I woke up today and decided that life need not be so complicated. I’ve been overthinking things, indulging my propensity to do ideas to death. To wallow a bit.
For instance, when I asked the cartoonist what he thought of my blog he said, you’re like Captain Kirk. William Shatner was and is a crap actor, he said, but the role he played required it. Overacting, but in a perfect way. You’re overacting just enough. That’s what the cartoonist said.
So I’ve decided to put away my metaphorical violin. No more poor me.
A lot of people have asked me if what I write about is true. And what I usually say in response is that I leave stuff out but I don’t make stuff up. That’s partly a function of story telling. Stories are, I believe, one of our highest art forms and the reason that we’ve come so far as a species. I have the greatest respect for stories. But stories, by definition, require editing. As somebody whose name I can’t remember once said; “Novels are life with the boring bits taken out.”
This isn’t a novel. But, like, whatevs. I can still edit.
So my stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the end is artificial. Some of the people I’ve written about have not left my life despite the fact that I gave their vignette a succinct summation. The Greek, for instance? He’s still around. He texted me the other day, when he was lying on a beach in Hawaii. Wearing his latest hat. He wants me to come to his house so he can cook. He texted me tonight in fact, asking if he could bring over a bottle of wine. Or gin. My choice. The cartoonist came to my house and fixed my wifi and we saw a movie. Last night I ran into the Jamaican on the way home and had a quick drink and commiserated over his custody battle. Yesterday I had lunch with the Roman, visiting from out of town.
The Spaniard is back in Madrid and has asked me to visit, which I fully intend to scrape the funds together to do. Ditto the Brazilian who is now sunning his handsome self in Sao Paolo. World Cup 2014? What the fuck? I have absolutely no responsibilities. Brazil, clear the decks, here I come.
Which leads me to the man with the ancient African name. He’s still around. And yes, I know, I know, I formed a very noble intention to stay out of his life. And yet. Here he still is. His choice. Not mine.
I was out with a French friend the other day and he was counseling a Syrian friend who has the severe hots for a woman who is completely and exhaustingly out of his league. So, so, very far out of his league that it’s like he’s on earth and she’s leaving the asteroid belt on the Hubble telescope. He knows on some level that this is the truth, because he can barely muster the courage to speak to her.
“Persistence,” said the Frenchman kindly, and with authority, because the French know shit about this stuff that we mere mortals do not. “Be persistent.”
I’ve been thinking about that a bit. Because it is possible to change people’s minds. Not me. I can’t do it, because I don’t have a great deal of confidence. I slope off whenever anybody displays the slightest sign of indifference. But others can.
So the man with the ancient African name has been persistent. Texting me. Asking me to go out. And I’ve put him off a few times. More than a few times. Because I had my resolution and I was going to stick to it. Yet still, here he is.
And I woke up this morning and thought. Stop extrapolating. Have fun. The man with the ancient African name has quick laugh and a deep voice and is very, very easy on the eye in a Denzel Washington kind of way. What can it hurt to spend a couple of hours in his company?
So we met for lunch.
I went on a date.
Hold the freaking presses. First date in decades.
Cheapo Mexican in Brooklyn on a snowy winter day. Nothing fancy. But seriously. Hold the freaking presses.
The man with the ancient African name has a sunny disposition but his family history is dark. His brother was murdered. Shot during a robbery. His grandfather was a gangster. His mother got pregnant with him at 16. The man with the ancient African name went to a smart school and did well for himself and is committed to maintaining a positive attitude. Yet more than 20 years in, he cannot come to terms with the death of his younger brother, and who can blame him? I cannot ever imagine life without my brothers.
So I heard his story. In an earlier post I described him as the black male me. But that judgment was facile. The more black friends I have, and the more I talk to them, the more I realize how very different their stories are. I have the luxury of never having to think about my skin color. They do not. It’s something they can never forget. Not matter how successful, how well educated they become, they will never stop being black. They just won’t.
But despite our different backgrounds we have a fair bit in common, by virtue of the fact that we are the same age and are both basically scrappy working class. That counts for something.
And it turns out it’s okay to go and sit at a table and shovel up Mexican food and talk about movies and music and how much being divorced at 52 sucks for a couple of hours. The world doesn’t end. No plans are made. No lives are disrupted. Nobody is hurt.
It’s just normal human behavior. I’m rejoining the human race.
I’m taking the advice of the cartoonist. The metaphorical violin is going into storage.
And me and the man with the ancient African name? We are going to go, at some point in the future, out dancing.