Archive for the ‘Rejection’ Category


The Very First Note

January 4, 2010

The Very First Note
by Gayle

I went back to my hometown for a few days. I had to sign some papers. It was almost New Year’s, 1978, and Nadine invited me to her shindig. Parties ebb and flow, of course, but maybe 15 people were there at the most, some I knew from the past, some I didn’t. In the main room, the furniture was pushed to the edges, for a place to dance. The stereo was at one end and the food and drinks table at the other. Downstairs, it was the alternate refreshment room, relatively quiet. Yeah, it’s the midwest, but they’ve heard of pot. Then, out in the back yard, they had a firepit.

I go out there, three guys are sitting on a bench, I don’t know any of them. One guy is playing the drum that he brought over. He gets up and hands me the drum. I’m not really into it, but it’s cool that the guy just offered it so readily, so I sit down with the drum between my knees and make a little rhythm for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, Nadine comes outside and joins us at the fire. I stand up, and the guy asks Nadine if she wants to try the drum. She says no, but he kind of coaxes her, then he says to me, “Go ahead, convince her. Talk her into it.” That makes me feel kind of bristly. It’s like he’s saying all women are together in a cabal, and he’s enlisting me to communicate with Nadine in our secret woman-speak, and talk sense into her, for her own good.

Of course, when you’re in a bit of an altered state, you take that into account. We see everything through our filters. A lot of what we see is stuff from the past, oozing up into the now. You make allowances for it, and try to catch it if you can.

I go, “This drum is getting heavy, so I hope you guys figure it out pretty soon.”

The drum man tells me, “Try hitting it a little harder,” but I shake my head, and he takes the drum off my hands, and sits back down.

Maybe I’ve been rude, so I try to explain. “When I’m into percussion, it’s for the intricacy and complexity, not the loudness factor.” I go in the house. It’s really not an atmosphere for conversation. The stereo is cranked up, and half the time I don’t know what people are saying. I don’t enjoy talking loud. So fuck it, I’ll just dance. Nobody else is, but so what?

Folks from here need a couple of drinks in them before they let the music take them. No, that’s not true. They keep time with various body parts. Anyway, most of the evening, it was an empty dance floor, except for me, and somebody or other would drift in, or dive in, for part of a number, then drift or dive back out again. And always two or three on the edge, moving in rhythm while holding onto their beer bottles. Later on, around midnight, and for a while after, there would be four or six or eight people dancing.

It’s not like anybody’s going to push a contract in my face and beg me to be on their TV show. Especially not here in Hometown, USA. It’s not like I’m trying to show off – and there’s that goop from the past, seeping in again – I just feel like dancing, dammit! Talking and hearing are stressing me out, and there’s really nothing else to do, in a place that isn’t mine. It’s not like I can sneak off to my desk and type up some paperwork for Cooley’s five-state tour. My desk is a couple of thousand miles away.

Nadine’s husband is changing the records, and he tells me, “I’m putting your Traffic on after this one.”

The drum guy comes inside just in time to hear this, and he says, “Did you bring an album?” I tell him no, I just asked for this one because I wanted to hear “A Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” He gets all enthusiastic about what a great album it is, and how much he likes that song particularly. His name is Tom, and I tell him mine, and he asks if I’m from here.

I really don’t want to get into what I’m doing here, instead of taking care of the house on the canal and protecting the ducks from any reveler who might fancy a barbecued snack. Am I from here?

“Yes and no,” I tell him. When the music starts again, I slide away and get back to dancing. I overhear talk that sounds like Tom is in some aspect of the music business. Part of what I do for Cooley, is reach out to other people in the field. How bad can this Tom guy be?

After a while, I go to the bathroom, and when I come back, whatever’s on the stereo doesn’t really grab me, so I’m at the edge of the “dance floor” just kind of swaying. Tom approaches and takes my hand lightly, a minuet kind of move, and leads me a few steps out. So okay, fine, we’re both dancing. I just don’t dig this “dancing with” notion. In my universe, dancing is basically not a team sport. I don’t aspire to be one-half of Ginger and Fred. I’m not interested in learning dance as a science or a gymnastic feat. It’s just not something I want to do with a partner.

