I have an Improv class tonight and I must admit, I am scared. I feel out of sorts, in my head, unsure of myself, and a thickness that I try and shed with the aid of coffee and cigarettes. I have reached some sort of ugly dip in my training where I don’t know what’s going to happen next and not in a good way. I feel out of control and where I’m ending up, isn’t that good.
My teacher is intelligent. He’s simple and genuine and I know if I could just do what he says I would be a great improviser. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak my language. I only understand what he’s says, it doesn’t hit me.
I listen romantically. Which means I hear what things might be rather than what things are. So if we’re out in the desert and our Pontiac breaks down. No food. No water. No phones; fifty miles away from anyone or anything, you turn to me…
“This doesn’t look good.“
What I hear is…
“We’re gonna have to put our heads together to get out of this one!“
Which is positive, bright-side, optimistic, all well and good but it isn’t what’s being said.
I wasn’t always like this. If i think back hard enough, I can remember my practical listening days. Three years old, holding a milk carton at breakfast, my Mother…
“You spilled your chocolate milk yesterday; You want me to pour it for you today?”
Simple. “Yes.” Practical. “Yes.” I hear, “you need help,” and I react realistically. Access-ing my own capabilities; I’m three years old, my hands are too small, my aim is shit, coordination-not so much. Did I need help? Yes. Here, Mom. Take the chocolate milk. Take the glass. Best of luck.
Then came the Black Sunday. Canada. Up North. Flea Market. My Mom sells Shmatteh’s. Birds are learning to fly, ants march in sun, and in the back seat of my parents parked Volkswagon; I awake to no one. No one in the front. No one in the back. Clearly, a misunderstanding of priorities between a family member and a flea market. People pass by the windshield while I sit in a muggy and mute backseat. I open the door. A woman approaches.
“Did you lose your Mommy?“
Do I hear? “Can I help you?” Do I hear, “Are you ok?” No. Because I’m lost. Because I’m left in a car. Because I’m finding it difficult to breathe, I’m three years old, and an old Jewish woman who smells like a dill pickle is showing mock concern while I’m in hysterics, I realize in this world, you can’t hear what is. That’s not enough. You have to listen to what might be. What might be, prepares you. What might be, informs you, What might be protects you against being left in a flea market talking to a pickle. From this moment on, I cease to hear, “Can I help you,” but rather, “Your Mommy’s lost.”
Out of the crowd my Zadie scooped me up and threw me over his shoulder. I watched the tears fall onto the dirt while I looked at the world upside down.
I’m not entirely sure if that was the exact moment I began to listen romantically but I do know I never asked my mother for help again and spent the remaining months of my three year old life, every morning, spilling milk.
In any event, being much less practical than the lucid and playful way my present teacher speaks, I’m left with letting my classmates down and being scared to attend a class I pay money to attend.