elegy

Fiction, 9/13/10

It was on a Monday night two weeks ago that my wife confronted me. Nothing particularly unusual preceded the outburst: we had made dinner (vegetarian lasagna, a Monday night staple), I had done the dishes because I enjoy doing the dishes, and, afterward, while we were sitting on the couch with our respective vespertine reading materials, I had started to hum something. It wasn’t a song, really, just some notes scaling up and down in a very desultory kind of way. I actually wasn’t aware of it, myself. “What’s going on with you?” she said suddenly, turning toward me and snapping her book shut. I paused mid-hum and looked up from the Rolling Stone in my lap. I managed a half-hearted “Huh?” and stared blankly at her. Apparently my nonplussed expression invited further reproof, because she added, “You’ve been acting so different lately, humming and singing and prancing around, reading those magazines, I just don’t get it. You never had much interest in music before.” The comment smacked of underlying contempt masked by a micron-thin veneer of genuine concern—a real kick in the gonads. She went back to her reading and I did too, only now without the humming. She was on to me.

It’s true, though. I’m not musically gifted or inclined in any sense of the word, and beyond attending a few rock shows in my misguided youth and my brief, highly forgettable stint in concert choir, I have little personal experience with the stuff. The language of music is largely incomprehensible to me. Every now and then I’ll catch snippets of songs I could envision myself liking, but the experience is never compelling enough for me to act on it, say, by buying a record or seeing the artist perform. I was indifferent to music, as a man might be indifferent to the thread-count of his sheets. But in the last month I’d had an awakening of sorts. A certain television show, whose very name evokes visions of joy and jubilation and the sheer exuberance of life, had inspired in me a complete change of heart. I’m referring, of course, to the epiphany that is Glee.

In hindsight, I should’ve never downloaded those episodes from Andy in advertising. It started innocently enough, about a month ago, with the pilot. I watched it out of mind-numbing boredom one day after lunch, while sitting at my desk trying my utmost to be unproductive. Soon afterward—and I mean within the elapsed time of that pilot episode—I had acquired the entire first season in a streaming torrent of Glee. I hid the episodes rather cunningly in a folder titled “Elegy” (a word which, though spelled with nearly the same letters, carries a connotation almost antipodal to the show’s prevailing sentiment—a foolproof ruse). Never mind that the files were pirated and therefore illicit to the extreme—it was the principle of the matter that mattered most. I had opened the door to a world so cloyingly saccharine, so unctuous and trifling, that, after one infinitesimal glimpse, I was powerless to resist.

Needless to say, I watched each episode in rapid succession. I followed the insipid plot, feigned interest in the skin-deep development of each character, and fought back derisive laughter during moments of “dramatic” denouement. But the music—that was what kept me coming back. Not all of the songs were great, but a few would simply stick in my head for days; I couldn’t stop singing or humming them for the life of me. And the dance routines weren’t too shabby, either. Suddenly I found myself utterly engrossed in the world of show choir. Whenever I was alone in the apartment, I would sing (rather poorly) to the radio and even try to dance a little (“try” being the operative word), imagining myself cast alongside Rachel Berry (not her real name) in some outrageously clever and well-executed mash-up of genres. I would avidly keep abreast of the cast’s collective exploits in all the entertainment rags. Sometimes, in my dreams, the dulcet tones of Rachel’s soprano would echo down the corridors of my subconscious, beckoning me to join in on whatever rousing number the group had thrown together. I would wake with a song on my lips, just as my wife woke with a pillow in hand, ready to stifle my yowls. What was happening to me?

By this point, I was in full-blown delusional dreamland. I fancied myself a singer, dancer, and potential suitor to Ms. Berry—all with absolutely no basis in reality. Plus, because the singing and dancing were so painfully audible through the apartment walls, I had managed to incite the anger of our neighbors in every direction. (“What the hell is going on over there, Dance-Dance Revolution: Broadway?”) Somehow I knew it couldn’t last. Perhaps it was the knowledge that, at 36, I possessed not a one of the skills required for a show choir performer to shine; and moreover, the chances of me tapping into some heretofore hidden reserve of song-and-dance talent were next to nil. I was a newspaperman, tone-deaf with two left feet—such was my lot in life. Perhaps Glee spoke to some unexpressed nuance of my personality, yearning for its voice to be heard, waiting ever patiently for its chance in the spotlight…but that sounds like some sentimental drivel I lifted from the show itself, so it’s probably crap. For two weeks straight I lived and breathed sweet, unadulterated Glee, and if it wasn’t for my wife calling attention to my inexplicable beatitude, I’d still be in the throes of addiction.

Since that fateful Monday evening I’ve taken steps to address my problem. No longer can one find the episodes of Glee, Season One, on my laptop in a folder labeled “Elegy”, or in any other folder, for that matter. I’ve toned down the singing and dancing, much to the delight of everyone I share space with. And, by degrees, I’ve endeavored to phase Rachel Berry out of my somniloquent slumber sessions. I’m readjusting to life without Glee, and I’ll admit, it’s a little sad.

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