Friday, January 09, 2009

Meet Joe Black.

Well I've met him more than once over the many, many centuries I've lived. Each time he's taken someone I love, from me, or taken me from them. Last night for Movie night we watched it again. My brother and I had both seen it, though in some ways it was my first time as a whole, real, human being not fighting an internal and external war on multiple fronts.

It was sobering and funny, heart wrenching and profound. And it brought back an interesting and amusing memory. When in the last few minutes of the film Susan is dancing with her father, their last dance together in this life, I was reminded of the confusion and weirdness of my wedding, and some of the things that came after it.

Earl had insisted that we take dance classes as part of getting ready for the wedding, and frankly I was all for it. I thought it would be fun. He looked at it like a military operation. I loved dancing, he wanted us to not look like idiots. We'd danced (mostly slow dance, really only slow dance [waltz]) at some events we'd attended, but he wanted more. He wanted us to look as good as his parents always do when they dance. Mind you, they were in their 60's and had been doing it together for more than fourty years. I wanted nothing more than to learn some formal dance moves, and even learn to tango well. There is something so romantic and deep about the Tango, so full of feeling, of passion, the formal grace tempered by a'more. Who WOULDN'T want to learn to Tango? Anyway I seriously doubted we'd be able to take enough classes or get in enough practice time before the wedding. Despite taking a year to plan. Plus Earl was so wrapped up in his own inner conflict and nature that I doubted a year would be enough to get past both our issues.

A year or so after we were married, he found a seven week dance course about half an hour from our house. It was in Haverill, and was supposed to be seven dances in seven days. Fox trot, swing, samba and I forget what all else. Earl decided this was it, we could do this, and then look as good as his folks cutting a rug at the next black tie thing we had to go to. Be it my work, or his family, we'd know more than enough to look great. Yeah, if only.

First day we started to have problems. It was his natural inclination to lead, and mine to follow. Makes a certain amount of sense right? Guy leads, Girl follows and I had no problem with that at all . . .

. . . except, he did. He was so obsessed with keeping our mutual secrets, well, secret, that I took no end to the amount of abuse. Despite him looking down his nose at me, my history, and so forth, I picked up the steps fairly well. So much so that when Earl grabbed the instructor and insisted she try to teach me how to do it "right" we started with her leading, to show me how it was done. She thought I was doing great, except of course when it was my turn to lead. Didn't quite go so well. I said I can follow like a train, but not lead, I'd need years of practice, plus S[HE] is always trying to lead so I just follow, it's easier that way. I suggested the instructor try to dance with Earl and lead. That didn't go so well. Actually not well at all. In fact very badly.

We quit after four classes because the instructor looked at Earl and said, "Look if you're good at leading, and s[He's] good at following, just do it that way. Your spouse is one of the most graceful people I've ever met, and if you want to lead, he'll make you both look amazing. Pick who leads and get on with it."

Well that just pissed him off. As we were . . . as HE was driving us home in HIS truck, he was just seething. "Most graceful person my ass. Aren't you pissed? She said you were graceful?!?!? I'd be livid!!!"

"Honey" I said quietly, "you're livid now, what's your point?"

(Him shouting) "You. Are. The. Man. That's what the world SEES. You ARE supposed to look like someone having a seizure, or being electrocuted. NOT! GRACEFUL! For once in your damn life can't you just be the man?"

(Me, very quietly, deeply hurt) "Welcome to the hell that is MY life. I cannot believe YOU of all people just said that. You. Shoe's one the other foot, you keep trying to lead and so of course I follow, it's okay for me. Plus there have been graceful men before, ever seen Fred Estaire? Gene Kelly? Or Gregory Hines for example? Baryshnikov? For some stupid reason I enjoy dancing with you, being close, held, touched. I'd follow you right into hell if you lead me there . . . oh, wait, we're there now, least I am.

I don't care what I look like when I'm dancing, I've never had a problem with it before, it's only now that you insist I dance like a man. Like someone I'm not, could never really be, never got the manual for. When I dance I like to connect to the person I'm dancing with, the energy, the music and let it all flow into, through me, out of me. I like the connection, the feeling, that graceful flow. The little signals my partner gives me as we float across the floor, two become one for a short time. That think we do when we have whole conversation with our eyes, or finish each others thoughts like we've been together longer than you folks. I want that physically when we dance. We've had it when we slow dance, and you always lead there. I'm expressing my love, with you, when we are dancing.

For me, dancing is about love. The grace is just a part of who I am, I've ALWAYS been graceful. My Karate teacher said I should be doing ballet. I've had lots of people say that I make CATS feel ashamed because I'm so graceful. It's not something I do on purpose to piss you off you know."

(Him interupting) "You look like a FAG! That's not attractive, trust me."

By now, I'm beyond words and crying as he spends the rest of the ride home berating me.

So as I was watching Bill Paris and his daughter Susan dancing I realized how badly I'd wanted THAT from Earl. To just dance, and feel it. To be held, touched, connect in that state of oneness that dancing can be between two people who care about each other. It hurt. Realizing just how much Earl and his obsession with the act had destroyed, took from me before I even had a chance to really miss it.

