Old Feelings

June 26, 2007

I woke up this morning full of emotion. My diaphragm felt weak and sick, my ears were flushed, and I felt this awful shame. I can’t remember what I had been dreaming, but an old memory had surfaced and was pushing my mood around.

In the memory, I was in a bar called SoHa. “SoHa” was the clever name of this new bar, referring to its location on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan just SOuth of HArlem. It was dark inside, with red lights and some loudish music. The horseshoe shaped bar abutted the wall on the street; you entered on one side of the bar and circled around it as you got deeper into the space. I was with two people all the way around the bend of the bar. We were sitting in plush chairs around a little coffee table, leaning our heads in to each other to be heard. One of the people was the woman who would eventually become my best friend through my college years. For some reason, she had recently died her hair a platinum-y yellow. The other was a goofy, double-jointed, balding graduate student in economics who always wore a leather jacket and multi-colored leather shoes. It can’t hurt to reveal that his name was Tavis, a name I always thought odd but well-suited for its owner. I can’t recall for sure, but I think this was in December of 1997. I was a junior in college and had just returned from nine months studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Before and after my time away, I worked for a bartending agency. In fact, I had worked my way up in the agency and had become responsible for giving classes to aspiring bartenders. I would teach them several dozen drinks, including the fruity or creamy ones that no one ever orders, at least not in New York. In fact, most of the bartending jobs I did were at private parties or art openings and consisted of little more than opening wine or mixing gin with tonic.

Anyway, that evening at the bar, my friend Tavis, as he always did, decided to order some screwy drink that involved several liquors and juices and had some ridiculous name like Singapore Sling or Harvey Wallbanger. The cocktail waitress quickly returned to inform Tavis that the bartender didn’t know how to make his drink. Through the murk, we could see the hip barman pulling a beer, muttering, and rolling his eyes. Tavis cheerfully offered to give the recipe, which he proceeded to do. In a while, the waitress returned with the drink in all its unnecessary and pretentious grandeur. I was unreasonably embarrassed, and I remember that I wanted to leave and never return.

So there’s the terrible, shameful memory. I can’t believe I can still feel so small and worried about the bad behavior of others–insignificant bad behavior–after almost a decade.  I’m not even clear why this memory is so embarrassing.  Am I a freak? Do you feel misplaced emotions based on old memories?

2 Responses to “Old Feelings”

  1. pollyannasunshine Says:

    Um, well, I just went to my 20 year high school reunion, and there were at least 100 people there walking around with very heavily misplaced emotions attached to very old memories. Very interesting conversation with boy I dated for about 6 weeks in 1987, which revealed that he is STILL humiliated that when he tried to impress me by taking me to a jazz concert, it turned out to be a really freaky performance art thing. He blushed to the tips of his ears, just as he had that night as he rushed to assure me we could leave that instant if I wanted, and told me that he’d only taken me because someone had recommended it and he was trying so very hard to impress me. When I said, “But the thing is, I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen!” he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, we should have known right then that we were just not meant to be together.”

    For my own part, I confessed to my high school best friend that I had once locked lips with her boyfriend for about 30 minutes the night before he broke up with her (she was 2000 miles away at the time, and he and I were rather tipsy). For 21 years, I have been carrying around that guilty secret, convinced that it is the most genuinely sinful thing I have ever done, because the code of female friendship ranks that highly in my moral schema. I am happy to note that she instantly forgave me, but reassured me that she was really glad I didn’t tell her about it 20 or even 10 years ago, because she totally would not have been able to handle it.

    And that is just a very small sample of the traumatic old memories that came out in a single 3-day weekend.

    Confession really is good for the soul. And I think facing up to those old memories and the misplaced emotions they inspire is really the only way to exorcise whatever strange little demons and ghosts we’ve been carrying around with us.

    BTW Pollyanna is also Henry’s mama, so I’m not just a random stranger stalking your blog. Hugs to the family! I miss you guys. 🙂

  2. sheepdays Says:

    Thanks for these stories! Maybe it’s inherent to youth and its hormonal imbalances that emotional memories get branded into our brains only to resurge over and over in adulthood. It sounds like confession and a meeting might have erased some of the angles on these memories.
    And welcome to “Sheep Days.”

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