I ran into an old friend at HEB yesterday. HEB is Texan for grocery store. She and I were in the adult dance troupe when our daughters were young and taking dance. That was twenty-four years ago. I miss that troupe. I was forty-seven doing tap and jazz dancing—what fun. If I had it do over, he thinks, though having it to do over is too often a trap, I would have taken dance as a boy. Dance and karate—which are similar. I would read more, he tells himself.
Truth is, I don’t know if I would have had the social courage to take dance as a boy. But what fun. I dance now. I imagine myself Zorba on the beaches of Crete. Or just smooth gliding on a hardwood floor to a bluesy jazz. Barbara and I took tango lessons. One evening, needing the room, we danced in an Austin parking lot, singing our own music. People stopped and looked. It’s been awhile, and I’ve forgotten most of the steps.
You look great, my friend smiled at me. So do you, I said. I count smiles, I told her. She smiled again.
On the flip side, a guy on Facebook, a friend of my cousin, begged me to let go of my hate and watch a clip where a governor of some state was calling people who want to band assault rifles naïve—as if a single solution would solve the problem. We have a culture problem he said, blaming the rise of pornography and video games as a root cause of mass shootings. We didn’t have these mass shooting fifty years ago, I think he said. I muttered something about the UT tower shooting being fifty two years ago this summer. You can roll your eyes and be smug if you want, the governor said to the audience. Let go of your hate, my cousin's friend begged.
I always been known for my hate, I wanted to tell him.
When we were young, we didn’t have video games, but we played war all the time, killing each other with toy weapons. I think it was more fun our way, because we roamed our island neighborhood, hid in ditches and behind threes, used our own sound effects, and actually fell to the ground when shot. We also had rock fights with the local Puerto Rican kids. We threw rocks at each other without animosity. It was just something boys did. Once the PR kids outnumbered us so much, that a few of them came over to our side to make it more even. Because we were very young, and kept at a safe distance, our rocks rarely hit their mark. When one did, we scattered.
We also played baseball with these kids.
As for porn. I remember some kid showing me pictures when I was in the eighth grade. That was in 1958. I was a little confused as to how I was supposed to react. I was never drawn to porn, something about watching always seemed boring to me. But then for some reason I don’t carry around very much puritan guilt over sex either.
I wanted to respond to the FB post, but realized I would be talking to a brick wall. Let go of your hate.
Truth is, I don’t think we will resolve the divide in the debate about guns, about abortion, about climate change, about public education. The problem in no small part due it being a debate and not a dialogue. But dialogue seems impossible—except maybe on a personal scale. Certainly not on the flat screen.
I sip my coffee. I was good to see my old friend at HEB. For a brief moment, I felt alive again.