I'd have been happy to learn how to lead if he'd actually follow, just for the chance to really dance. The sad thing is I had a little bit of it, just a tease, before that horrible intro dance class, he and I had danced. Parties, weddings, family events and such, even our own wedding. He danced, I followed and I loved it, and him. There weren't any words, none were needed. No labels, none fit. We just danced. Nothing fancy, was just a slow waltz.

For me it was like water to a woman dying of thirst, food for someone starving to death. That chance to be held by him, touched, to flow. People always complemented us, how well we danced, how great we looked together and so on. Not one said I looked too graceful (is there such a thing?) or that I was some kind of freak for following instead of leading. They just though we looked amazing.

And I, Felt, Amazing.

So that was hard. Brought back all sorts of memories. There was also the parts of the movie, the subtext, the feeling that my brother totally missed. It was all written there on Susan's face. Falling in serious like with one man, in love with another in the same body, and having to deal with HIM (Joe Black) leaving and taking her adored Dad with her. Losing those too people so dear to her, that she'd opened up to, become part of, and them be part of her, finally really loving. She was in love with Joe Black. And he left. She KNEW he was gone, her Dad was dead, when the guy from the coffee shop came walking back across that bridge. She KNEW it wasn't her Joe. Mark argued the point with me some and I let it go. One of the last things she said in the movie to Brad Pitt (Coffee shop guy/Joe Black) was "I wish you could have met my father . . ."

And then they walked back down to the party. I like to think in the end she was okay with her "consolation prize" and managed to fall in love with coffee shop guy and build a future. I don't know that I'd be able to do that. To be haunted by the way Joe had loved me, and to have someone physically identicle in everyway reminding me of what I'd lost? To look into those eyes, HIS eyes, JOE'S eyes and see coffee shop guy staring back.


So I dream, that one day I'll be healed enough, to try to open my heart up to someone, and build a relationship, love even. Whoever it is has to be ready, willing and able to dance with me and lead, cause I don't and I don't want the fight of trying to lead, and I'd look pretty stupid trying to lead. A mean a girl? Lead? Yeah, I know. Earl had to deal with that, except he WANTED to lead. So fine. Someone to hold me, touch me, connect with me in a loving and gentle way, stand back to back against the world and be there for each other. Someone patient, gentle, understanding, loving, capable of gently touching me, heart, mind, and soul before he ever does physically. And someone who may, or may never have sex with me. Not because I don't have wants or needs, but because I'm so terrified of being touched again those wants and needs sometimes make me sick to my stomach. I'd much prefer death to being hurt again like Earl hurt me. Someone whose parents are long since dead. I cannot, will not handle another Momma's boy. Someone who will not know my SSN until I'm dead.


Okay, well this is one of my rare, dark, heavy pieces. I'm sorry. But it's what I'm feeling in the aftermath of watching Meet Joe Black for the first time as ME. Despite now being me for years now. Inside and Out one person. A deep, feeling, traumatized woman who understands and feels maybe way more than she should. A woman who, sometimes unfortunately so, feels what other people are feeling as if it were her own feelings. So I don't just watch movies like "Meet Joe Black" I feel them as if I'm living them myself. I'm an empath. Often it's an amazing blessing, sometimes it's a curse.


Samantha said...

Wow, I just reread this while I was looking for something else I'd written. First, if I do say so myself, I am an amazing author. There, I said it, I'm embracing it slowly, lets move one.

This piece made me realize something about me, about Women, Men, and the rest of us.

Guys for some reason have this thing about twins. About sleeping with twins, about being twins and playing games. Lose your love, and take up with her twin sister because well: "TWINS!" She's a twin, she's the same right?!

Sorry, not so much.

Joe Black. Susan Paris. Susan knew the moment coffee shop guy walked over the bridge that he wasn't her Joe. Before he got close enough to see his eyes, for him to say anything, she knew. How? Is it really important, she just knew. He was her consolation prize and I'm glad it worked for her, at least at the end of the movie. And as I was reading what I wrote, and felt the way it moved me, despite having written it, I realized it's part of why women almost NEVER have trouble telling twins apart despite their best attempts, and why men love the concept.

Women see a good bit deeper into someone than Men do. It's one of our strengths. We see past the shell into into a person. Thus two physically identicle people (TWINS) looking as different to us as our father and his brother. It's not that Men cannot see deeper, they just don't bother to for whatever reason. You know, that's okay for them. I'd never be able to live like that. Base everything on just the surface view? Thanks but no.

Thus the difference between my view of the end of "Meet Joe Black" and my brothers.

To my bro, Joe and Coffee Shop Guy were the same guy. To me, they couldn't have been any more different if they were two different forms of life. Which in effect I guess they were.

Samantha said...

Me, O could never have taken the coffee shop prize, anymore than I could build a new life with my late husbands twin.

Because every time I saw him, touched him, talked to him, been in the same room with him I'd be missing Joe. Says something about me I guess. I don't do consolation prizes? I have trouble letting go? Something. So maybe I'm not shallow enough or something.