones around a campfire in Central America, with only the wind and the birds and the trees providing background sound. They move with the rhythms and sounds of the earth.

Here, we created our own sounds and rhythms. We need have nothing to do with the earth and sky and rain and sun. We lived in boxes, we traveled in metal containers rolling on wheels. There was my sister, holding her shiny chrome Emerson transistor radio to her ear, listening to Queen singing Bohemian Rhapsody. My father drove down Mannheim Road, one arm draped over the back of the long bench front seat, one finger on the wheel, humming to 101 Strings playing a symphonic version of Come Fly with Me. My brother sat with his high school friends in Barnaby’s Pizza, listening to REO Speedwagon. My mother, in the kitchen, had the AM newsradio on and the phone cradled between her shoulder and ear, talking to her sister. I lay on my bed, my Koss headphones with the water-filled earcups cradling my head like two hands, listening to the Beatles White Album, and my favorite song, Yer Blues:

Yes I’m lonely
Wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Girl you know the reason why.

Unlike the Rootweavers, we had no mind-to-mind connection. We generated our own thoughts, made up own stories, lived out our own dramas. Even when we turned off our music and talked to one another, the sounds kept playing inside our heads, distracting us. During my awkward conversation with the young woman I had met on the train, I had to keep asking her what she had just said. I could barely concentrate. I somehow worked up enough courage to ask her out for pizza, and she said yes. Then the music built to a crescendo. I went off to my job at the drugstore, dancing through the living room unnoticed by my sister and mother, who were listening to their own music, living through their own dramas.

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