I didn’t know it yet,
but I was battling my anxiety
with booze and friends
and bars down the street,
tripping over laughs at crosswalks
Drinking just enough to get to that point
where soul would start talking through me
and we could all stop pretending
to be cool or clear
and get deep with the kind of talk
that’s got mud in it and
feels like pure
Love after midnight
but clumsy and a bit lost
the next morning.
Still, I thought,
I’m gonna win at this city life!
And anyway, how could someone so anxious
host this world of great parties?
Look at all the friends that come over,
dancing and smiling and reveling
at my impeccably planned soiree.
Because my anxiety was a great
At least 3 weeks in advance,
start making the playlist.
You know it takes a while,
Anxiety would remind me,
So start early.
Oh, those playlists.
Those embarrassingly long,
of planning and finding
The Right Songs
And playing them over and over,
listening (always listening)
to how they bleed
into each other Just So,
and changing them around
when they crash,
up until the final minute
as appetizers beep from the oven.
By the time the party started,
I’d be so sick of that damn playlist.
Yet each time without fail
as it sang on in the background (live!)
playing in the perfect order
with new and old faces milling about,
I’d hear it as if it was my first time
And proudly (quietly) congratulate myself
as partygoers danced the songs off their bodies
or strained to hear their voices
and other things over the music.
All that work! My anxiety piped up,
For something in the background!
Was it worth it?
Yes, I’d whisper back, enjoying the
invisible fruits of my long, private labor.
And then there was the party
that you came to.
We had never met.
You were a last minute invite
and my roommate kept telling me
how much I’d like you.
That’s great, I’d reply,
not paying much attention
because Anxiety was really busy
(And now a new guest was coming,
who I didn’t know?
Okay That’s Great.)
You walked in with boldness and grace,
Tall and fierce,
with short hair like mine.
You were too dazzling (and there was something else…)
for me not to like right away.
But it wasn’t until the party got going
and the mingling was strong
that the spark bit me hard,
leaving a scar I still treasure.
The scene is set for joy:
We’re all having a great time
and I’m talking to lots of my people
and the music plays behind that
while I smile the secret to myself
of how good a job I did this round —
What an array of beautiful
Just right for this
kind of party
And this kind of
mood and —
I hear from behind me. It’s you, screaming out,
interrupting everyone’s party:
“Oh, my, god. Who made this playlist?!
That’s when my heart jumped outside
and found yours as I swiveled
to face you with the largest
surprise of a smile
I have in this short body of mine.
And my eyes met yours,
as we quickly dropped any formalities
that make up the code of new acquaintances
And our lovely friends around us blurred
as we excitedly bumbled over,
How could this be?!
But I’m the only one
who likes ALL of these songs
or even KNOWS that band
And how can you like this one
And even THAT one,
And THIS song makes you think of
And how, I privately asked myself,
can you be the only other person
who (finally) pays
at parties —
And how could you,
in your tall bold beauty
(and that something else…),
right now be
This very collection that
I so carefully
And as my anxiety
it became sweet delight.
Because our friendship started
in which I started to see me
and through us
and then more clearly.
And something safe and large
holding us from breaking
as we began falling in love over
and we built a bond
too familiar for one lifetime
over deeper arts
and truer thoughts
and the muddy, intimate chats
that had always been
And I saw you differently
and then more clearly
You opened a door
that led way to
A gorgeous staircase,
so huge and powerful
that I didn’t think I was allowed
to walk up it.
And you held out your hand
and showed me how.
© 2020 Alma Ortman. All Rights Reserved