I have "Joey" by Concrete Blonde playing on my computer, and everyone is screaming at me.
But the muscular vocals of Johnette Napolitano....? The heavy plapping of the skins by Paul Thompson....?
The sounds of me young again?
It is all for naught.
I am shouted down and someone puts on One Direction.
It's too late; Joey has made me restless for a head of hair and a long stretch of road. A time before drinking and smoking and a tendency to lasciviously ogle; a time before sobriety, fatherhood, and the death of mania.
When I listened to Joey and Simon and Garfunkel and the Rocky soundtrack and life swelled outwards, never dropping off until hitting a horizon unthinkable to me.
I can't see my old age because of the curve of the earth, I would write, in one of my many notebooks wherein I cataloged the upheavals of the thirteen year old heart.
Doodles of ninjas and warplanes kept company with lines like "her eyes a cloud, i swim" and all the writing lowercase so you would know it was about real feelings.
There was a moment at work today, as I assembled the lunches for the students, when I realized the most challenging task I would face would be to drizzle nacho cheese on chips without having it leech into the borders of the compartment set aside for the apple sauce. These little high bars of performance I set for myself, without which a crippling despair might overtake me.
I clear that particular hurdle but forget Grace does not like tomatoes, and I liberally rain them down on her nachos.
When she gets her tray, she begins to moan.
"Yuck yuck yuck tomatoes yuck."
"Just scrape them off," I say.
Grace has a large sore between her eyes that she digs into when she is anxious. Occasionally, someone tries to put a band-aid on it, but since the band-aid is asked to cover forehead, eyebrow, the cavernous sore, and an entire length of nose, it is not really up to the task. It pops off, save for one bit of edge, and juts straight out from her face.
When she realizes I am not about to assist with the tomato situation, a tip of her finger disappears into her wound.
"If you pick that, no Ipad." I can talk like that to these people because I am an educator.
Grace quickly withdraws her bloody finger and absently wipes it on her sweatpants.
She has a demonstrated inability to wear clothes that fit; her pants often sitting too high and uncomfortably snug on her body. Everyday, she lifts both pant legs to show me her matching socks, usually paired to the present season. Christmas trees in December, little pink broken hearts near Valentine's Day; the calves above the socks are covered in thick brown hair.
As her eyes roll angrily about, Grace notices the errant band-aid. She peels it the rest of the way off and reapplies it firmly to her chin. Like saving your gum for later.
Once the eating begins in earnest, the room falls relatively silent, and I am able to play Joey again.
No wonder Plato banned music from his Republic, I try to think intelligently to myself. Then I have to Google who wrote the Republic, because I hate for my interior monologues to contain factual errors.
But no wonder he did, when just a silly song can make a productive worker cease his labors, stare absently out a window, and sigh heavily while chewing a bunless cheeseburger.
The cheeseburger is bunless because that is how you lose weight.
The song will not relent; demanding I hit replay again and again, and lose myself in memories of days when I could eat the bread with the meat.
I actually don't like the phrase "lose myself in memories" and I am tempted to go up there and change it. But I am lazy.
I also realized that it bothers me when people smile while playing the piano. I especially don't like it if they are smoking and they close their smiling lips around the cigarette and shut their eyes.
Though, who am I to judge?
Because I am unhappy, should I begrudge piano players their happiness?
Lulu disrupts my thoughts with an eruption of giddy laughter. She is staring at the cover of an Oprah magazine that she has selected for our daily twenty minutes of silent reading, and something about Oprah's affected pose of casual elegance has struck her as hilarious.
Her whole body quivers with joy, and all I can think of is how unready for the jelly I truly am.
The jelly of aging, of life entering it's dreaded middle age, before the golden years when we can all freely shit our pants.
I see it now: me old, hunchbacked, knuckles swollen from arthritis and videogames, sporting wretched breath and a strange, inconsistent beard.
My children visit me, awkwardly patting at my knobby shoulders; my grandchildren ask quietly why grandpa smells like pee.
Their mothers hush them.
"Don't say that," they fiercely whisper, "your grandpa is a good man."
As if incontinence precludes goodness.
As if the bushel of wiry hair I sport in both ears prevents me from hearing the rude little snits.
Tonight, I have to go to one of those sleep studies that men of science perform, where they spend hours watching chubby people stop breathing at the apex of their delta sleep.
When they come to place gooey electrodes on my chest and legs, I imagine I will feel old, frail, and a little ashamed of the shabby state of my boxer shorts.
I will lay in a strange bed, watched by strange grad students, and try desperately to fall asleep, while the sounds of the interstate roar just past the window.
A dog barks, a hobo mumbles, and I worry that, come morning, my little room will stink of farts.