Two days ago, my wife and I saw a short documentary about an Ausie couple on her FB feed called What is Love?. They had known each other for almost as long as they had been alive.
She was his best friend’s little sister. Like a lot of little things, he didn’t notice her until one day in her late teens when she put on a red dress and his eyes popped out like a wolf in a Looney Toons cartoon.
They became high school sweethearts, way back when Europe was still crawling up out of the shadows of WWII. He rode his bike miles to see her every Saturday. Saturday was her shampoo day. He still remembers how her shampoo smelled.
Now she has alzheimer’s.
He looked at the camera, with his Ausie old dude accent and told everyone who would listen how much of a pleasure it is to do everything for her. Everything. He cooks for her and brushes her teeth. Dresses her and other things… And then he gently lifts her into their unglamorous mini van and they drive to the beach, where the two of them ride on a bike that he had made especially for her. On it’s front, between two bike tires, is a seat so that she can enjoy rides along the beach with her husband while her memories slowly slip away.
My wife and I watched this early in the morning, before she had even gotten out of bed. A bitter sweet love story, that can’t possibly end well… but that’s love.
We watched it. It was a we thing; a husband and wife thing. And I didn’t cry. My heart wanted to, but I didn’t. My eyes were ready… they began down that road when he described her shampoo. Every time I smell my wife’s body oil, I think of those days right after we met in Philadelphia. Driving to see her in my old Saab 900; Lincoln drive after midnight.
But I put the brakes on my tears. I can’t begin my Tuesday morning, crying because of some couple in the UK is riding their baby blue bike down the beach. Nah… I just can’t.
One day we can talk about how men; particularly Black men, need to finally come to terms with their emotions. It’s okay to cry (I guess), but right now, internet, I’m going to need for you to stop trying to tug at everybody’s fucking heart strings.
The above story gets a pass. It was vetted by my wife, who felt that we should see it. Together. But, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen stories pop up on my news feed, promising to devastate me.
The last was a little girl who had written a letter to her grown self, and then died. You know, because life is cruel. Her parents found it, read it and then shared it.
An old friend posted it on her feed, along with the comment, “I cried so much!”
It worked. I clicked the link, and I read. A little. But then I stopped. I don’t know if it would have brought tears to my eyes. I just know that tears isn’t something that I needed.
Same with that story about the man who lost his wife, soon after their marriage. So, he reenacted all of their wedding photos with his young daughter. Touching, right? Still not devastated? Are you made out of stone?
Check out the story, with photos, about the man documenting his wife’s losing battle with cancer. They looked like one of those couples who remind everyone around them of how sweet love is. You know the type; the envy of the coffee shop.
Those people aren’t supposed to die, but if they do, they should die together in car crashes on snowy roads. Holding hands as their older European car sails through a guardrail.
I’m not criticizing the people who choose to share their lives at their most vulnerable moments, or the artists who document them. It’s beautiful, how they’ve found that place where art bisects with the love and tragedy.
Sometimes we can’t really see beauty unless it is accompanied by pain. I get it. It’s life affirming… but damn I don’t think I can stand that many more affirmations. Not if they are going to make me feel kind of like shit.
Last week we found out what happened to that little autistic boy, Avonte Oquendo who disappeared in New York, around Thanksgiving. A dog (his greatest fear) chased him into the river (his second greatest fear). He drowned. They found his remains on Monday.
And… remember the football player who crashed his Camry in North Carolina? He knocked on a woman’s door for help. She called the police and told them that he was trying to break in. When he saw the cruisers, he ran to them and tried to flag them down. Because he needed help, remember? And one of the cops put 10 bullets into him.
Well, a partial grand jury just told a judge that he shouldn’t be tried for manslaughter. There should be a word for when you’re both sad and angry. Sangry?
And a boy in Philly was stopped by the cops last week. Why? It’s not clear that he was doing anything wrong, but Mayor Nutter doesn’t really care about that. Cops can stop you and shake you down whenever and wherever they want in Philly. It’s the law.
But in the process of giving him his – for no damned reason but still totally fucking legal pat down – a female cop grabbed his testicles with such force that one of them ruptured. Sangry! Fucking Sangry!
I read these things because I feel like I need to. They tell me what the world is now. I also read the stories about how the Dominican Republic is abusing its Haitian Citizens, and the ones about how the Egyptians were terrorizing the Ethiopians in their country.
I feel like, if I follow these stories closely and objectively enough I will stumble upon something necessary. I still don’t know what.
On the other hand, some of the stories circulating around, particularly the ones promising to devastate me, quickly begin to appear emotionally manipulative. Especially when they pop up in your news feed four or five times an hour.
I think it is supposed to be life affirming, but I just saw my wife wearing my winter coat and it made me like life pretty good.
And my daughter has been running around screaming “Housecat!” which put a smile on my face that is disproportionate to the circumstances.
Housecat is the name of the handyman at her day care center.
You see, we have a plumbing problem. Which sucks.
But let me tell you, watching your three year old daughter trying to summon the day care handyman while your wife wears your winter coat because she needs to toss fetid water out of the back door before our kitchen gets flooded, is bitter sweet in its own way. It’s no blue bike on the beach, but I my life feels affirmed. So you can ease off Facebook. I’m good. Go devastate someone else.