Between

Another from my (Microsoft Word) documents. Also up on Medium, for posterity.

I’m curious about the expression of being “between.” When somebody asks, “Are you working right now?” instead of saying no, we’ll say, “I’m between jobs.” It presumes there’s something waiting on the other side. It’s a way of deferring an answer, embracing the limbo.

I’d like to start saying it anytime I don’t really feel like catering to somebody’s question. I fantasize about answering “Are you seeing anybody right now?” with “I’m between boyfriends.”

People are always saying there’ll be another one coming down the line. I suppose that’s true, if you think of them as just bodies.

The “between” grants a dismissal. An I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

It’s a way of owning the space of being neither here nor there. Straddling the middle. Doing and undoing time, like Penelope looming and unlooming.

A constant qualifier of the self. Don’t tell me where I’m at, I’m implacable. How about you stand in my stead?

                                                          *

Prepositions are relational. Sometimes they draw attention to a severing:

There is nothing between you and me. (The mere mention suggesting the opposite.)

 Other times, a merging:

Between you and me heralds a secret exchange. (A call to betrayal.)

 They tell you where you’re at, figuratively:

Between a rock and a hard place. Between the devil and the deep blue sea (which is a tad melodramatic if you ask me). Go-to euphemisms for being essentially fucked.

As an actual locator, between always seems pretty vague. We’re between the lifeguard stand and the tent with a big peace sign on it, come on over!

 If you find yourself between two pieces of bread, you’re probably a sandwich.

                                                            *

Recently I googled the phrase “I’m between,” just to see. It was one of those in between times, 8:15 on a Thursday night, when the blue hour lasts indefinitely and melancholy is the only mood that feels right. I was lying on my bed, facing the open window onto my fire escape, my eyes narrowing and widening with the slow changes in light. The first hit was a classic Sesame Street number called “I’m Between.” I pressed play.

Sing-songy and set to gloomy, gypsy jazz, Jim Henson plays “Tony” a green mustached muppet singing a lament about being caught between two monsters, both played by Frank Oz. I watched it over and over again, sunk in the feeling this is a gift. What ostensibly served as a grammar lesson for little kids doubled as a moody meditation on adult malaise?

I’m between, I’m between, I feel just like a sardine. It’s not a happy thing to be.

 Of course, I’ve been known to project existential angst onto songs of my youth. I go searching for hidden triggers that are really just gags. Recently I was listening to the goofy Meters tune “They All Ask’d for you” that was basically omnipresent when I was a kid growing up in New Orleans. “I went on down to the Audubon Zoo and they all ask’d for you….the monkeys ask’d/the tigers ask’d/the elephant ask’d me too.” Mid-revelation, I texted my brother. “It’s about death! They all asked for you but you’re dead!”

“I thought it was just some stoned dudes making up words,” he wrote back.

He’s the middle child in the family. I was born the youngest, but I feel like a middle child of life.

It’s far easier being green, than being between.

                                                             *

Most of us, at any given time, are somewhere between our worst and best selves. Me myself and mediocre I.

 I’m between, like a string bean, it’s the saddest thing that I have ever seen.

 I’m not so much alive as I am between being born and dying. Country-western tune?

Who am I?

Actually, I’m between selves.

(You said you weren’t in the right headspace.

I told my therapist you were a placeholder.

“Holding space” is a thing I’ve heard but I don’t know what it means.)

My dog always sleeps between me and ____ in the bed. It’s sweet at first and then I think they come to resent it.

                                                *

I sent the video to a friend:

There’s a monster on my left side, a monster on my right side, they’re there from early morning to very late at night.

“Oh no, who are your monsters?!” she wrote back.

                                                *

The way I’ve been feeling lately, I’d like to go wandering. Bottle me up and drop me overboard. If you need me, I’ll be between shores.

I’ll say, I’m not unmoored, I’m between docks.

 I’m not unreachable, I’m just between phones.

I’m not not smiling, I’m between facials expressions.

I’m not not talking, I’m just between statements.

I’m not angry or happy or sad or whatever, I’m between emotions.

                                                *

If you ask me where I am,

I’ll say, I’m between leaving and arriving. But I’ll be there soon.