The Ancient African King
The universe is yanking my chain. Fine.
I know this because on Sunday I took possession of a phone number. It belongs to a man. Yes. Yes, it does. A man whom I really like the look of. A man whom any independent judge with working eyesight would call, what’s the technical term? Oh, yes. A bit of all right.
We met because we happened to be seated at adjoining tables at lunch. He was dining with his uncle and I was pretending not to engage in one of my favorite pastimes; eavesdropping. Uncle and nephew were mulling over some heavy family matters and then, abruptly, the uncle turned to me and started to talk about how much easier it is to be gay and black in Fort Greene than it is in Tennessee. And as a gay, black man how glad he is that he lives in Fort Greene and not Tennessee.
As a conversational opener it had what I considered to be an acceptable degree of difficulty. I cranked up the bullshit machine and we spent a very pleasant half an hour or so laughing at tasteless jokes and batting the conversational ball around in a flirty, tripartite fashion.
We exchanged names. The nephew has a name I’ve never heard. He is named after an ancient African king, he said. I told him my own non-royal name and he immediately forgot it. That’s what happens with ordinary names. I told it to him again.
The uncle gave me his card and said he’d been with the same man for 33 years.
The nephew asked if he could give me his number and I slid my iPhone across the table and he took out his reading glasses and typed his ancient royal African name and his number in.
And this is how I can tell I’m middle aged because when he took out his reading glasses, I thought, presbyopia? A good sign! That means you’re at least in your forties.
For those of you who don’t have a medical degree, my doctor describes presbyopia as “old eyes.” It’s when your corneas harden and you suddenly need glasses to read. Your short sight deteriorates, yet your long sight improves. It served an evolutionary function when we were running around on the savannah, because old people, no longer able to hunt or forage, would use their superior long sight to watch out for predators.
And here endeth the lesson.
So, anyway. Now, resting comfortably in the contacts section of my iPhone is the number of a jaw droppingly handsome man in possession of a stellar sense of humor and all his hair. And who seems to be vaguely age appropriate. And who didn’t think, as far as I could judge on short acquaintance, that I was too bad, either.
Hilarious, right? Nice call, universe. You play a mean game. I’m really starting to feel a tiny wee bit outclassed. And terribly, terribly impressed. I mean it. Darling, I really, really do.
The reason is that lately I’ve been doing a quite good, for me, job of wanting what I have. After weeks of agony, I think I finally have turned a corner with the mastering the crush. I have the crush face down with my bovver-booted heel in its neck and have gone back to behaving like a grownup and not a 12 year old girl.
I’ve structured my social life a little more rigorously so I don’t spend too much time alone. And I’m enjoying the time I do spend by myself. I’ve made a decision to be okay if Friday rolls around and I’m home watching Breaking Bad and mixing a solitary martini. I’ve decided to relish that moment in the morning when I wake up and I’m alone, but who cares? Still breathing? Check? Good. Mattress still comfy? Even better.
Whenever a pining thought pops into my mind, I think of something else. Something that I’m thankful for. I’m making an effort to be grateful. For my health. For my friends. For my job. For my apartment, while I still have it. For all those extra dress sizes that I’m no longer lugging around. And it’s helped me to see that there’s not too much wrong with my life that time can’t take care of. It’s helped me to imagine a point in the future when I won’t have to think quite so hard about these things, and it will flow a little more organically.
The phone number has the potential to lob a grenade into those fresh sprouts of contentment. All contact with other mammals does.
What do I do with it?
Bury it in a lead-lined coffin? That’s my first instinct. Because I can fast forward through this story and imagine that it has some pain and humiliation to serve up, somewhere along the line. That has, after all, been the general theme of this year. I’ll be alone eventually, anyway. Why not just skip the messy middle part. Protect myself the easiest way I know how. Isolation.
And yet. What are we if we don’t have hope? Can we even call ourselves fully human?
I dislike the word faith. It has too many associations for me with organized religion, which I have had enough experience with to despise and distrust. But a dear, dear friend, and the one who has been most instrumental in ensuring that I remained breathing these last few months, talks about faith all the time. He doesn’t mean in the religious sense.
If we don’t take a chance every now and then, what do we become?
I have to think about this.
Because now I have the phone number of a beautiful man, named for an ancient African king. Who has given me permission to call him.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but damn.