Shallow Dance

by Matty Sullivan

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A Shocking Turn of Events

Believe it or not, things are better. In fact, I’m tempted to say they’re better than ever.

For me, at least. I have no way of knowing if this is true for anyone else. It’s probably not. Or maybe it is. These things are hard to read. Sometimes things look great when they’re actually pretty shitty, and sometimes the shittiest-looking things turn out to be pretty damn good.

Here’s an example.

The other day I saw a man laughing—laughing long and loud and with as much joy as I’ve ever seen. “Now, there,” I thought. “There is a man with a good life. Just look at him laughing!” I watched him, and once he stopped laughing I went and talked to him and I soon found out that his mother had recently died of a terribly painful disease and he had lost his job and the bank had repossessed his car. His children hated him and his dog had rabies. His wife had decided she didn’t love him anymore, didn’t even like him, and had run away to live with his best friend.

“Jesus Christ!” I said. “Your life stinks!”

“I know,” he said.

“Then what the hell are you laughing about?”

“My wallet.”

“Your wallet? What about it?”

“I've lost it.” Then he started laughing again, and he pulled his pants down and took a dump right in the middle of the grocery store.

Not really.

None of that was true.

I just made it up. Sorry.

But I did see a cat get run over by a car. It happened right in front of me. In fact, it was kinda my fault.

No, I wasn’t the one who ran him over. I was on the sidewalk—just passing by, minding my own business. The cat was also on the sidewalk, and when he saw me coming he freaked out and ran into the street and got caught under the wheels of a passing car. This is true. I felt real bad about it. The only thing that kept me from being completely heartbroken was that the cat seemed fine. In fact, the bastard just kept on running across the street as if nothing had happened. He bounded up onto the opposite sidewalk and through someone’s yard and up onto their porch. Then he stopped and stood there, looking around.

After a moment, he sat down. Hiked his leg. Began licking his butt.

All true.

So, as I said: sometimes things ain’t as bad as they look.

I’m trying to make a point here. Or maybe I’m trying to understand. Or maybe I’m rambling.

But it’s been on my mind. Because things are better than they used to be. Maybe better than ever. And I’m grateful. The fact that I don’t believe in God—and therefor have no idea whom to thank—doesn’t lessen my gratitude. Sometimes things just go my way, I guess.

But here’s the strange thing: if I described my current situation to you in practical terms, it would sound pretty sad. I can’t help but recognize this as true.

On the surface it all looks rather bleak. I live alone in a tiny little garage apartment with concrete floors. I have a bed, but there are no sheets. I don’t care.

I have a good job working with good people, but it’s a job with no future. That’s fine with me.

My car is a dilapidated piece of shit and the only reason I have it is that it once belonged to my little sister whom I loved very much and who died last year of ovarian cancer and I just kinda wound up with her car. I don’t take good care of it and it will probably explode the next time I start it. Okay.

Also, it appears that someone snuck into my bathroom while I wasn’t looking and cast a devious spell upon my mirror. And now instead of showing me how I look every morning, it shows me how I will look in fifteen years. This is a shocking turn of events and to be honest it’s getting on my nerves. I look tired all the time and I’m afraid to smile or laugh because I have bad teeth which I don’t take care of, and anyone who sees them will automatically know how much of a failure I am.

All of these things are true. Except for one: I don’t have a mirror in my bathroom. In fact, I don’t have a mirror at all. I have to shave in the car.

Pretty lame, huh?

It’s okay to agree with me. It’s pretty lame.

So why do I feel so good? Why am I so happy? So content? What the hell inspires me to make this grand claim that things are better than they have ever been?

Beats me.

Beats me all to hell.

But it’s true.

Maybe it’s that I have friends—good friends. Maybe it’s that I have found a couple of things I’m good at—or at least good enough to enjoy doing them and be proud of the results—and I’ve found the circumstances which best allow me to do them.

Maybe it’s that I’ve finally reached a point where I can look back on my life—all forty-two years of it—and see with relative clarity how badly it could have gone. How close I came—time and time again—to disaster. I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been, and I’m grateful.

Yes, grateful—but to whom?

To God?

To myself?

To the fickle winds of time?

I don’t know. I don’t know much, it seems.  But l do know that even though I still feel the pain and discomfort of having been repeatedly run over by the wheels of my own stupidity and selfishness and apathy, I am still alive. Alive and free. I’ve made it across the street and through the yard and I’m free to sit here on some stranger’s porch and lick my butt in the early morning sunshine.

And it feels good.