Friday, March 25, 2011

Emotional Guy 3/27/09

I’m kind of a sensitive guy.  I’ve always been an easy mark for sappy endings.  I’ve always been full of empathy for everyone, and even for some things.  Animals for sure.  I care about animals more than a lot of humans and I won’t apologize for that.  I’ve even felt badly for inanimate objects from time to time in my life.  I remember having to get rid of my stuffed animal when I threw up on it when I was a child.  I even felt bad when I had to junk my first car.
     As I got older, I still had those sad or melancholy feelings when I watched a tear-jerker or romantic movie.  I would still cry occasionally when something hit me particularly hard, a lot of times something in a movie or TV show that would surprise me by the effect it had on me. 
      Then I got to a point where I noticed that the only time I would ever cry was while I was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Always at the very end, where the whole town showed up to help him out and he realized that he had touched so many people and they all loved him. (Sorry to spoil if you’re the last person alive who hasn’t seen this movie!) 
     One Christmas after blowing my nose and feeling foolish for crying at the same movie again, I started to wonder why this was the only thing that made me cry anymore, and why I would cry at the happiest part of the movie.  I didn’t cry when the Bailey Building and Loan was failing, or when he was in the bar full of hate and self pity, or even when he was seeing what became of the woman he loved when he found out what it was like when he hadn’t ever been born.  It slowly dawned on me that I was crying because I realized that there would never be a moment like that where I would feel that happy and that loved in my entire life.
     I’ve noticed that the only time I feel really sad while watching a movie or TV show or reading a book is when it’s something along these lines.  I feel the saddest when I feel longing for a situation I’ve never had.  Tonight, watching a TV show I felt sad when one of the characters tried to reconnect with a feeling from his child hood of his first summer love.  I never had a first summer love when I was young, if ever.  Yet here I was, all depressed about something I thought I might have missed out on.
     When did I become such a selfish person?  Why such a drama queen?  Since when did I like to wallow in self-pity?  I don’t feel that sad when I see bad things happen to the characters in movies.  I only feel sad when I can convolute some situation in the story to let me feel sorry for myself about some thing I never had but now feel I missed out on.
     Don’t get me wrong, I feel sorry for real people when bad things happen to them.  I’m not a monster, at least not in the real world.  But if you could ask George Bailey he’d probably have an opinion or two.  I guess I would have been the only one in town besides Potter that didn’t show up that night and give him what little money I had.  I’d be at home feeling petty and jealous and wondering why I wasn’t friends with everyone in town.
     Like my parents.  My parents are friends with everybody in town.  The town they live in now.  Also, the town they lived in before I was born, the town we lived in while I was growing up, the town we moved to in the middle of my growing up…Well you get the idea.  And if you want to know how I know about the friends before I was born that’s because my parents are in their seventies and they still hang out with some of those people and they still send and receive Christmas cards from most of the rest.
     I’m not like that.  In fact, when I move, or if I outgrow a friend in the slightest, I move on.  I can only think of one friendship that I maintain with someone from another state whom I still see once or twice a year.  What about the other fifteen or so people from that group?  I haven’t seen or spoke to them since the day I left my job and my life in that state.  I think of them from time to time, but apparently I don’t care enough to call them or visit them.
     I’m not like my parents.  In fact, I remember a couple of years ago when they had their 50th anniversary party and 80 or so of their friends from all stages of their lives showed up and it made me happy to see them so happy.  Still, something made me feel sad, and I didn’t realize this until just now, I swear to you.  I think a small part of me felt that same sadness I feel when I watch George Bailey and his friends.  This was real life and there were the same number of people that came to see George all there for my parents.  So it seems that if I never have a moment like that in my life I shouldn’t blame the people who don’t show up.  I should blame the guy sitting there by himself.
     My brother made a nice little speech at that party, correlating my parents love with that of Tony and Maria in West Side Story, which was also celebrating its 50th anniversary at the time.  It was a little bit of a stretch imagining my mother and father dancing around as star-crossed lovers, but it was very sweet and well-received.  I thought about saying something myself, but I’m not that fond of speaking in front of people. I now regret not saying what I was going to say.  It was the beginning of story I had started writing many years before and never got around to finishing.  I would have done some paraphrasing, but it was something I wrote for them and I will include it here as I wrote it for a story called The Girl Who Loved New York.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York too.  I just love it the way most people do, from a distance.  The buildings are great, and the museum and theaters are wonderful.  The traffics a bitch almost around the clock and the people, while generally tolerant are better left alone for the most part, but there is something romantic and seductive about it.
     For me, though, the way to view New York is from across the Hudson.  I can remember far back into my childhood when my parents would drive along the Palisades in New Jersey on a Sunday night and I’d marvel at the New York skyline when it would suddenly pop-up between the trees or a rocky outcropping.
     I always associate the New York skyline with 50’s music because my parents always listened to an oldies program on those Sunday night drives.  I think the show was called “The Doo-Wop Shop”, and the glittering lights of the city had background music from The Platters, The Rays, Dion and the Blemonts…a thousand names from those Sunday excursions.
     There’s one thing I’ll give the city.  While Time Square at night isn’t quite as pretty on the street as it looks on Dick Clarks New Years show, and a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor isn’t as appetizing in real life as it looks in movie street scenes, well the posters you see of the New York skyline at night; they’re honest to God true.  It’s even better in real life.  Maybe because you see the whole thing, from miles away and it blurs the faults and blemishes.  I don’t know.  But I will always remember it best through the back window of my parents car as I dozed off to “Silhouettes on the Shade”, or Earth Angel”
     Perhaps that’s why I’ve always seen love; you know, your vision of what you think love is gonna be like, embodied in those drives.  I saw my parents, married and happy, reliving a little part of their lives.  They met, courted and married in the fifties, and I’m sure they must have spent some of that time here on these roads, winding down through the cliff-side with doo-wop music in the background and New York looming before them.
     It struck me as wonderful that they could now include their child in the ritual, and that seemed like love to me more than anything else in the world.
© David Ferraris 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment