I hate the word “fail”. I’d like to get away from the negative connotations of all it entails and turn it on its head with the irreverence of YouTube “fail” videos...the ones you see from slip-ups and goofs made by animals and humans alike. A cat with an orange peel on his head, losing traction and sliding across a greased floor. A person riding an ATV over a jump, and bailing. One of those stupid videos with the hashtag #EPICFAIL. That’s the kind of failure I can embrace...the kind that keeps you laughing even as you cringe to see the end of it all.

My failure this morning was not remembering which way I part my hair. Can’t blame myself, really, I’ve been stuck in bed sick for two days. That may have something to do with equilibrium, as well as a general sense of personal routine, that you lose when you’re sick.

Bigger fail: forgetting my coffee. That lone cup sat and got cold, with no one there to love it.

Even bigger fail: During a break in my work day today, showing a movie I had subtitled to a small audience and not thinking about whom it might impact the most. I had been so excited to share it with everyone. I’d done it as a favor for a friend in France, and here it was, a completed short film, on a big screen in the campus library, with my translations. I was thrilled because I had spent hours poring over timestamps, adjusting the dialogue by hundredths of a second, replaying, and readjusting. I had watched the actors’ expressions and anticipated when they might break their silence, getting to know their every breath in a way more intimate than most lovers do. I was enamored with the whole film, the concept of a father and son who had grown apart and were now facing the moment when the son had to take the father to a retirement home. I had grown to love the chemistry between them. And I certainly loved the poignant moment when the son made a detour to take his father to the beach instead.

I had not anticipated the end of this special screening, after the credits rolled and the soft, tentative applause faded, as a silent finale. No one commented on their impressions, good or bad. No one asked about the characters’ relationship or history. One person asked about the challenges of subtitling, but no one asked about the plot or why the director had chosen this particular French beach as the setting. Hours later, at the end of the day, my friend from another office came to me and said it had affected her so much because of her mother. “I’m going right to see her now, as a matter of fact, to visit her. I have to admit that I teared up. It’s hard when you have someone in the memory unit.” 

I had announced the showing with such excitement and enthusiasm, but I had become somewhat numb to the plot and its impact. I had thought of the audience I'd invited as the general public, not a group of people with feelings and sensitivities. Though I had emailed them all about the subject matter, I had forgotten my friend’s situation. I had forgotten to talk to her in person and to warn her. I had forgotten the fact that for her, Alzheimer’s talk was still raw, that she was still quietly struggling with the curse of having to put a loved one into a nursing home. Every day she was thinking of her stubborn mother, suffering yet submitting, like a horse that has been broken and is forced into a stall. 

Had I invited her in person, I might have remembered to say, "By the way, this may be tough to watch." But I didn't. And now, as I remember which side to part my hair, I also remember that email is not enough for some things. #EPICFAIL


Glen Allen, VA

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