“I’m trying to tell you
something about my life;
Maybe give me insight
between black and white.
The best thing you’ve
ever done for me
Is to help me take my life
It’s only life, after all.
Well darkness has a hunger
And lightness has a call
that’s hard to hear.
I wrap my fear around me
like a blanket.
I sailed my ship of safety
till I sank it.
I’m crawling on your shore.”
— Indigo Girls
Life is so strange, y’all.
No. Actually, life is messy: a big, beautiful, often ridiculous, occasionally tragic mess.
It all started with a date I had yesterday afternoon. Frankly, it was a date I had no business going on, since I was feeling rather the worse for wear after accompanying my homegirl Yesha to The Root 100 gala the night before (open bar, anyone?). But, as I’d been putting this particular fellow off for over a week, I opted to power through my hangover (which I’m officially way too old for, btw) and follow through with our date. Because…courtesy.
That said, I was a bit hesitant. Our few exchanges via Tinder had revealed him to be fairly eager to meet. In fact, I believe his exact words were “I want love NOW” when I’d initially requested a raincheck.
He claimed to be kidding, but…yeah. Then again, his profile had also revealed that he was a prolific and accomplished visual artist and musician, so I figured we’d at least find some creative common ground, even if we weren’t moving at quite the same pace.
He was waiting at the bar when I arrived, a wisp of a guy with an animated countenance and brimming with frenetic energy. As I settled myself beside him, his energy was palpable—and overwhelming, especially in my compromised state. Hopefully, he’d catch my rhythm and slow his to match mine. (He was a drummer, after all).
No such luck, I’m afraid.
Granted, I felt like I was holding myself together with string and tape (okay, more like with my arms folded across my chest—a defensive posture against all the energy flying at me); but this dude seemed pretty unfazed. He was a prototypical wunderkind, full of unbridled enthusiasm, an almost dismissive optimism, and strong—if occasionally offensive—opinions about living as an artist in New York and even Bill de Blasio (who coincidentally, happened to sitting a few feet away from us).
While he was certainly fascinating, he also seemed to exist on an entirely different wavelength; one that I knew I wasn’t capable of reaching at that—or possibly any other—moment. Through my residual haze, our exchange became sort of…surreal. Since he also paints musically-inspired abstracts and has a penchant for Dalí, let’s call him “The Surrealist”.
But if he was concerned about my seeming detachment or growing disinterest, he didn’t allow it to interrupt his narrative, or his fantasies about how our relationship might evolve. He hinted at our hypothetical intimacy—at one point, suggesting that we take a nap together, then chuckling that since we’re both Aries, we wouldn’t get much sleep. (“Fire on fire!” he exclaimed.) And he became increasingly affectionate as our time together passed, repeatedly massaging my back and shoulders.
Fun fact about me: I have a strong aversion to assumed intimacy. When it comes to men I’m dating, I generally have an ”invite only” policy when it comes to making first physical contact. If that sounds frigid as hell, it’s not because I don’t love to be touched, I’m just crazy picky about who touches me.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Hell, I’ve even cited a few, these past couple of months. Unfortunately, this was not one of them.
However, the Surrealist clearly didn’t notice me flinch—or he ignored it altogether. By now, convinced that this would be our only date, I forced myself to Zen out and settled for counting down the minutes until I could take that aforementioned nap—alone. As I walked him back to the train (because…courtesy), he began to smoke a J…and I began to wonder how much more overwhelming his energy might’ve been without it.
As we said our goodbyes, he expressed an interest in meeting again. As politely as I could, I told him that I found him interesting, but it didn’t feel like a love connection. He seemed genuinely surprised. No, seriously: that was clearly not what he was expecting to hear. We should all have such high self-esteem.
“Were we on the same date?” I wondered aloud as I walked away.
Maybe it was me. Clearly, I wasn’t entirely present. Perhaps I didn’t give the guy a fair shot. Or perhaps it was simply another not-so-great match—I mean, it happens. Or maybe it was something cosmic, like all these recent lunar events that seem to be driving everyone slightly crazy. After all, it was Friday the 13th—11/13/15, to be exact—the oddest day of the year.
