New York City is a wonderful place to be alone. I know, I know—it’s a place where citizens jostle shoulder to shoulder in the subways and streets, where restaurant patrons should expect to be wedged together at tiny tables like pieces in a tight puzzle. It’s a city of noise and conversation . . . other people’s noises and conversations, that is. Welcome or not, they’re an unceasing white noise to the honking, the roar of the busses and trains, the clatter of construction. It’s a metropolis where you always seem to be swimming against the tide to get anywhere, against a crowd of faces you don’t recognize.
And that’s exactly why I find it ideal to become lost in. In a city this enormous, I’m a tiny singularity. A grain of sand in your bed attracts attention. You can’t escape that. But who distinguishes between the multitudes of grains of sand on a beach?
In New York, no one’s paying attention to me—they’ve got other things on their minds. Jobs, crises, sightseeing attractions, love affairs, worries, woes. Nobody knows my name, knows where I came from, where I’m going. I could appear—and have appeared—in the backgrounds of countless tourist photos in Grand Central or Times Square. Even then, captured and still in mid-stride, I’m not really there. I’m just part of the gray blur.
And yet, New York City is also the kind of place in which I’m always running across people I know, more so than the smaller cities in which I’ve lived before. I’ll be sitting in a coffee shop deep in an out-of-the-way neighborhood, when someone I know from Los Angeles will casually walk in. That guy I met at social party in White Plains will walk past me on the street and say hello. With so many millions of people crammed onto so small an island, the sheer probability is that two of them, familiar with each other, will collide at some point.
That was the case with me, this last week. I’d gotten tickets to a show with a couple of friends. Great seats, in fact. Close enough to the stage to be spat upon by the actors—always a sign of quality. I’d arrived early enough to get my program, take off my coat, check in on Facebook, settle in. I was coming back from a quick run to the bathroom (it’s easier to go before the show, than to try at intermission, trust me) when I resumed my seat, turned around to scan the crowd, and felt a flash of recognition. Someone I knew was sitting near me.
When I wrote in November about my hiatus from both fucking and my blog, I mentioned there was a guy I’d been seeing. One of the big reasons for my officially-declared Boys ‘R’ Stupid Month had been because of this particular gentleman. He was mature—younger than I, but old enough to have grey in his hair. Handsome as hell. Muscular. Successful. Every time we connected he made me feel special. Like I was more than just a fuck to him. He was romantic with me, and made extravagant promises of even more spectacular times together. Then he up and vanished. Didn’t return calls, texts, emails. There comes a point at which didn’t want to be That Guy—you know, the one who keeps sending increasingly forlorn texts out into dead space. So I stopped.
And there he was, my handsome former playmate, sitting not seven feet away. Well, fuck, I thought to myself.
That wasn’t the end of it. I was sitting there, rolling the Playbill in my hands and feeling hunched-over and miserable, when not thirty seconds later I saw someone else stroll down the aisle. He was dressed in a suit. Tall, slender long-haired, beautiful. The kind of man who stands out in any crowd. Heads turned to admire him as he passed.
I knew him, too.
I’ve never discussed this publicly in my blog before, but for about eleven months of 2013 I was seeing someone. And seeing him fairly exclusively, too. Although I wrote about him a few times in a casual way, I never really addressed the fact that I was heavily involved both emotionally and physically with the young man. I kept silent for a couple of reasons. One was that when I was involved with the dancer, Spencer, a few years ago, I eventually came to regret sharing so much of both the joy and the pain of it in the pages of my blog. I loved Spencer. Readers loved Spencer. Readers wanted me to end up with Spencer. When I didn’t ride off with Spencer into the sunset—even though our eventual separation was always a foregone conclusion—a lot of my readers treated me as if I’d done the unforgiveable. The rest of my readers understood, but always seemed to be waiting for me to generate a Spencer replacement to fill that void in my life.
This guy was not a Spencer replacement. We made passionate love several times a week. I was deeply fond of him. Many of my happiest memories of 2013 were of time spent in his company. Of walking down the street, holding his hand. Of lying in bed and attempting to help him with his many problems. I was protective enough at the time, though, that I didn’t want my readers thinking I’d found a replacement for Spencer. I was also wary about sharing too much information about him—or about my feelings—because at the time I was also just coming off a particularly scary incident with a blog reader who was stalking me in my real life. Sharing details just didn’t seem prudent, either from a practical standpoint, or for my emotional well-being. I kept quiet, for the most part.
Then, after many months spent in his company, this beautiful young man moved from a nearby apartment into one that was further away . . . though not out of reach. It might as well have been Siberia, though, the way it turned out. Because basically, after he moved, the affair was over. I never saw him again. I’d text him the way I used to, and get a delayed response. Then fewer responses. Then no responses at all. He didn’t return emails, or phone calls. I felt as if I’d been erased from his life with no warning and no explanation. It hurt me deeply. And I didn’t want to write about my despondence in my blog, either.
But there was this guy, in the flesh for the first time before me since I’d helped him pack his belongings into a U-Haul truck, walking down the carpet of the theater like a male supermodel, oblivious to my presence. He took a seat across the aisle from me, one aisle down. Well, FUCK, I thought to myself.
So I sat there in this massive crowd of people, friends on either side, a former trick immediately behind me, a longer-time lover ten feet to my left. And all I could wonder was what I had done wrong to deserve this weird conjunction of events. I wanted to sink into the ground, actually, and let it swallow me up for good.
But you know what? That black mood didn’t last long. With both guys I’d ended up feeling treated shabbily, but I hadn’t really done anything wrong to either of them. Theoretically, I already knew it; thanks to a quirk of fate or a twist of probability, having them both in proximity to me, like some kind of ominous alignment of stars, nailed home the reality. I hadn’t done anything wrong to them. There was absolutely no reason for me to be ashamed of my behavior. If anyone was to do the slinking down in his seat, it sure as hell wasn’t me.
So I sat up. I uncurled the Playbill out of the tight baton into which I’d made it. I moved my focus from the two unfortunate points behind and beside me, and started chatting to my friends once again. I damn well made sure that neither guy was going to ruin my show. During the intermission, I didn’t hide myself with hunched shoulders. I didn’t avoid turning around. Neither man saw me, as it turned out—or at least, they didn’t let on that they did. I was just part of the background blur. One of the crowd. And that was fine. I had a great evening after all.
I’ve always been convinced that the universe gives us what we need, when it’s appropriate to receive it. Sometimes it’s a reminder of former events gone wrong. Sometimes it’s a wake-up call. Sometimes it’s a person. I’m glad I received, in the handful of last days of 2014, a reminder of past disappointments.
Even more happily, I’m grateful to face the fears they stir and realize once and for all that not only have I moved on—but moved on for the better.
Here’s to 2015, everyone.