I go to a party in the gay district of Madrid. One of my classmates lives there with her husband in a beautiful hardwood-floor apartment. I am dying to move aside the dining table and dance, but my colleagues have been sucked into the large white couches and are talking about where they are from, recent vacations, and the like. I am bored. My Irish colleague pipes up, “Oh, yeah, Liz, I was thinking: why didn’t you move to Paris? I mean, I’m sure there’s much more lindy hop there than there is here!”
I stare at her for a brief moment, then jump up from my chair. “Oh! Am I in the wrong place? Excuse me, I think I have the wrong city! Uh, I have to go!” I grab my purse and make for the door. All the guests laugh heartily.
There is a big street festival and parade today. When I do leave the party I wander the scorched, dry, crowded, colorful streets, full of garbage and shouts and laughter and loud music. I’ve already decided not to stop by Taj’s barbecue. I don’t have anyone to bring with me anyway.
The bars have set up counters in the street. At one of these I order a large Coca Cola Light, a bucket of it really, with an enormous amount of ice.
Then I text my new British friend, the one likes ice cream and who helped me choose a phone plan. “I just spent six euros on a diet coke in Chueca. Highway robbery!”
Sometimes the pain occurs acutely. A stab here, a vicious pinch there, a wave of nausea. The sensations tend to aggregate at my solar plexus, or the heart itself, or somewhere in between; additionally, my thoracic spine (opposite my heart). Most often they arrive as bewildering flashes and then leave me alone.
This afternoon, though, I experienced a violent throttling of all the tissues in my upper belly and heart region. My third and fourth chakras do not get along. My heart knows how to cry, but my solar plexus does not ground my identity, doesn’t know who I really am. It’s deaf and dumb.
Wake it up! Wake up! Wake up!
It is perhaps because of my identity problem that I find myself surrounded by people who want me to be a certain way. It is just the same here as it was in the States.
When my colleagues here learn that I taught people to dance in the States, they say, “But are you going to be able to teach dance classes here too?” not considering that perhaps I want a change.
Today a fellow student asked me, “Your plan is to stay for a year or so, right?”
I opened my shoulders and said, “My plan is to keep you guessing.”
Loss of love removes the buffer between me and the universe. I must learn to draw a picture for those that surround me, to fashion that picture into a puzzle, patiently showing them how each piece fits together. Then I must leave one piece out and, with much ceremony, drop it miraculously into place. It will be very satisfying for them. I will finally stop feeling so bad about how easily I confuse people by living my strange life.
The trouble is that I crave to be understood. Now there is no Alexander Boom asking me, “Who are you, really? How are YOU? How was your day? What else is going on? Are you interested in that? What do you feel like doing?” There’s no one like him, who knows the essentials of me already, who at each encounter wanted to know what was new and different.
He always rebuffed my gratitude with a shrug: “I just ask questions.”
Sometimes love is like a drug. Without its embrace, my problem with the world remains. Since I cannot retreat into the comfort of being understood, I must now work to explain myself to those around me. The pain prods me forward, leading to joy as more people see who I am really, because I make it clear. The joy redoubles as I explain and describe and elucidate more content with more accuracy. I see now how my lost love pulls in its wake the truth I have wanted to give to the world in the first place.
The difficult part is tearing down people’s assumptions, their unwillingness to cross a threshold into imagining the unpredictable. I have to meet and then gently shift the same questions that people ask me over and over, e.g. “How are you going to start a lindy hop scene here? Are there a lot of people who lindy hop? How long are you going to stay in Madrid?”
For Alexander I never had to do this, because his constitution can handle, and in fact welcomes, mercurial and unpredictable possibilities.
When I really think about the situation, though, of course I realize that people just need a picture, an outline, a jigsaw puzzle to help them cross into my shapeshifting world. Frequently, they like the change.
“I have been a dance instructor in the past. But you know how sometimes people need a change? Well, I needed a change in my life and that’s why I decided to move to his totally different city. Madrid is so different from where I come from! I want to change my whole life for now, just to do something different. It’s very hard to change when you stay in the same place, you know? So now I am in a different place and trying something new. No, I don’t know how long I am going to stay. I used to plan everything, but now I want to change that too. I just go with the flow. For now at least. Make sense?”
I could speculate as to why this initial outline of information has been so difficult for me to deliver in the past. I attract that behavior because elucidating my identity is now my task.
That’s about all I’m going to do for now.