I couldn’t cast a spell, grant wishes or turn things to gold, what I had was barely more than a parlor trick; when I jumped in the air, I didn’t come right back down. It wasn’t quite flying, but just for an extra moment or so, I was floating, suspended with my toes a few inches above the ground, weightless in the split-second before gravity hit and pushed me, with a thud, back into normality. It was a breathless moment of suspense that bordered on terrifying, only blossoming into beautiful as it came to an end. I had this dream nearly every night, and in many versions, I would try to show someone my skill and find, to my great disappointment, that my onlooker was unimpressed. “What good does it do?” they’d invariably ask, “That is hardly any magic at all.” But I knew better.
Lately I’ve felt a bit like we’re all suspended in mid-air, all waiting for gravity to kick back in. We keep assuming that the ground is just inches away, that we’ll feel that thud any second now. We’ve been bracing for impact for weeks. Still, it doesn’t come. We stay floating, unsure if we should try to settle in here, precariously suspended. Can people really just live without something solid beneath their feet?
As a team, we at P’unk Avenue are grappling with this question. Our energy comes in spurts, stops and starts. One day we’re heady with momentum, buzzing with the excitement of our projects. The next we’re drinking coffees that don’t seem to stay warm, blinking at each other over backlit screens and asking, again, as though someone else will have the answer, “How did we get here?”
Among the challenges we’ve faced as a team, one of the hardest is simply being apart. If you’ve seen our goofy group photos, I’d forgive you for assuming we just know how to put on a show, that no twenty-something people could be that comfortable or happy around each other. But the truth is, we are. It’s palpable. Our sunny South Philly studio had all the trappings of home: a big, open kitchen, where we’d gather in the morning for coffee, someone frying an egg on the stove, a weekend story sending us into howls of laughter that echoed across the floors. The bathroom mirrors where we’d gather, three abreast, applying glitter or trying on outrageous hats for our themed-dress days. The rooftop deck with absolutely no shade, where we’d throw send-off parties when someone was moving away, grateful to claim we were squinting into the sun instead of fighting tears. We miss these things. We miss each other. There is no substitute.
And yet, with each passing day, we find some new adjustment to make the wait a little more bearable. We exercise together, grateful for the hum of each other’s footsteps even as small windows on our laptop screens. We switch our video meetings to phone calls and take those phone calls as long walks, slipping up and asking, “Wait, did you just feel a raindrop?” before we remember we’re a whole state line apart. Never one to turn down a theme, we read the same book and dress up in our period-accurate attire for our virtual book club meeting. Even without a solid ground to lay our foundation, we build something. We keep building. We have always been a team that builds.
Someday - we don’t know when - that little jolt of gravity will grab us by the feet and send us plunging back into our world, whether we’re ready or not. After the initial thud, I know there will be a lot of hugging, laughing and coffee. We’ll fill a room with laughter and feel so whole again that someone will, inevitably, ask if it’s possible that it was all a dream. As an expert on dreams of this sort, I know what I have learned: there’s a magic to that breathless in-between space, however terrifying, and once you’ve conquered it, a little bit of that magic rubs off on you.