Catch up time.
I’ve arrived safely in Bellingham, and am preparing for class. There is a chance I don’t have to take any more Spanish classes, but it could still be fun to take a few to keep up my newfound fluency and enjoy the pure delight that is speaking another language. My new roommates seem nice, if a little less cleanly than I am (bunny poop on the living room floor may not make the bunny any less cute, but really, it’s still poop), however I don’t really have anything to complain about since it’s a place to live in a house of pleasant women. I’m trying to run around organizing my finances, look up cell phone plans, and in general, not panic about being back in the United States. Being here makes being away from Argentina seem permanent. It makes the image of what Argentina is in my head feel so far away and ideal, like a perfectly lit dance floor waiting for feet. It wasn’t all sparkles down there though, and it isn’t all grey skies and cold up here, though that’s a lot of the Inland Northwest. Coming back makes me wonder about the image we have frozen in our head the minute we leave somewhere, or someone, and how it affects people.
I think about my friends as I remember them from four months ago. I think that the people I met in Argentina are still the same, though now they’ve remembered that snapshot image of themselves four months ago. I remember my own image, and I can see how it’s changed. I see it best in the smiles people give me after we dance. That’s my favorite place to see what’s changed in me, those smiles, the tightening of a hand in mine, the way follows cling to me. It feels new, like fresh earth, dark and moist.
Bellingham is different. It’s winter here now. The dark streets feel more dangerous and I guard my things more jealously. Gone are the summer days swimming in Lake Whatcom (okay, maybe I only did that once, but dancing with someone wet from the water should count), but the people here are probably not going to rob me. No one will attack me while I’m downtown, probably. I’m just more suspicious. Things aren’t ideal, and it almost feels like a letdown. As my dance partner told me, I didn’t come back to be quite the tanguero in shining dance shoes she expected. Sure, I’m a better dancer now, but I’m different. Change is tough.
I have this persona of myself where I’m special, and I can be special, but the world doesn’t always care. In Argentina I was something else, a foreigner, someone who made an effort to be there and who also knew parts of the culture that took me from ordinary to somewhere down the river towards extraordinary. In Spokane I came back as a bit of an exotic treat, someone who had seen the milongas of Buenos Aires and breathed the dusty air. Who had heard the pots and pans of protesting citizens. But that doesn’t show on me by looking at me. That doesn’t come up easily in normal conversation without it sounding like I’m pretentious or bragging. My view of myself as something more than ordinary was reinforced after reading Markus Zusak’s delightful book, I am the Messenger.
In the book Ed Kennedy, an unimpressive, almost unlovable, character whose only decent trait is the extreme love he holds for his olfactorily distinct dog, is chosen to rise above and show that ordinary can move the world.
That ordinary shines like the smell of sun in wet grass.
That ordinary cleans the mind like fog burning away.
Yes! I thought. Yes! I can be the messenger! I can tell people of the world, I can bring them my love and change them for the better! I can! I can! And the great part is, of course I can. Anyone can change those around them for the better, and in doing so change themselves, change their persona. I wonder if that’s all we have.
This brought up several questions worthy of my father. Are we just a construct in our own mind? Something we’ve manufactured in the hopes of the approval, not only of others, but of ourselves? Is our only goal working to satisfy that image?
This idea that we are special and the universe owes us some notice, maybe even some respect, often throws people for a loop when bad shit happens. I have friends still reeling from the fact that they weren’t special enough to stay with their significant other, my father still has problems accepting he wasn’t special enough to stay at his job and that he got pushed out. This created image of us as special people is important, even if the world doesn’t care.
It’s important because you should be special to yourself. You should ask yourself what will make you happy, not just in the short term, but in the long term, and then you should do that.
It is important because you care.