I was pondering all of this as I stood on a street corner, when I noticed an attractive man grinning at me from the opposite corner. As I approached, he said:
“You crossed my path just in time.”
Why, was he going to sell me something?
Nope. Not unless it was himself. He introduced himself as an entrepreneur from a neighboring hood—actually, “The Entrepreneur” might stick, if he sticks around. He was confident. He was direct. He was good looking, and apparently, he was single.
I, in turn, was suddenly entirely alert and present. So, maybe it wasn’t me, after all.
Frankly, I could just as easily call this guy “Carpe Diem,” because he was definitely seizing the day—and the moment. In fact, he wanted me to join him for hot chocolate on the spot. But that nap was still calling. And believe it or not, I had another Friday the 13th date lined up, so…he’d have to wait.
So far, the plan is Sunday brunch, so stay tuned.
A few hours later, refreshed and ready to at least consider alcohol again, I ventured back out into the now-brisk evening to share a drink with a fellow Minnesotan I’d met on Happn a few days earlier.
Admittedly, I was a little leery since this gent—albeit hailing from my birthplace—was also an actor, like my eHarmony match (who I was so repelled by, I didn’t even bother to give a pseudonym). That experience still fresh in my mind, I unwittingly braced myself for another onslaught of ego and entitlement…
But to my relief, he couldn’t have been more different. In fact, I was instantly at ease in his presence. Maybe it was a Midwestern thing—a solid, grounded, straightforward quality about him. But it certainly didn’t hurt that he was incredibly handsome, as well.
We fell easily into conversation about our similar upbringings (both children of divorce, raised between Chicago and the Twin Cities areas), mutual friends, and similar struggles as performing artists trying to make a sustainable living in an increasingly challenging environment.
Like me, he’d made a fulfilling career out of his “day job”—in his case, becoming a critical care nurse, which may have explained his seemingly balanced ego. He was gracious, forthcoming, and refreshingly authentic. As we commiserated about the expectations of adulthood and the possibilities not yet explored, he rarely broke eye contact.
Yes, the empathy was strong with this one.
But perhaps his most attractive quality (to me) was that after two decades as a working actor, he wasn’t held hostage by the idealism of his art. There were no pie-in-the-sky ambitions, or blindly optimistic chatter about his career. He seemed self-aware, self-possessed and not at all seduced by the all-too-familiar stereotype of the struggling artist. Far from it, in fact—we both agreed that there was nothing even remotely sexy about starvation.
Again, I was relieved: relieved not to have to justify my own unconventional stance to someone who was equally and openly in flux at this point in life. I was even more relieved not to have yet another man attempt to talk me out of my own perspective and experience, as eternal optimists are sometimes prone to do.
No, this man was a realist, and I’m going to call him that: “The Realist.” Like me, he was readily considering all the possibilities for the next phase of his life. He was open to the uncertainty of it all, which means he didn’t need me to tweak my narrative to fit some pipe dream that was more palatable to him than the unknown.
“Life is messy,” he said. Yes. Yes, it is.
But the Realist doesn’t seem like someone who’s afraid of messes. I suppose when you make a career of caring for people whose hearts have literally been opened, the inevitable messes of life become a lot less scary.
The 2.5 hours we spent together—punctuated by a single drink (thank God)—flew by. But ultimately, it was time to retreat back into our respective lives.
As drawn as I was to him, I didn’t get a strong read on whether or not our attraction was mutual. But as we parted, he pulled me in for a long hug. It was warm and strong, like him. The comfort of it would come in handy when I returned home to find that Paris—my longtime love—was fully under siege.
Yes, life is very messy. Should I have the good fortune to ever fall in love again, it will undoubtedly get messy, too—at least, periodically.
If and when that happens, I hope it’s with someone who neither creates nor runs from the messy parts; someone who is confident and committed enough to look at life with a realist’s eye, and muddle through to the possibilities on the other side.
It’s only life, after all.