Life is a mystery. Everyone must stand alone.

This is the second installment on albums that changed my life. For your consideration:

I recently told my friend that I'm needy
. I'm surprised I had to tell her this as I have actually said the phrase "pay attention to me" out loud, many times, to her. Anyway, it got me thinking about needing and how sometimes needing is the same as taking and if I'm taking, am I giving too?

These are big thoughts, I know so I've given it a whole day and I've decided that I do give. I know enough to understand when someone is saying something important. When that time comes, I am an excellent listener who tries not to interrupt with my own stories. Also, I have a plethora of sayings that are sure to cheer you up. But when all else fails, when someone is inconsolable, I have a secret weapon: I dance. If I am dancing, it's usually to keep someone else from crying. I dance magnificently.

All of these thoughts reminded me of a time, almost a decade ago now, when I was really low. It was after a bad breakup. Not just "eat a carton of ice cream" bad but like "someone should call the cops" bad. Anyway, after the break up, she got to keep almost all the friends by moving in with them. My best friend moved to France around the same time and I was kind of dating, but in a seriously disastrous way that broke my heart worse than the break up with the girlfriend. Basically, with the exception of Regina, who is my life-long friend as a result of sticking by me in that time, I was alone. Not "clear my head" alone but like "drink a six-pack by myself every night" alone. "Alone" alone.

After the break-up/move-out, I had to pick up a weekend job to keep up with higher rent, which meant I was working seven days a week. Of course, I caught a cold and kept it for months. I would come home from work, drink while watching t.v. and fall asleep on the couch until 5:30 am the next morning, when I would start again. Sometimes I didn't have money to eat but there was always money for beer. I did this for six months.

My biggest comfort and my biggest enemy at the time was the puppy the ex-girlfriend had given me for my birthday the previous summer. We named her Vina, though I had wanted to name her Lucy. Vina ate my apartment. Every day I would come home to what had previously been a chair, a couch cushion or a stairwell landing to find it strewn about in a million pieces. I sprayed every piece of furniture with watered-down Tabasco sauce but nothing stopped her. After a while, I stopped cleaning and left it like that, layer upon destroyed layer. Like most things when you're depressed, it wasn't a priority.

Truly, it wasn't Vina's fault. I was a bad dog-mom for obvious reasons. But at night, she would curl up with me while I sniffled in my cold, damp bedroom and that was nice to have. It's nice when someone loves you like that, without all the judging and telling you to stop drinking. Still, I knew I was in trouble. Things were headed down a dangerous path and there was some concern on my part as to how I was going to get up.

One night, Regina left her cds at my house. Vina of course chewed at the vinyl book but was unable to get to those cds (way to buy brand-name, quality merchandise Regina). After wrestling the book away from Vina, I took a look at the cds inside. I wasn't sure what I was looking for but when I saw Madonna's Immaculate Collection, I put it on. I got up off the couch. I danced. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I was desperate to be reminded of something else.

My routine changed from then on. I would still drink and sleep but instead of watching t.v., I danced to Madonna. Every single night. Vina never much cared for dancing and she would stare at me vacantly as I jumped off couches, threw myself on my knees, pulled out my best moves to Holiday. I strutted to Papa Don't Preach. I'd wrap my arms around myself to Crazy For You, like you'd do when you were a kid pretending that someone else was dancing with you. To this day, I know not only the words to every song, but every inflection, every sigh, every "oh, baby".

My health got better slowly. Eventually, I borrowed a shop vacuum and sucked up the mess, foam chunks flying up the hose and into the chamber with a satisfying thunk. I learned how to lay carpet, stain woodwork, and sew, basically re-assembling that apartment in time to move out. I got our damn deposit back too. The whole thing. When the landlord called me about his suspicions, I had a story for every one. The carpet looked fresh because someone had spilled wine and we had steam cleaned it too well, not because the dog had dug a hole and the carpet was brand new. No dog lived at that house. Somebody had tried to move in with a dog but we kicked them out a month later. Lies flew out of my mouth without even having to think about it. It scared me, these new skills. But I embraced them, packed them up and put them in a box to use later.

Did Madonna save my life? It's hard to say. The thing about Madonna is that she's not the best singer and she knows it. But she's smart enough to realize that it's not about talent, it's about determination and the understanding when all else fails, you can always dance. It's all I have to give. Touch me once and you'll know it's true.


lea said...

gosh, this sounds like my 2007. except not the madonna part. for me it was electrelane's album "the power out."

i'm serious.

Michele said...

1) for me it was the years 96 and 97. The music, classical. I had to rid myself, by myself, of a meth addiction. Betcha didn't know THAT about me.

2) I'm so glad you started blogging. You're a fabulous writer.

P.S. How's your sister? I see stuff about the bros, but not M.