When I finally recognize it for what it is, I sit up with a start. I feel. . . good? Can that be? I’ve spent the last few weeks scanning for rumbles of pain before making a compromise with myself: Self, I’ve been saying, you still have two hours of work to do before the drive home. Can I offer you a coffee or an aspirin while you wait? But today, seemingly for no reason at all, I am rolling out my shoulders, feeling the last of the chill on my skin before summer arrives and takes away this last sensation of home.
What’s weirder is that I do not feel good in any sort of way that I would normally associate with that feeling. I do not feel neutral, in the way I usually do when I say “I’m good” to people who ask. I feel good, the way I imagine dancers must as they fling themselves around, interpretatively. It feels a little like waking up in tangled sheets in the throes of new love, but I’m certain that’s not it. I mean, I did start listening to that alien romance audiobook someone on TikTok recommended, but it isn’t so much titillating as absurd. The absolute filth of it, combined with the earnestness with which the voiceover actors have committed to their parts has had me in stitches. Like it or not, Ice Planet Barbarians have had me rolling — maybe that’s it. I’ve laughed harder at the stupid big, blue aliens than I have at anything in a long time. Just thinking about it, I crack up. My laugh, when it comes, is a big, boisterous thing. I used to be embarrassed of the way I laugh — it is unladylike and indelicate, strong and deep, usually honking a little. I hear it now and I’m so grateful for it I feel dew collect in my eyes. My home has been a place of comfort and gentleness lately, a retreat where I try to coax myself back to myself. But once the laugh starts, it fills up all the space between the walls, and I don’t want it to stop. So I turn on Mickey & Sylvia’s “Lover Boy” and I dance, just for myself. It is so good to feel my hips hit the rhythm and to flail my arms around. I must look ridiculous, I think, but anybody who felt as good as I do right now would do the same thing.
Soon, I’m wiggling around in my sock feet Jerry Maguire-style, singing both Mickey and Sylvia’s parts. “Sylvia?” “Yes, MIckey?” I ask my empty apartment. “How do you call your lover boy?” I pause for effect. “C’mere, lover boy!!” I boot-scoot my way into the bathroom for a long Everything Shower, followed by brushing my teeth to the tune of “Loco in Acapulco”. Squeaky clean from tip to toe, I put on some clean clothes and decide I’m gonna ride this wave for as long as it’ll last. I dance down the hall, down the elevator, and across the parking lot. The drive is a full-on windows-down karaoke sesh, and I belt “Son of a Preacher Man” to no one. To the sky. I’m groovin’, and not even highway traffic can bring me down.
There is a bit of trepidation as I stand in front of the busy entrance to the Carrefour. It’s a Saturday — shit. I’ve avoided this task for well over a month. I am regularly bested by the grocery story, and I’m briefly worried that the stormclouds will snatch up my very good, not-at-all-bad day. I’ve left it too long, so I have a long list (I know, I’ve rewritten it twice). There are so many people and objects and noises and colors. The aisles are too tall, and I feel like they’re closing in on me. But then Stevie hits the “Heeeyy — haaayyy!” that kicks off “Signed, Sealed, Delivered. . . I’m Yours”, and I am invincible. Plus I’m on my last roll of toilet paper, so if I don’t get my shit together now, I’m gonna have a situation on my hands when I get back home.
I must look ridiculous, a grown woman with her noise-cancelling headphones bouncing her way down the aisle to the beat. I have what the kids these days are calling “main character energy”, so I just relax a little and try to enjoy it. I fill up the cart with every ingredient I’ve run out of, and I organize it all on the belt the way I like. I tell the bagger I like to do it myself — this is neurotic, I know, but I don’t care enough to be ashamed. Sam Cooke is too busy “Twistin’ the Night Away”.
I get home and unload most of it, still puttering. It’s been a few hours, and I still feel the strange, gooey goodness. So it’s not a fluke, then. How do I keep it going? I look around the house and know exactly what to do next. There’s assignments to write and assignments to grade, and I’m overdue to call my Dad, but it can all wait. I blow a “hoo” over the curves of my guitar, which has been silently shaming me from its corner for months. I settle in and get it tuned, I start with something easy. feeling the familiar pinch of my fingers pressing into the strings. I’m out of practice, but I don’t care, strumming the opening chords to “Take Me to Church”. I decide, then and there, to book tickets to the Hozier show I’ve been waffling on. It will mean planning a trip to the UK, but the thought brings me so much joy that I cannot deny the resonance inside me that demands it.
I want to bottle this feeling. This radiating contentment that makes everything briefly okay. I wish I could can it, the way we canned peaches and corn and tomatoes as a kid, trying to give ourselves a stockpile of summer freshness for those long days in the dead of winter when the cold felt so bone-deep and miserable that we worried silently that it’d last forever. I wish I had a recipe for it, one I could conjure up on demand, the way the ginger molasses cookies seem to miraculously spring from my hands when I’m stressed. If I could, I’d keep a little of this satisfaction, this whole-body joy on hand for a rainy day. I’m a little embarrassed that the ingredients seem to be equal parts knockoff Barbarella and Motown, but I’ll take it. For today, there is a driving beat and a blasting horn section p[aying underneath the montage of my day. The best I can do is enjoy it while it lasts. It’s enough.