“Too many times I feel
We are losing time once shared
And only when you’re in ecstasy
You seem to really care”
I recognize the song immediately — Chuckii Booker’s “Turned Away.” Not the regular version, but the extended one. As the words rush over me, caressing my nostalgia, a memory, a moment comes back.
I was standing behind the counter at Homer’s Ice Cream on a brilliant summer morning before the doors opened. We were setting up. One of the managers turned the volume up, and the radio blared through the speakers. The shades were pulled back from the storefront windows, and light streamed through the door onto the wooden tables in the adjacent dining area. A veteran, the summer year before college, I had mastered almost every job in the restaurant: Ice-cream scooper. Fry maker. Head grill master during rush hour. I inspected almost every inch of the building. Polished every spot and cleaned the bathrooms and emptied the dreaded metal containers found only in the girl’s room.
My collared work shirt held the italic Homer’s logo in red over the breast. I rolled the sleeves up and squared them off above the biceps. I like to envision my arms bulging with arteries popping at just the right places. There was a pull-up bar in the storage room, and we often ran back if we saw a pretty girl approaching. Quickly, we would squeeze out a few reps before returning to the front with sweat falling from our brow.
There were all sorts of other hijinks. I was seventeen and unsure of myself. My heart had been broken already once or twice. So I acted out. Had shake eating contests when the manager was otherwise occupied. Gave away free food to my friends, only to find that it was deducted from my paycheck weeks later. I caroused with my fellow employees, many of them older than I, in search of alcohol and adventure. We broke the law occasionally; got caught from time to time.
It was all an act. Artificial bombast to divert from insecurity. At the time, the lyrics stung, but were an anthem played over a killer track.
”Turned away. Turned away. Why did you have to turn away? Turned away from love.”
Like so many young people, I was convinced that I was unloveable. I ached for an idealized connection. A connection that both I and the objects of my affection were too immature to grasp. Surrounded by a family that adored me, I moped at home day after day both dreading and hopeful for my upcoming departure to college.
Those words, that tune, stuck with me long after I had successful relationships and realized that I was worthy of love. Even after I got married and had children.
Those words still move me. My body still sways back and forth, and I feel both the pain and joy.
And my children mope around the house much as I had. Younger than I was at the time, but no less struggling to find their way through a confusing and cold world.
I turn the radio up and let the words spray from the speakers and drip onto their growing bodies.
We dance around the room with complete abandon, and I momentarily believe that everything will be OK.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion. Watch his talk at dotMED 2013, Caring 2.0: Social Media and the Rise Of The Empathic Physician. He is the author of Five Moments: Short Works of Fiction and I Am Your Doctor: and This Is My Humble Opinion.
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