Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

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i like that phrase. The small perfection of it.

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what it means:  the fraught anticipation rising from the knowledge that there is something more to come.

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the implication is that an event- the dropping of the first shoe  – occurred and that by so doing, implied and heralded a second event –  the dropping of the second shoe, the timing, the force of its fall, beyond your control. 

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tram stop

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the others in the crew might have experienced exactly this combination of  powerlessness and inexorability in the Enola Gay after Thomas obeyed the command from Tibbets.  And Tibbets, commander of a crew barely out of their teens could not surely have imagined the dreadful impact of that dropping shoe, when he allowed his saucy, insouciant, uncomprehending smile earlier in the day to be captured forever in accusatory black and white; Could not have imagined the forces that he and the rest of the crew had set in motion with their obedience, as inescapable as Daddy’s descending fat black foot.

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 one small step for man, one great and terrible boot in the face of humanity forever.

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crow

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and how did Jacob feel, three days later, giving the same unthinkable answer again? Did he feel like the bomb dropping on Nagasaki was the other shoe? How did he justify the second drop, when the consequences of the first had been so dreadful that one of the baby-faced crew in the Enola Gay had cried out: My God what have we done? (Why can’t I ever get them out of my mind? And why can’t I find out which one of them said it? And why do I always feel like someone will do it again?)

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of course not all of the shoes dropping are so weighty.

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on the other hand, who knows what the consequence will be of any action or event? As the English proverb says, from tiny acorns do mighty oak trees grow.

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and what happens if a second shoe does not drop? Does that breathless waiting go on forever? Or does it resolve into a sigh of relief or of disappointment; Hope or fear thwarted by fate? Does the beginning require an end, never mind the means?

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there is no question that waiting for the second shoe is a more profoundly uneasy business than merely waiting; For the bus say, or for a party, or for the first or last day of school.

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audience

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these, too, are consequences, since nothing is truly separate from the things that have gone before or those that will come after.  All event and words are part of a continuum, each thing both cause and effect. Whether or not we see the connections.

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but.

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there are events – words – that intimate a response or a repetition or a consequences so strongly that a void is created, drawing them inexorably into being. One shoe, dropped, suggests and implies a second shoe.

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remember how, when the twin towers were hit, there was that hiatus in which the world held its breath waiting to see what sort of other shoe would be dropped by America? 

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deaf

 

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to wait for a letter from one’s lover is not waiting for the other shoe to drop, but waiting for a response to a letter you sent to him or her, with a dramatic revelation or ultimatum, is. The response – that shoe or glass slipper or black boot may be expected, but it is also a wild card. You don’t know when it will come and and there is no telling exactly how it will land.  And therein lies the rub.

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 think of the shoes you are waiting to hear drop: The result of an exam for which you did not study, the request for a second opinion after a medical test, the result of a job interview with a man who was a child you bullied, an audition for which you did not properly prepare, the response of an object of desire to desire expressed or intimated, or to desire revealed as dead or fled, an offer made, a secret told, a betrayal revealed,  a deed done and unable to be undone. Whether North Korea will make good its threats to test a nuclear device. (If humanity itself is the first shoe.)

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that waiting is a band of rubber, stretching and stretching, increasing in tension and tautness, potent and yet unstable, too. The rubber might rebound painfully, or break. 

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 there is, in that waiting for the other shoe to drop, both an anticipation and a sort of dread that cannot be endlessly sustained. The shoe must drop. It must.

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i like longing for things.  I love yearning even when it hurts. I like it in myself and I like this aspect of humanity. It feels like hope, that striving of the heart and mind and spirit and most of all, of the imagination that comes when you reach for something that might truly be beyond you. 

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as Browning said, a person’s reach should exceed their grasp, or what’s a Heaven for? 

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hand in hole

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but waiting for the other shoe to drop is not longing or yearning.  It is expectation complicated by a certain uncertainty.

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 i am waiting for my own (small) shoe to drop.

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i am waiting to see the first copy of The Cloud Road, with all its corrections and all of the pictures in place. I don’t know which ones were chosen of the many I did. I trust Marina, designer for the book, who has done such exquisite work on my other books with drawings. I have to trust her, because I know my own judgment is riddled with doubts and uncertainties-  the feeling that the pictures are not good enough; That I should have done them again. And again. I have to believe her and my partner who is an artist and my daughter who is fiercely irritated by my self doubts, convinced they are an affectation.

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 cat on tin roof

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i wish

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this waiting is fraught, but only in a small, intense life affirming way. (A focusing on my small life and what I do.  What I can do. As opposed to what I cannot do. Or stop.)

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fraught because although I loved drawing the book and inking the pictures, I do not know ultimately, if they have wings to fly beyond the crucible of their creation. Me.

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i am waiting to see the galleys. I am waiting to hold the book in my hands. I can almost feel the hard cover – the heavy shininess of it, the slightly yellowish page stock, that lovely real book smell that will flow out at me like a breath when I open it.  I could call the publishers, but I don’t.  I am waiting because that feels like part of it.  It IS part of it. That readiness to wait, that impatience and edgy anxiety, that love and tenderness folded in my clasped hands.

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the other shoe is the knowledge that people will read it, buy it, own it, judge it. And knowing I have no control over any of that because I am sending the book out into the world. By offering it, I have invited all that will befall it.

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i am nervous. (A small delicious nervousness counterbalancing the greater nervousness and helplessness I feel about all of all those other, larger more appalling shoes that have been dropped, might be dropping, might drop) Because the book has left me and I can do nothing more for it or to it. It must fly on its own wings now – the ones I drew for it. I hope they are not wax, I hope they will endure the sunlight and the storms. I hope when it lands in the hands and minds of a reader, it will do so lightly, with some of the grace it had for me, in the act of creation.

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a wish…

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 i hope this small shoe will fall as softly as a whisper

As a feather falling from a folded wing

on the bruised world.

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me

 

 

 

4 Responses

    1. Jo Turner says:

      These words are both haunting and hopeful to me. Yesterday I read them in a bad frame of mind, hovering on the edge of my own waiting, that was inevitable and painful at the same time. The words were only half read because the waiting made it difficult to concentrate on anything other than mindless tv. Today the frame of mind is better, where the anticipation of the waiting is over, the confrontation done and the hurt worked through, with a little ray of hope brightening the day, until the sad news of Boston dampens it once more. I will cling to that hope, because if I didn’t, if we all didn’t, well we wouldn’t live in a world worth living in, with rays of sunshine and hope to be cherished.

    2. Marta says:

      To drift, passive, through your life; taking what comes with acceptance and letting change come as it will: there’s a contentment to that. But to challenge the status quo – to drop that shoe and dare the world to give its response… That is a chance to find exhilaration.

      Or complete and utter despair, I guess :).

      The perils of being human.

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