In Up and Down

Adults, I’ve noticed, are always going up. Or down.

“Yeah, we went up this weekend. It wasn’t as cold as it was here,” I overheard a commuter say to his friend. “Are you going up?”

“No,” his friend replied, “we went down last week. Took forever with traffic.”

These places, Up and Down — I imagine must be amazing. I constantly wonder what they have there for adults: endless upward ski slopes and all the down dogs mothers could want. There has to be shopping uptown, and definitely some Downton Abbey. Adults have sex upwards of 3 times a weekend in Up, but never more because Up is a place and not a wizard. Downtime is rampant in Down, that’s why people can’t stand to be there any longer than a week. People are smart. There are newspapers. Everything is upbeat and upscale, there’s turn down service and it’s all downright delightful.

Everyone regularly visits the folks in Up or Down, so they check off all the boxes when they go. Adults bring the kids Up; they rarely bring the kids Down. In Up they look at the sky and mumble a lot of aimless questions; in Down they look at their feet and ask nothing at all. Up and Down are for relaxing. You try not to get bothered.

But — I’ve never been. I suppose I’m not old enough. I don’t have kids to take Up for the week, and I’m far from affording a weekend in Down. I’m only 22, for goodness sakes.

So for now I content myself with Sideways.

Now in Sideways, there’s a lot to do. Dangerous side cars, even more dangerous sidelong glances. There’s putting aside time for unpredictable mistakes that leave you on a roadside, dusty and indignant. There’s standing up for your side, but still listening to the other, and always an extra side of French fries. You’re always outside: side stepping rail tracks weaving through mountains or on a towel beachside, flicking specks of sand at shells. There are a lot of loud conversations, but the best are quiet minutes spent lying on your side counting someone’s freckles.

There’s turning your head sideways to see things differently on countryside riversides with multisided people; waking up on the wrong side of the bed only to learn that both sides are the same when you sleep in the middle. There’s a lot of considering and exciting secret side doors, but not everything is easy. You get kicked curbside and blindsided; sidetracked and misdirected. Sideways isn’t for relaxing. You’re always bothered. And sweaty for some reason. Besides, we’re all young and a little lost in Sideways, constantly looking side to side because we don’t want to miss anything.

We always miss something.

As it stands, you don’t get a lot of time in Sideways before you start growing up and looking down.

Listening to these people coming and going, I understand that it’s nice to just be somewhere. You pull planned weekends around you, know where you start and end, what you can and can’t afford to have or lose. You schedule things to look forward to, count vacation days like heavy gold coins you stole from the next door gypsie.

But when we look for moments, we miss them. When we get distracted by destinations, we miss Sideways: the bumbling, bouncing, baffled in-between.

We all make it to Up or Down. What matters is remembering to veer: veer gracefully, veer accidentally, veer violently…just turn.

We’ll remember what it’s like — that it’s mighty nice — to live in the thick of life.