Slow dancing, that’s different. Yeah, “Blue Velvet,” the lights are low, you’re barely moving around on the dance floor, just rubbing and grinding where you stand, and groping each other – with the right person, that’s definitely a couple activity. And even so, there aren’t many people I want to be that close to. And none of them are here. And this isn’t a make-out party. It’s New Year’s Eve! It’s supposed to be lively. It’s a celebration, for chrissake.

Anyway, I’m a feeling impinged upon. I get the impression that this Tom character is making some kind of attempt to direct me. To tell you the truth, I’m trying to not even look at him. But I don’t want to close my eyes, because that seems affected. Also, I don’t want to bump into anything. So I’m aiming for a state of seeing but not seeing, where a part of my brain will monitor the environment, while most of it takes a vacation. But it can’t. Because it’s busy thinking about bullshit like not wanting to look like a total air-headed poser by dancing with my eyes closed.

And there’s this nagging feeling that he’s trying to get me to do something, to mirror him or synchronize myself with him. He’s seriously putting a dent in my high. It taps into some of that old stuff in my head. The connections that people make, the implications they draw. I can just imagine old Tom thinking, “If she can’t dance with me, she must be a lousy lay.” Which to my mind is a whole different thing. When I get naked with somebody, I know what to do. That’s the time and place where you feel your way into the other person, where you act in harmony. I can play a duet. But dancing? Dancing is all about me. And whatever Tom here thinks about it, who cares? I don’t want him speculating about how good I’d be in bed, because I’m pretty sure we won’t be finding ourselves there any time soon.

Saved by the doorbell. I love a cliché. Somebody rings, and since Nadine isn’t close by and neither is her husband, Tom goes to open the door.

But he turns up again later on, with the astonishing question, “What’s your story?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re from here, but you’re not from here. You’re dancing all alone…”

There go the bristles, up again. I’m hearing an implication that I should be dancing with somebody, that I’d be better off that way.… I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into this guy’s innocent tries at conversation.

Should I go into it? Should I tell him, where I’m really from, we dance in the sun by the ocean, to the beat of twenty drums, or to a three-piece band on the boardwalk, and sometimes we’re not even drunk? Should I tell him about the big room with the polished hardwood floor, the secret world above a store in Santa Monica, where we play all kinds of records and dance however we please – yes, even alone? Should I bother to try and explain that for me, dancing is not a thing you do with another person? Do I tell him that who you dance with is the music, and sometimes a whole bunch of other people, but it doesn’t have to be two-by-two like Noah’s fuckin’ Ark?

“Who are you?” the guy says.

That tears it. This is Mr. Clueless. I play it straight. I tell him, “Gayle.”

Pretty soon he gives up and sits at the sidelines, watching. This, I’m not too crazy about either. I feel like I should stifle myself, because I don’t want to look like I’m trying to attract him or, Goddess forbid, seduce him. All I want to do is dance, but I can imagine this Tom, after some unthinkable play-out, insisting to some third party, “She was coming on to me all evening.”

Then, I hear Cooley’s voice, I mean, really hear it, from all those miles away, over the music, and over all my imagining and analyzing. He says, “Dance as if nobody’s watching.” And nobody is. And every so often, I forget about the whole thing and get out of myself for a spell. And then the static in my head revs up again. I can’t be natural because I’m all hung up thinking about why I can’t be natural. It’s exhausting.

After a while, I’m in the kitchen talking with Nadine, and we’re really into whatever the topic is, it’s the first and only exchange I’ve had all night with any kind of value. I hear “A Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” Nadine is telling me something, and Tom pops into the room and goes, “Hey, it’s your song.” I kind of nod at him, but I’m listening to Nadine. And then I’m saying something back to Nadine, and Tom goes, “Your song is playing.”

It’s almost overwhelming, the impulse to turn on him and spit out, “Idiot, you think I don’t know, from the very first note?”

But I don’t say a word. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m a long way from home.