There’s a feeling when Karaoke is working, and a feeling when it isn’t.
When it’s working, it’s awesome. Like last night, when my friend Mark just owned "Purple Rain," just owned that shit. And when Russell did “With a Little Help from My Friends,” he growled and screamed and paced and was so fucking primal that I swear, I almost threw my panties at him…almost took off my cheap little Target panties and just chucked them right at him.
In fact, I think that in the future, when I go to Karaoke, I might just bring a bag of panties with me. Little g-strings and big ole briefs and some men’s boxers too. I might just pass them out if what happened last night happens again. And I’m not just talking about Mark and Russell, I am also talking about the woman who sang “Dr. Feelgood” and I swear she was pulling up every drop of desire out of the earth and feeding it to us like drops and ladlefuls and – by the finish – bathtubs full of honey. I was rolling around in her voice. I was, and the whole room was, bowing and standing and screaming and begging for more.
Man, there is nothing like Karaoke when it works. And also, when it doesn’t.
Kind of like love.
When it works, there is nowhere else you’d rather be. Your body is loose and open and your voice lets go and you feel the room holding you like a lover.
And when it doesn’t, also like last night, there is no pretending. Man, I butchered “Margaritaville.” I know! How do you butcher “Margaritaville?” It’s such an easy song!
I did butcher it though. I was tight in the throat and I tried to pour it out but I just squawked. It’s okay. I smiled my way through it. Got a laugh on the tattoo line. When I was done, my friends gave me high fives and told me I rocked it and clapped for me because that’s how there are, even though I’ve been away for months.
They also wondered why I haven't been writing.
My voice was tight for a while. I couldn’t write. I was in love and in trouble and I didn’t know how to tell the truth and keep this thing we’d found, which was more pure and sweet and connected to my spirit than any love I’d known. I didn’t know how to do that, either in my life or in my writing. So I stopped telling the truth and didn’t even try to pour it out.
I can’t write when I am lying to myself.
Can’t sing when I can’t let go.
Can’t live that way, it turns out. At least not for long.
So, we broke up. Right after, I felt like my heart was actually missing from my chest, just a hollow hole. We sat on a piece of driftwood on the beach and we both cried a bit and then we went up to a bar and got a little drunk. After he left I proceeded to my block party and get a lot drunk and mentioned to my neighbors what a fan I am of the thirty-something fellow down the street who mows the lawn with his shirt off.
(It says the darnedest things when I have kept the lid on it for a while.)
Last night, after I wrecked “Margaritaville,” I did a pretty good job of wrecking “I Will Survive” too. This in spite of the fact that I scared the shit out of my Uber driver by bellowing that song all the way down Madison on the way to the bar…
But then in the bar, it came back, this tightness in my throat, in my chest. Grief? Silence for too long? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It felt good anyway to try to move it. And after the bar closed, four of us walked down to the dock and jumped into the lake. We took off our clothes first. I hurled my panties at the dock instead of at my friend, for which I am sure he thanks me, and I hurled my body into the dark cold waters that have healed me before and ever will.
I swam east, away from the dock and my friends, toward the lights on the far shore, toward the direction that is new beginnings and air and the word.
Earlier in the night, when I told Russell he was my Karaoke hero, he said "Why sing if you aren't going to let go?"
So in that dark water, I tried to let it go, the love that was and the grief, and the silencing that came when I tried to keep the grief out. I invited the darkness in and let it pour through me and when it was done, I turned and swam west, into endings. And then we climbed back out on the dock, and I howled into the night, for which I would like to now apologize to the neighbors because I think it was actually quite loud.
My voice was free-er than before. Cold water is good. Dark cold water under a golden moon is magic. As is singing. As is love. As is letting go.