The story goes like this: on a family vacation long ago – back when our big, extravagant grandfather hosted big, extravagant getaways for the whole extended lot of us – we all found ourselves on some tropical island together. Barbados, maybe. During the week we were there, the whole bunch of us would head down to the beach each morning – cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nannies – and each morning, my father would trip over the very same rock on the same pathway down to the shore. And each time, he would yell, “DAMMIT!” Every. Single. Day. So on the last day of vacation, on our way down to the beach, my youngest cousin (3 or 4 at the time), adorable in her sweetness to this day, called out to my father, “Uncle Bill! Watch out for the Dammit Rock!”
I think of this story often, always with a mixture of tenderness and sorrow. Because don’t we all have a Dammit Rock (or two or ten) that continues to trip us up throughout our lives? And since most of us don’t have the benefit of an adorable tow-headed cherub to tell us, “Watch out for the Dammit Rock!” we continue to trip, painfully, over the same flotsam again and again. Would we even hear her if she did?
Like my father, I am clumsy. I literally fall down, all the fucking time. Ice, dogs, shadows, rugs…there’s pretty much nothing I can’t find a way to fall over. I eat spectacular shit no matter the occasion, the footwear, the familiarity of the terrain – no goddamn matter. And I almost always hurt myself – badly. I have had at least as many X-Rays as Evil Knievel and have accepted that it’s only a matter of time before I begin to actually glow in the dark. Or grow one of those tiny me-twin tumors that look like goiters but are exponentially more terrifying. The more imperative it is that I maintain grace and dignity in any situation, the more certain the odds that I will end up ass-over-teakettle on the ground, likely having opted for *commando* as the favored underwear option that day. It’s all very predictable. And yet, I still put on the heels, I still forego the underpants, I still look everywhere but down when I walk – still do all the things that pretty much guarantee I will continue to single-handedly put my orthopedists’ children through college.
There are other, less literal but every bit as damnable Dammit Rocks. Boys; the ones I favor being too young and/or broken to possibly NOT end up crushing me. I know they’re broken, I know they’re dangerous, I KNOW that I’d have much better luck finding some squirrelly meth tweaker to fall in love with than a beautiful, broken, too-young boy. And yet I do it anyway. Not often. But the outcomes of these infrequent trip-ups are so dizzyingly bad that they run a pervasive course through my entire life. It’s not that I forget, when the next one comes around. It’s not that I don’t see it. I know the Dammit Rock is there and that I will definitely fall on my face. But time after time, I fail to give a fancy fuck. I still take the same path.
Tolerating the intolerable. Fixing the unfixable. Tending, mending, managing problems that are not my own. Rescuing – people, pets, itinerant workers…ignoring red flags or painting them pink, with glitter! Entrusting secrets to *friends* I already kind of know cannot be trusted with them. Speaking before filtering. Moving to strange places and gaping, amazed, at the loneliness. Leaving my family and then aching for the comfort of them. Needing help and refusing to ask. So very many Dammit Rocks.
Is this Human Nature? Or just my nature? Are we supposed to keep fucking the same shit up until we finally learn, by vast experience, not to? Or do we just keep clambering up and down the same rocky path forever, paying the price for our stupidity in bruises and scabs? I don’t know. The way I see it, my own options are few, and none of them particularly appealing: I can blanket my home in porn-shag and stay in my onesie forever, avoiding the perils of Outside altogether; or I can pick myself up, put my heels on, aim straight for the rock, and hope to fuck I don’t fall. Or perhaps I can just learn to be more careful. Rein my shit in. Proceed with caution. Wear sensible shoes. Put on some goddamn underpants. Avoid the rocks and the strays and the love and the pain. That, I’m sure, is the answer. And it sounds perfectly awful. It sounds like defeat. It sounds like surrender. It sounds, to me, like death.
So at the risk of, well, everything – I think I’ll stick to the path I know best. I’ll keep falling down and fucking up until I finally get it right, or not. For better or worse, for as long as they keep making Percocet and Lifetime movies, I think I’ll take my chances with the Dammit Rock, dammit.
What are your Dammit Rocks, my friends? Share in the comments if you’d care to make me feel better about myself.