sideways

Forward motion is a terrifying thing. My favorite position to be in, is horizontal, on my bed. That’s not a sex joke. The minute you go vertical, all bets are off. There’s this pressure to do something with your vertical-ness. I generally fall back into bed, arms and legs straight, face looking up at the ceiling, eyes wide open, mouth sighing, sighing, sighing. Then I get up. I move. Forward, out into the abyss that is often my apartment but also the world.

I don’t think we learn the right way. Sitting in chairs, hunched over our notebooks, furiously scrawling “God help me what the Hell is he talking about,” our brains are moving rapidly. Listening, comprehending, faking that little glow of an epiphany every once in a while, we sit while our minds wander. Think about what our bodies would look like if they followed the thought patterns of our brains. I think I would twirl, pivoting on my right foot, for about ten seconds. Then I’d stop and jump as high as I could in one place. Mid-jump I’d try to twirl then come crashing to the ground. People all around me would be leaping and crashing. Chairs would go flying, papers would float aimlessly among the arms and legs and our brains would wonder why we hadn’t been doing this all along.

Because it’s too fast. It’s too much. There’s a saying that says “Move forward.” No one asks us to move sideways. I guess at times we can “Look back and remember.” And then there’s “One foot forward, two steps back.” Some people are “Movin on up,” while others “Go forth and be.” Can we move down? “She’s six feet under.” I guess so.

We’re left with sideways. I think I’d like to move sideways. There’s the “side” aspect which screams “horizontally reading a book in your bed while falling asleep on the soft part of your arm.” And “ways.” Well ways looks like more directions than “forward.”

We sit in desks and we stand behind server stations and we run on treadmills because all of these things mean something else. My body looks forward, leans forward, reaches forever forward. But my brain moves all around. Sideways, I guess. While sitting in my desk I think about the book we’re discussing, the girl’s shitty doodles on the page next to me, the teacher’s ill-fitting shirt, the funny taste in my mouth. Behind the server station I think about the stickiness of the menus and how I’m not going to clean them, which tables need drink refills in five, four, three, where I’m going when I graduate and how I’m ever going to make enough money. On the treadmill I think a lot about rap music.

Forward motion means always being in a hurry. It means a poor translation of your brain’s desires. All those thoughts want to be channeled somewhere so you channel them into “shooting you an email!” “I’ll be here all day!” “I’ve got so many places I want to go tonight!” and you’re exclaiming a lot when your sentences could just end in this. And your thoughts could twirl around, jump, change direction and come crashing down.

I don’t know how to move sideways. If I did, would I still get my homework done? Would I still have time to take three shots, drink two beers, then dance in a dark room blasting iPod “rage” playlists? Would I live dangerously? Would I waste my youth? Would I maintain my figure? Moving forward guarantees one thing: for at least five minutes, you know where you’re going. What does it feel like to give those five minutes up?

Below: Henry wants to move up but can’t figure out how.

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