Parallel Lines


When I was sixteen, I wrote a song called “Parallel Lines” for a UMass student named Jamie Ferguson. He was boyishly handsome and hard-to-get. He was obsessed with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell – and not with me. The lyrics to the song are filled with such longing and angst, I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe. But the song has held on for eighteen years; occasionally I still sit down at the piano to play it.

Jamie all in black, like wet tar on the street
Like a swarm of bees
Stung, I cry out like an infant
Puncture like a surgeon, so meticulous in the incision

Carefully I move up the dark staircase
Feeling for the top step
I’m unsure of my destination

I move through parallel lines
Waiting for a curve that might be you

See you every day at the cafe
I’m just waiting to catch your eye
Just can’t tell if you notice me

I move through parallel lines
Waiting for a curve that might be you

Around this time, I would lean out the window at night, smoking cigarettes, watching the moon rise above the giant oak tree and the Amherst College dorms, Emily Dickinson’s homestead just beyond sight. I felt alone and unknown. I cried, knowing there was someone, somewhere, doing something at that very moment, the someone I would someday find and love. I know now it was Greg, who was at the time in his early twenties, working as an engineer, living with the college girlfriend he would still be with when we finally met many years later. It turned out that he, too, had been pining away.

I played this song over and over, fixating my longing on Jamie Ferguson, his shaggy dark hair and big eyes, his narcissism and unavailability making him only more attractive. My crush was unquenchable. Most of all, I wanted him to want me.

This past weekend, we went to a friend’s birthday party. This friend had asked me to give a toast, and I was honored and excited to share the words about her that came pouring out in one sitting. Greg and I got dressed up, which we rarely do. We mingled and schmoozed and chatted and ate Swedish meatballs and chicken satay. He had a few beers; I stuck to seltzer.

When it came time to give my toast, I stood on a folding chair. I have always loved reading out loud, loved sharing my words, been comfortable in that particular spotlight. I tried my best to read slowly, glancing up at my friend every now and then to gauge her reaction. Afterwards, she made her way over to me. With a hug, she said, “You rock. You rock my world.” Several people approached me to say glowing words about my toast, and I could feel myself basking in the moment.

And the oft-quoted words of Marianne Williamson come back to me time and again: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

My toast spoke to how brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and yes, fabulous, my friend is. Everyone should have such a toast written about them! And sharing it, I myself was aware of my own brilliance and beauty and talent. But I also felt that tickle of discomfort, heard that little voice whispering: Don’t take up too much room. Don’t be too talented. Don’t be too beautiful. Don’t be too fabulous.

Little did I know this morning that a photograph of a Caribbean sunset would tie it all together, catapulting me back to 1990, back to that Jamie song, that high school crush, that playing small, that agonizing, waiting-to-be-noticed feeling of being sixteen.

I’m glad it did though, because these parallel lines teach me something. Two decades later, I have to wonder if some part of me is still singing this song, still waiting to be noticed, to be wanted, still ambivalent about shining the light I encourage others to share unapologetically and unequivocally. Fear creeps in, and I can be so terribly critical of myself. Why else would I have recorded about six versions of this song, before finally realizing that the whole point is to share ourselves, imperfection and all?

But I also know this to be true: I am brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. So are you. Who are we not to be? And damn, doesn’t it feel good, to let love be the curve that comes to encircle us all.

12 thoughts on “Parallel Lines

  1. Meg Casey says:

    Oooo…This is beautiful. I knew I would find inspiration here. Jena, I love the image of you and Greg–both in different places, waiting for each other, waiting for the moment when it would all come together in a magical way. I also love the part about living in love fearlessly–so easy to love our friends fearlessly–so difficult to love ourselves. This post spoke to me write straight to the heart of the matter.
    Thanks as always dear Jena–This is lovely
    xo m

    Like

  2. PixieDust says:

    Yes you are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous!!!! The more I learn about you the more this is confirmed!!

    :-)

    (((HUGS))),
    Love,
    Me

    Like

  3. Mary Ann (Moanna) says:

    I move through parallel lines
    Waiting for a curve that might be you

    How’d you come up with this? It’s brilliant.

    Like

  4. bella says:

    Ok, this might just be my favorite post of yours yet.
    YES!!!!!!!!
    You are brilliant, funny, beautiful, stunning even and you radiate. It’s good to see you shine like this.
    The warmth comes to me all the way here.
    love, love, love.

    Like

  5. Jennifer/The Word Cellar says:

    Ah, I have a few shaggy dark-haired, narcissistic boys in my past. Oh the pining! Oh the poetry! Oh the cigarettes smoked out windows! If only we knew all along that we are fabulous…. If only we knew it every moment of our days now. You rock.

    Like

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