I experienced a Moment the other night, an emotional moment, in public. It was slightly alcohol-induced, but I wasn’t so inebriated that the room was spinning or I felt bad. On the contrary, I was in that sweet spot, tipsy and feeling wonderful. I had just completed a work project that took several weeks and a lot of energy, and had a successful, well-attended opening. People in town had seen me bleary-eyed and dressed in paint-splattered clothes for weeks, but this night I was wearing makeup and a brand new dress. I was feeling beautiful, proud, relieved, and as buoyant as if I were walking on air. If I’d had enough money, I would have bought everyone a round of drinks. Instead, I found myself standing next to a handsome stranger at the bar.
Now, in my little town, a handsome un-accompanied stranger whom you’ve never seen before is a rarity, especially on a Saturday night in your favorite watering hole, and especially when he’s carrying a large, football-sized conch. Yes, that’s right, he had a large conch, and I blew it at the bar. Very loudly. I think I surprised a few people with just how loudly I let it rip. Or maybe when I yelled “It’s like Yom Kippur in here!” afterwards, laughing hysterically.
I blew it a few more times before getting tired and handing it back to its owner, who looked both amused and impressed. Introductions, another drink, more conch blowing and conch talk, and then Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On came on the sound system. If you’ve never heard this song, I’ve added a link below. It’s one of those songs that makes you want to dance with someone. Well, for once, there was actually someone there, and, based on the few words we’d exchanged, I suspected that he knew and loved this song too. I reached for his hand and pulled him out of his chair to dance with me.
I don’t know how much of it was the song, the man, me, or the moment—but dancing together felt really damn good. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been that physically close to another person. And my instinct that he knew and loved the song was correct. He knew the words, he knew the rhythm, and he was feeling it. He danced like a gentleman, not grabby or grindy but holding my hand to his chest and his other arm around my waist. I closed my eyes and half-sang, half-hummed the song, feeling relaxed, not thinking about anything, just totally in the moment, enjoying Marvin’s voice, the words, the warmth of this man’s body and hands, the comfort of being able to put my head on his shoulder, feeling the yearning beautiful soul in that music. At some point near the end of the song, our faces brushed close to each other and we kissed. It was honestly the only way to end that dance to that song in that bar on that night.
As the song faded, we stopped and returned to the bar. And that’s when the Moment happened.
A powerful emotional wave started in my heart moved down to my stomach through my loins then rushed back up through my heart up to my brain, hitting the shores of my eyelids before plunging down and through the circuit all over again. I wasn’t crying, but my eyes welled up and tears fell down my cheeks, and I was absolutely powerless to stop them. I closed my eyes and focused, not on stopping the wave, but on feeling it, sweeping through me, rushing, sloshing this way and that… until the waters finally calmed.
When I opened my eyes again, I sensed the bartender and my friends, who were also at the bar and witnessed the moment, trying to hide their concern and respectfully give Mr. Conch, who also saw it, the chance to react first. He was standing right beside me, thankfully not looking panicked, but mildly concerned and curious. He smiled a friendly smile and rubbed my back gently. “Are you okay?” “Yes,” I said and wiped my eyes. Moments later, we were all laughing again.
I didn’t feel as embarrassed as I thought I would, having had such a moment in public in one of the few bars in my little town. As moments go, it was pretty mild. It’s not like I caused a scene. Just a few silent tears in the corner of the bar next to the espresso machine. I wondered if the other folks at the bar recognized that it had been a wave of grief and not just a moment of having too much to drink. I hoped everyone would forget about it the next day, and then decided I didn’t care. The moment had clearly been triggered by the dance and the kiss, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. And therein lies the rub.
The heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, it remembers long-stored emotions. Certain joys can actually trigger a more acute pain than sadness can. Sometimes I wonder if I am so tender inside that I will never be able to experience those emotions again without also feeling pangs of pain. Or maybe I’ll only feel pain for a short while, and the painful periods, and the time between them, will get shorter and shorter. All I know is I have been alone, without a partner, and nearly celibate for almost seven years. I am content being alone, and do not feel lacking or afraid of anything. But I’m still human, and like Marvin says, “We’re all sensitive people, with so much to give…”
There’s a part of me that feels so untouched and raw that it is almost innocent, washed clean, and yet it is also mature and strong. This is the part deep inside me that has developed within the dark pressures of grief, like a pearl nestled in the soft tissue of a shell, a butterfly just born and ready to fly.