TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC
Some people have an innate sense of grace. I, on the other hand, am a klutz. Not the type who—like a young Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live—intentionally makes pratfalls for comedic effect. There is no professional skill attached to my clumsiness. No artifice of any sort. I simply am walking along—deep in thought, oblivious to my surroundings—and walk into something. Walls. Poles. Other people.
At other times, the curse of being pigeon-toed bedevils me. l trip over my own feet and face-plant into whatever happens to be on the ground. Asphalt. Concrete. The toys in the middle of the hallway that my grandchildren forgot to put away. No stranger to public humiliation, I assure anyone who is witness to my most recent altercation with myself that I’m fine. Never mind if I’m bruised or bleeding. It’s always best to insist otherwise and depart as quickly as possible. Without, I make sure this time, stumbling yet again before I’m safely out of sight.
My klutziness is a lifelong affliction. Despite my success in the classroom, I was the sort of child who was always picked last for P.E. games. My junior high gym teacher even used me as an example—my friend in a different period of P.E. informed me after school—of someone without any natural ability, yet still tried. The remark stung, but I couldn’t argue with its validity. I still can’t. Especially when I’m at some event—a wedding reception, a crab feed, any social gathering that involves line dancing of some sort—and my friends insist I join them on the dance floor. Everyone around me moves smoothly as the music, whether to the Electric Slide or the Cha Cha Slide, pumps its syncopated beat into the air. While the only kind of slide I’m doing is accidentally bumping into someone next to me.
When I write, however, my words—on a good day—find a rhythm that at times is melodious. Not angelic, of course. I’m not deluded enough to claim my work is the equivalent of the celestial host singing on high. Still, the page is where I find the grace that eludes me in my everyday life. A benediction in itself. And on days when my writing feels as leaden as my feet on the dance floor, I take comfort in the fact that—unlike falling flat on my face in public—writing is a private act. One in which I can clear my prose of its pratfalls. Dust off my syntax. And let my words stride—steadily this time—in whatever direction they may take me.