Merely reading about “If I Loved You,” why it is a powerful song, why it works, made me cry. Not even hearing it.
I also cried at the Orlando airport, when I realized I should have said goodbye to my family before security, that we were at different terminals and I would not see them again to hug goodbye. A woman behind me in line said, “Are you okay?” I mean, who is okay at the airport? Not even me, and I am self-sedated. They were telling us we didn’t need to take our shoes off, or take out our liquids, or our laptops, and Jesus, we had all spent the last ten years learning to do those things, it would be faster for them just to let us do it. Also I was hoping the TSA guy would let me through even though my flight was more than two hours hence and going through security was definitely against the rules.
It’s not a complicated song. I’ve never even seen “Carousel.”
Tears on my face, wiping my nose. “Just frustrated and tired?” said the woman behind me.
“Yes,” I said, and I tried to not cry so much, and save it for the bathroom, where all respectable WASPs cry. She had said just the right thing. I loved what she said.
The TSA guy let me through. He was more concerned with my identity and less with my timing.
I did a little more crying in the handicapped stall of the bathroom past security. I heard someone say, “I’m waiting for that one,” which meant my tears were on a time clock with her disabled need to use the toilet, great. I had three hours til my flight.
I came to New York (secretly, very secretly) to fall in love, marry, and publish a book, and I did neither. I did fall in lust, and I did sit down at tables with agents wearing a beautiful black dress and a red Japanese print robe. I looked stunning and if I had met myself, I would have said, “You are about to have a nervous breakdown.”
I also hoped to have magnificent adventures and meet deeply interesting people, and I did both of those things. A magnificent night in New York, I am sure I have had the most magnificent night possible, and this is so satisfying.
You see I cannot permit myself to mourn, but must LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, THINK OF ALL THE ADVANTAGES YOU HAVE.
This quite frustrated my therapist.
Last night I watched a documentary about Joan Didion. I love her sunglasses, cigarettes, and despair. A collaborator of hers said he loved her books on grief because they were written by, and for, people without faith. I have a religion, a practice, a tradition, but I don’t have faith. Other people have faith for me, the church is a home, my friends are safe harbors, and my family is warm pajamas, but I do not have faith.
And thus, “If I Loved You,” if, if, if.
I got home from Orlando and my cat was here, sneezing, yowling at night again. She’s so old everyone secretly thinks, maybe she will die before she has to move back to Kansas City. That when I reunite with her, I am a little distant because I don’t want to love her again, because she will die. Still, all she is doing is sneezing (likely allergies, the vet said), and yowling at nothing in the living room. I call her name, she returns to my side and is peaceful.
I wanted city-kid teaching to be a sustainable profession, and to prove that it could be, by being clever, and open, and loving, and then I quit. I don’t know that it is sustainable, a job that one can keep for a lifetime, a career, keep honing and improving, because it is just too difficult to find and keep a spot where one can do it without being abused.
Also I wanted it to be sustainable because that would be more comfortable for me.
I know a lot of teachers, a lot, and I don’t know anyone who made it through a whole career teaching the poorest kids. I know many people who wanted to.
I am better than all those people, though, and willing to sacrifice.
There was a bit of hubris involved.
Decisions. Maybe my life would have been quite similar, had I stayed in Kansas City. That Dorothy business. I do believe in it. She didn’t choose to go, though, she wished, and she was sent.
If I loved you
Time and again
I would try to say
All I’d want you to know
If I loved you
Words wouldn’t come
In an easy way
Round in circles I’d go
Longing to tell you
But afraid and shy
I’d let my golden chances
Pass me by
Soon you’d leave me
Off you would go
In the mist of day
Never never to know
How I loved you
If I loved you
Image: detail (and flipped) from “Progressive proof in pink for ‘Merry-go-round,'” Gabriel Fernandez Ledesma, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Aside: I’m reading The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel, and yes, it’s pretty weird I hadn’t already read it. I bought it in Times Square, from the Strand booth, which is quite special, isn’t it?
One thought on “If”
And sometimes, love is unrequited.