Alexandra Billings (abillings) wrote,
Alexandra Billings

Through The Middle

There’s a scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy’s skipping down the yellow brick road, and in the middle of her journey she stumbles on a straw man in a field, who speaks.

“Now which way do we go?” she asks Toto.

“Pardon me….but that way's a very nice way.” The scarecrow announces.

Eventually, after shaking her head to remind herself she’s in a world of miracles and nonsense, and cross each other constantly, the Scarecrow folds his arms, and barks loudly:

“Actually…some people prefer to go both ways.” As he gestures to both the North and the South at the same time.

And there stands Dorothy, perplexed, stunned, and still half-whispering to her bewildered dog.

My Doctor once told me I was going to die.

He told me to collect everything I had, to make arrangements, to call who I needed to call, and to get things in order. He told me to make sure I had my life in hand, because there wasn’t much left of it. AIDS killed people back in the eighties. There wasn’t anything else to do, really. I was 30-something years old when he told me all this, and I was sitting on the edge of a bright silver table with that white paper wrinkling beneath me, making that awful crunching sound. When I was a kid, whatever the doctor said, you did.. If it was medicine, you took it. If it was advice, you listened to it. And if it was a death sentence, you believed it. Doctors wore white and had offices and wielded power.

I’ve never been very good at mapping things out. I’ve never in my life made one, single plan. When something happened to me, I went through it, assumed that was the way it was supposed to be for a while, and then pressed on. Things never really resonated much with me. I didn’t take much time to stop and ponder, I was too busy running.

From what, I was never sure.

I was huddled under the leaky roof of our neighborhood 7-11 last week. I was on my way to class, and the rain was pouring down in sheets. Big, long, silver walls of rain. My car was only a few steps away, and time was running out, but I stood under the half-roof, and watched the rain hit the parking lot in gigantic waves. It was chilly and windy, and I lit a cigarette.

I smoked and stood for a while.

As I came to the end of my smoke, a woman with an electric blue raincoat came stumbling up to the entrance. She was laughing and throwing her head back occasionally. She was in her late thirties, and carried a huge black purse, and had no umbrella. Her brown hair was stuck to the sides of her face, and water beaded off her coat and onto the ground. I moved a bit in order to let her pass by me. As I shifted to the left, she stood next to me, still laughing and still tossing her head back.

“Isn’t this great?!” she asked looking out into the darkness.

“I guess. I hate the rain.” I admitted.

“I don’t mean the rain. I hate the rain too. I mean This!”

She pointed up to the source of the downpour.

I looked up.

She threw her head back and laughed again.

“I’ve been looking at that my entire life, and I have no idea what the fuck it’s supposed to be! NO IDEA!”

She turned to me, smiled, shook her head dry a bit, and then went inside. Laughing.

I stood there for a couple of minutes, and then rushed to my car. What she said was so big for me, so odd, so out of the blue, and so huge, that I didn’t want to spoil it. I didn’t want to be standing there when she came out, just in case she was truly nuts. I didn’t want that moment to be ruined by her coming back and barking like a sea lion, or something.

I got in my car and sat there watching the rain cover my windshield.

There’s something happening to me right now in my life. Next year I’ll be fifty years old. I will have been alive on the planet for a half a century. I’m thrilled by it. And I honestly mean that. I feel as though I now have the right to tell everyone in my sight to piss off. I feel I’ve earned that, simply because I’m still standing on my own two feet. I don’t know where that comes from, and it’s not the nicest thing in the world, but it’s deeply embedded in me.

And because I’ve never had a plan, because I was supposed to dead by thirty, and because I’m standing in the middle of a cornfield pointing both ways and having no idea which way to go, the end of something certainly seems to be the beginning of something else. I don’t feel in crisis, though. I don’t feel this mid life resonates with me simply because of its number. I feel compelled to go somewhere, and the strange thing is, I have absolutely no idea where that is, or what I need to do, or what’s going to happen next.

I’m terrified.

I’m bewildered.

I’m shaking.

I’m Birthday/Christmas Excited.

And I’m utterly lost.

And this chaos, this messy pile of unanswered questions is what’s weighing on me every second of every minute of every day. And it’s not anywhere near my brain. It seems to all be located in my Gut. My belly’s rumbling like I just had clam chowder and a grill cheese sandwich. The pit of me is pulling me toward the edge of something, and my feet are tingling because I know I’m about to fall.

But here I go. Into something new with no parachute.

I just can’t stop thinking about it though:

I mean, I’ve been looking at that my entire life, and I have no fucking idea what it’s supposed to be.

No Idea.

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