(or, From a Scream to a Whisper)
I went into New York City last night for the New Year’s celebrations. I had a somewhat packed schedule: dinner with friends, drinks with my favorite bartenderess (both on the upper west side), and a party at a wonderful townhouse on the upper east side. All three of these went well. I didn’t get to my crash-pad (thanks, John & Liz!) until almost 4am, but that was more a sign of how much fun we were having, rather than a reason for complaint.
But the evening was set up by a comedic moment that put a capstone on the most transformative months of my life.
As some of my readers know, I was pretty severely Kicked In The Ass By Love back in September. For a little less than two months, I was seeing a girl who, despite her best intentions, made me happy. It wasn’t a state I was familiar with and, when she left me in early November (for pretty ambiguous reasons of the “It’s not you; it’s me” variety), I was pretty wrecked. While I’ve gone on with my life pretty well, it’s been tough sometimes. I guess I just wanted some kind of finality, a conversation in which she said, “This is what was wrong, and this is why we’re not going to see each other again.” Without that, I’ve let her linger in my thoughts (not constantly, but too often).
So yesterday, on my way to the city, I thought, “I’ll give her a call, and ask her if I can see her for a minute.” One of those “one last time” moments, but without the heaviness, dreariness or drama. Which is to say, I was still out of my head and didn’t realize how much the world keeps spinning, regardless of my angst.
It reminds me of a song I heard recently: “Do You Realize?” by the Flaming Lips. It’s a pretty simple song, but I adore it. The main lyric (it’s not really a verse-chorus-verse sorta song) is: “Do you realize that everyone you know / Someday will die / And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know / You realize that life goes fast / It’s hard to make the good things last /You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”
I tried to call her from the ferry (she lives a few blocks away, in Hell’s Kitchen), but my cell phone wouldn’t dial out. I thought there might be some cell-jammer in the area, because of security precautions, but some of my fellow travelers on the ferry were using their phones, so I tried to shut off my phone and turn it back on. Unfortunately, the phone froze in shut-off mode, which left me incommunicado.
Well, thought I, I’ll walk over, ring her buzzer, and just see if she’ll make a minute for me, if she’s even around. It was early in the afternoon, around 3:30, but I thought (hoped) she might have gone away for the celebration.
I rang the intercom, and she called down, “Hello?”
“Hey,” I said, in my usual deep rasp.
“Hi! Come on up!” she said. The door-lock buzzed, so I opened up. I hadn’t been in the building in two months, and the sensory memories overwhelmed me a little. I walked up five flights of stairs, marveling over the enthusiasm of her voice.
When I got to the top, I saw that her door was ajar. I knocked, heard her say, “Come in!” and walked through. The shower was going strong, and steam filled the upper reaches of the bathroom, creeping out under the top of the doorframe. She peeked her head out from the shower curtain, broad smile beaming across her face.
“Hi! . . . What are you doing here?” Still smiling, but a little less beamingly.
“Well, it looks like I’m not being the person you thought you were buzzing in,” I said.
“. . .” but she got bonus points for not losing the smile.
“I’m in town for New Years, and I wanted to see you for a minute. My phone’s dead, otherwise I would’ve called.”
“. . .”
“And now I’ve seen you.”
I turned around and headed downstairs. For a moment, I thought of beating myself up inside in a “You fool! You’ve been longing for this woman, while she’s buzzing in some other deep-voiced man of few words” sorta way. But then I thought, “Y’know, it was an awfully funny way for things to end, and what better day?”
I mean, after the lightning-strike of love, the pitching of woo, the weeks of bliss, the desperate longing without her, it all gets wrapped up with a bow on New Year’s eve, in a manner I couldn’t contrive if I tried. I get closure and low comedy, and it was over with in time for me to get deliriously “festive” and dance my ass off with friends and strangers.
All of which is to say, “Happy New Year!”
P.S.: Much love to Cecily, who stopped in to see me today (on her way home to Philadelphia) and complained that I haven’t really mentioned her in these pages. New Year’s love also goes out to John C., Liz, Blake, Ines, Chip, Dennis, John Del G., Stacy, Vince and, most importantly, Bonnie, without whom (and her “Something So Strong” NZ-inspired Tanqueray-and-tonics) I wouldn’t have had half as much fun last night.
The love of friends makes life worth it.