When you've been inside all day, and trying unsuccessfully to cut down on your caffeine intake, and it's beautiful out, you get the itch to start thinking and exist with others, and I don't know him well, there's nothing like that going on, but an exchange of ideas was needed. We changed our plans the other night and walked from my house down to the water, instead of getting coffee, which probably would have been awkward and datey. We were talking about art and God and this strange hovering between the embrace of subculture and the spiritual community that alternately nourishes and frustrates.
The sunlight was fading by the time we reached the beach, staring out over the empty sand to the lavender water and the pink sky enraptured by not the most picturesque sunset, but a peaceful understated one. There's something wonderful about the near-empty beach in the twilight.
I don't come down here much, he says.
All my greatest memories happened here, I say. There's always something to remember here.
We run into people he knows, foment plans of the creative kind that my skeptical self finds myself questioning a few days later. As we walk back, a group of kids sets off a hot air balloon lit from one of the grills, and it looks like a burning heart soaring away through the darkness. It sounds twee of me to say this but there was something very beautiful about it. We walked back and I took him past this giant thicket of bamboo by one of the mansions where all the birds live, and we listened to the rustle and the singing before walking back to my front yard and going our separate ways.
The next night I have dinner on the porch with the usual suspects and then go out for a friend's birthday and miss dinner with them but end up at a pub I like with a group of her friends, most of whom I barely know. The can of Strongbow I'm drinking usually doesn't do much to my equilibrium but I knew I was a little more tipsy than usual and a little hazy so I don't say as much for a change. Most of the time when I have a drink either alcoholic or caffeinated I end up going on long ramblings about Balkan geopolitics or my beef with most urban planners or foreign policy or the intricacies of sundry music or religion but I'm not feeling like doing that this time. It's too loud in here, and these people are neither total strangers nor close friends.
I get introverted in gatherings like these and either become a total wallflower or Mary Contrary. I either say nothing or start talking about how awesome inner-ring suburbs are, and how Lynyrd Skynyrd is better than your favorite indie rock band, that the guy you voted for sucks, and how I love driving my car and riding bikes scares me.
But as such, people keep telling me stories that they think I'll find funny but I don't find them funny and feel bad because I'm not amused, they're not realizing that I'm really not as cool as I evidently come across to those that don't know better. I don't want to be impressed, I almost feel embarrassed for you when you try to do it. I just want you to be yourself, and not drop f-bombs because you think I'm tough, not try to impress me by pointing out the dudes at the bar who are probably into Nickelback, because who cares.
My theory is that alpha males overcompensate by talking about the geeky dweebs or extolling their physical prowess and their fast cars, beta males overcompensate by talking about how dumb alpha male bros are and try to impress you with their record collections, knowledge of local restaurants, smartphone capabilities and their swank bikes. Bros will be bros and geeks will be geeks. I'm usually not this magnanimous, and I know that high school never ends, but this is getting old and so are you. It must be the hard cider talking.
I end up working late and decide not to do anything social. I work in the garden until sunset, marvel at the seedlings poking up through the soil that will be spinach and chard, and walk to the corner store past kids playing in the apartment building parking lot, the EMTs in the garage relaxing on lawn chairs, and the crowds at the punk bar and the old-man-gay-bar. It's a beautiful night, and I feel safe because there's so many other people around.
One of my friends had a former roommate who needs a place to stay for a month or three, and doesn't know that many people over here or have a lot of cash, since she's from Ethiopia, working at a gas station, and going to nursing school. I have an extra room at my place for the purposes of art making and having a place where people can stay, so we talk tonight and negotiate out shares of utilities. I haven't had a roommate since the crash-and-burn of the previous domestic situation, but I know this has a limited timetable and I'm feeling ready.
But now I need to figure out how to consolidate two rooms worth of bachelorette living into one. Furniture starts getting moved and rearranged. I find some things I can throw away, or try to give away. It gets later than I thought, but the feral cats in the yard are fighting so it takes awhile to fall asleep as it is.
I have an extra bed in the spare room that I was going to try and cram in a corner somewhere but a friend's friend just moved down the street from me and needs something to sleep on, so he comes over, decides it's perfect, and we cram the mattress into his hatchback just barely. The boxspring won't fit, however, so on our second trip we end up deciding to tie it to the roof of my car hillbilly style, with two dry-rotted bits of clothesline I find in the garage. It's a long and slow couple miles up the street with him holding onto the rope for dear life and me hoping this doesn't slide down onto my windshield. I'm sure it provides amusement for the onlookers.
His new place is full of guitars and drums and bikes and records and roommates. They play in a band or something, and they invite me to stay for dinner. I go home and bring over an attempt at sweet potato fries that doesn't work but still tastes good, and a bowl of hummus. They grill me some amazing steak and onions and we sit on a patio over a storefront that reminds me of friends' photos of rooftop Brooklyn parties, listening to My Bloody Valentine and I feel like I've known them all my life, it's that comfortable and weirdness-free. I'm amazed that we see so many stars considering that there's car dealerships on the other sides of the walls that aren't old apartment buildings.