Be-Longing

be-longing
I felt the hollowness when they asked what skills I might bring to the collaboration. Skills, I thought? I’m supposed to have skills? I checked my pockets, but my hand came back out holding only a few coins; small change. “I have quite a bit of experience,” I explained, “but none of it seems to have resulted in anything I’d really consider to be skills.” I felt thirteen again.

I might be a member of that group with a perpetual member numbering one, but changing every day. I learned that I was supposed to be something when I grew up, but I’ve either never grown up or failed to become in spite of considerable personal and professional growth. The evolution seems incomplete.

One friend explained that this is how it is for everyone. Mastery is a solo shot, no company allowed. Nobody fits in anywhere. We associate, aspiring to connect, but leave every party alone. Nobody ever understands.

Still, though, the sense of longing overwhelms me sometimes. The perhaps naive belief that there might really be someplace like home, somewhere not over any rainbow, but simply here. This here isn’t that. That last one wasn’t either.

The disconnections seem starker than the connections ever do, as if distance defined identity; the further, the more personal, the closer, the more alienating. I seem to be holding out the same pole as every magnet I meet. How perfectly appropriate that the same letters explain their opposite: belonging, be-longing; simultaneously here and gone.

I’ve spent the last twenty years touting community, exemplifying the idea that those who can’t, teach. I am a one-handed percussion section, a single finger sonata, an open-faced sandwich of a team; still the single acoustic performer who once opened the show for that head-banging rock and roll band while the crowd yelled, “Kill him!” I am not dead yet. Still longing.

I flee from community, cowering in my room after not returning from the morning break. I do not answer the door when they come to implore me to come join them again. I ignore them, which amplifies their presence in their absence, and I’m left wondering who I might be; where I might belong. I have no skills to bring to the game, only small change; enough coin to pay for this hollow space here underneath the bed.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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