Sunday, February 19, 2012

Super-placebo

Mild weather may be diluting February doldrums, but for the hardcore winter sufferers, it's like getting the placebo instead of a bad drug.
I'm no football fan, so Superbowl Sunday for me is a version of a Valentine's Day with no date, but it was almost impossible, in New York City, not to catch some epidemic enthusiasm and old-fashioned American spirit. Not to mention the betting, the bars... for so many, it was better than New Year's eve.. .then the parade... and then the cleanup, and the post-gig let-down. So what is there to look forward to now...I guess baseball season, and we've got Jeremy Lin to distract us from the insufferable Republican bickering. To me, we have the placebo candidates; maybe I'm jaded and old, but the whole election process feels like an audition for Student Model Congress. Or maybe the latest Bravo reality show. Nothing is real-- even the hair dye and lock enhancement. I'm beginning to miss Ronald Reagan.

For the hard-core sports-addicted, the die-hard Giants fans, what can we offer for a 2-day hangover? My son broke up with his girlfriend Superbowl Friday. The game was a bit of a drug for him, but it was like watching through gauze in black and white. Of course I don't have HD and my TV is so small and pathetic, I can hardly distinguish players running around. So I thought about how here I am, sitting in front of the smallish set like a good 1950's-style American, bonding with the non-political majority, trying to enjoy the commercials, trying not to hate Madonna as much as I do, thinking ironically about Whitney's Star Spangled Banner rendition so many years back, not realizing that footage was to haunt me just a few brief weeks later.

But I also thought about non-celebrity people-- how someone was maybe getting married or engaged, someone was about to receive a cancer diagnosis, someone was having a baby, her husband cursing the timing...someone was maybe even losing a baby, burying a pet, tending to a demented spouse or parent, cooking dinner, changing diapers, dying. Someone was robbing the apartment of a family watching the game at a party. Someone was killing. Someone somewhere was being murdered. And underneath my window, to bring me out of my reverie, some kids were outside throwing a football around, unable to keep their dream on hold even long enough to watch the goddam game.

At 5 AM, we'd all binged on the recaps, recaps of recaps, reruns, interviews, repeats of interviews... some were sleeping, dreaming, sleeping it off, having drunk casual sex with a fellow reveller... whatever. Giselle had dissed the team, Donald Trump had come out on her side, Tom looked a little down, but how bad can life be when your consolation prize is the Sports Illustrated cover girl. I didn't even enjoy the game, but I was feeling the slump.

I was in my apartment remembering how it felt when your boyfriend cheats on you, and you obsess all night and finally at 5 AM when you swear you can see the premonition of blue light in the dawn sky, you breathe. You think--- they've done it--- they've maybe done it twice or even three times, and they're asleep, and beginning to anticipate how to greet the morning-after. To slink out, sheepish...to kiss and swear eternal love, to play over their phone messages and regret. To decide how to lie. To lie. Somehow, just knowing it was over gave me a tiny sense of relief. Maybe they felt bad. Whatever; they never feel as bad as I do.

I tried to communicate this thought to my son, but he wasn't buying. Middle-aged insight isn't appealing to a 22-year old. Pain is personal, as most of us have learned. We process it, feel it, medicate or invite it, as we choose. Maybe the only real personal freedom left to us. What I'd really like to tell him is that maybe loneliness is the beginning of something... that so much of life is like the back of a car getting smaller as it drives irreversibly down the road of our past, and we can only helplessly witness this in our present. That maybe some of life is running after that car, or turning around and refusing to watch it.

One day he'll look back and this particular Superbowl, the Giants victory, will be weighted with sadness and loneliness. For Whitney Houston's daughter-- -God knows if she liked football, or will know Cruz who grew up in Newark, her Mom's home town... she will think... my Mom was still here, maybe acting crazy or erratic--- but she was here. I could have told her not to get into that car, I could have emptied the tank of gas.

Maybe these people don't think the way I do... maybe they don't like songs like Mary Jane's Last Dance or say things like 'when blue suede shoes meant something'. Maybe they just talk it out and don't ride the train all night inventing lyrics and looking for the car with the most homeless sleepers so I can absorb their stench and their shadow because I've earned exactly that.

I remember sitting in my infant son's room on a cold January Sunday night, listening to that sweet calm breathing, inhaling the indescribable intoxicating scent of baby, rocking in his chair. I was not marveling at the super-sized 45 point lead the 49-ers had secured over the Broncos. I had no inkling then that for years I'd find myself sharing this night with my growing son, being educated about rushing yards, incompletes, tight ends, penalties and flags. Instead I was wondering about where my husband was sleeping, whether it was important that I know, waiting for it to be over, wanting the placebo-- the way he had the placebo, always... but knowing I'd never take it, because I'd always need it straight up, with the shadows and the curtains and the morning afters and the endless cars driving away down the road.

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