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12

just like Ronnie sang…

Jane always believed that caveat emptor was something you learned at garage sales, an education of sorts, and not something that actually pertained to education. Somewhere between “you get what you pay for” and “beware of what you want for you shall surely get it” stood senior year of college.

She was far enough into her studies of psychology to start learning some cold hard truths. While it always troubled her that she couldn’t really understand the combustion engine or explain how her cell phone worked, she arrived on campus feeling that the human mind was something she could wrap her head around. Impulses and motivations, things that could be understood, measured and eventually predicted.

Senior year is when she realized just the opposite. Every study ever done reinforced the harsh yet simple reality that people are random and vary between sometimes being assholes to always being assholes. That was the spectrum that we exist in day in and day out.

Studies proved that if someone exhibited an act of kindness one day they were no more or less likely to do the same the following day and if they showed cruelty one day… you guessed it, they were just as likely to be kind an hour later. There were no patterns or signs, no way to predict the way people would respond to situations or stimuli one minute to the next. Every interaction was a crapshoot.

She distinctly remembers the moment when her interest in the brain first crystallized. She was young and her mom was driving on some errand or other and a song came on the radio; Take Me Home Tonight. Her mom was clearly delighted to hear it because just before the vocals kicked in she said “Time to put Eddie Money where my mouth is.” She then went on to belt out the lyrics with a particular emphasis on the line “Just like Ronnie sang.”

Her mom’s name, not really ironically, was Ronnie.

After the song was over and her mom had calmed down a bit she asked her what she meant by “Time to put Eddie Money where my mouth is.” Her mom laughed and said she had no idea, it just popped out.

How could she not know? She was the one who’d said it! But at the same time Jane believed her. Just the same she did some digging just to confirm that her mom wasn’t the Ronnie in the song.

She wasn’t… and so began her interest in psychology.

Years later when she driving and heard an odd rattle under the hood she felt stupid and powerless because she didn’t understand cars. She ate grapes and could explain how we created the seedless variety but could in no way articulate how humanity was able to produce them on such a grand scale.

And she was ok with all that.

But she needed to know how to find the right man to give her heart to. The right boss to work for. The right best friend or workout partner. Now she swam in oceans of research telling her quite clearly that it was impossible to know anyone. Nobody and everyone was right. Nobody and everyone was wrong.

So she spent her last semester watching people. She didn’t even take notes. She just sat at the cafes and sporting events and took them all in. The happy ones and the sad ones and the winners and the losers and never forgot that they were all happy and sad and winning and losing. Soaking in all their quirks and idiosyncrasies.

And they became hers.

The month before graduation her mom passed away unexpectedly. On the drive to the cemetery, after an emotional service, she turned on the radio and there was Eddie singing “Just like Ronnie sang.”

Had her mom been happy and sad? Had she felt like a winner and loser?

“Just like Ronnie sang… be my little baby.”

She smiled, looked upward and said “Thanks mom.”

She decided to begin a new major. Her dad was not thrilled and her brothers and sisters thought she was crazy.

She entered the theater program.

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