Being Online and In Feelings

A switch varial flip made me cry.

At the end of Skate Cafe’s Impressions video, for just shy of two minutes, we watch  Layth Sami roll, calmy clacking over the smooth stone ground that cuts through a nondescript public green space somewhere in Great Britain. Piano tinkles softly behind the crack and echo of Sami moulding his board into separate, distinct mid-air shapes. I found this scene of flat ground skateboarding surprisingly moving, bringing me to tears, and I couldn’t figure out why.

It reminded me of something I couldn’t place. A feeling, some moment in time that I’d lived and wanted to live again or one I had imagined but never truly felt. It was the way his board obeyed, folding like paper into those shapes—a leaping gazelle, your childhood bedroom, an uncorked bottle of champagne in the anxious moment before it erupts—and then unfolded without leaving a crease. Sculptures made and unmade in fractions of a second. Maybe I was being dramatic. Or just depressed. Well, yeah. The latter was obvious. But there was something else, not just some grand profundity I’d projected onto moving pictures and sound—it wasn’t a plastic bag dancing in the wind.

This has been happening more often lately, the crying. Even though I’m used to it now, it still catches me off guard. When the cherry blossoms ignite on my block each spring, boom. Tears. Seeing the names of all of the people I love on holiday cards I’m dropping into the silent dark of the mailbox. Whoosh, tears. In the first few months of the pandemic, when entire blocks would bang on pots and hoot and cheer for frontline workers and I saw the man leaning out of his attic window playing the saxophone with his hound dog howling at his side, paws dangling over the sill. Tears.

I weep when I ride my bike too fast downhill or push my skateboard towards a shrinking pink horizon. There are tears when I send excited text messages with three-to-four exclamation points and when a work email asks more from me than what I’m willing to give. My sleeve comes away damp from listening to some Pavement riff for the twentieth time in a row or when the outro song of an episode of Heavyweight kicks in. I well up at the sight of anti-maskers endangering us all with their mindless protests outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery and feel rivulets race towards my chin as my phone shows me photos of friends who live across the world, getting married, masks on, in love.

It’s not that I think the crying is bad. It doesn’t feel that way, and I don’t want it to stop. I’d just like to know why. In other instances, I can place the origin. Exhilaration, awe, longing, frustration, anger, affection. So why did the skateboarding, and a switch varial flip of all things, bring me to that place.

After watching the clip of Sami again and again, I eventually placed it. What this sequence reminded me of. The way Sami, so centred, can reign in his body and mind to execute with perfection. He’s created a bubble where only he exists. Everything else is tuned out and can’t even reach the front door. The camera just a friend. He knows it’s outside, appreciates its presence. It’s lucky to be able to watch him be in command. Not only of himself but that small piece of time and everything around it.

It’s just like another video that made me cry, where a being is in such assured control of themselves that they appear to become free, if only for a moment.