I’ve decided to start a new blog series, about the various encounters in the wide world of attempting to date. Fair warning: I say “date,” but I’m going to include pretty much any romantical encounter here – the better for storytelling, and the protecting of the innocent. Including myself.
With that in mind, I was reminded the other day of that time I had a lovely time at a bar…and fell head over heels for myself.
A typical Tuesday night in the Big Apple. After 10 PM, near Times Square. The theatre people have come out to play, wandering down to 9th Avenue and 43rd Street: a corner of Hell’s Kitchen that the tourists never seem to find. You can still see the lights flickering out their neon seductions down the road, but the citizens of NYC turn their back on that familiar sight and instead head to a local bar, having just come from a Shakespeare workshop where yours truly happened to perform that night.
I’m still a little buzzed from performing – I don’t remember what. But something that must have been intensely personal, because my head is a little light. The way it is after a really good performance. When you’re still half of someone else.
One of the traditions of this workshop is that the five or six people who performed that evening are typically thronged by everyone else who watched the performance. People want to congratulate you; people want to hug you; people want to tell you why Hamlet should be played this way instead of whatever you did (this is super common); people just want to sit with you for a while. Most often this attention is equally heady: after all, you just poured your heart out. You’d like to sit with humans and return to this reality as well.
So, whether you performed or watched a performance, we all go out to the bar in that intersection of Hell’s Kitchen that the tourists never find. The bar owners know us all: we’re their Tuesday night crew, and make our way to take over the back of the bar, disturbing the small table of over-dressed-up first daters who didn’t know we always come in every Tuesday night.
This particular evening, as I too-frequently do, I got myself into a corner booth. Ready to chat with whomever might drift over, but also happy to sit and listen to the conversations swirl around me. A few friends come by, or I call them over. We catch up and they drift off, and someone new slips in with laughter and conversation.
This atomic pattern continues, until I realize that there’s been one constant at the table a little ways from me. Listening.
I look over, and well…Hello, handsome.
Not Now, Derek!
(For reference, enjoy this video!)
There’s a lull in the conversation. We make eye contact.
“Hello,” I say and extend my hand.
He smiles and comes nearer. We exchange names. I honestly don’t remember his. Let’s call him Gabe. We start talking. He enjoyed my performance. Thank you very much. Have you come to the workshop before? A few times. I must have missed you. Have you performed? Not yet; thinking of it. You should. I will.
When, to my right, in comes a known kill joy. In honor of Rachel Bloom, we’ll call him Derek.
Derek does not wait for a lull in the conversation. Derek says that he’s performed before. I know Derek has performed before. Derek is always at the open workshop.
I smile and nod and turn back to Gabe, leaning forward a little over the table so that Derek’s not quite in the conversation. Derek can join another table. There’s always an open seat next to someone that you know.
The topic turns to places we have travelled abroad. I tell some of my favorite Europe stories. Alright, I tell a lot of them. Gabe’s got something about a mishap in the Alps. I laugh and swap another story about those mountain ranges. Wasn’t Gabe nervous with whatever mishap? No, he wasn’t. My turn again. I’m thinking I might talk Dublin. And…
Derek intervenes: He loves travel!
I turn to Derek.
Derek continues: He’s heard of the Alps!
We both are staring at Derek.
Derek is giddy: He’s thought of traveling sometime.
You should travel sometime, Gabe says.
Derek starts listing place he might travel. If he ever does.
I make eye contact with Gabe, then turn back to Derek. “Hey, Derek,” I say. I’ve known Derek for a while. Derek does this. Derek should know better. Derek is a grown ass man. Derek targets the wrong conversations. Derek does not pick up on social cues.
“Hey, Derek,” I continue again. Perhaps I touch his arm, or move to do so. Gently, like with a child. “I’m trying to chat with Gabe right now. Can I chat with Gabe right now?”
“Oh, of course,” Derek says. Not moving.
“Great,” I grin. Pressing his arm warmly. “Gabe and I are going to talk now.”
I turn back to Gabe. So, I start in, this one time when I couldn’t figure out how to escape Dublin…
My back is all but turned to Derek. Bless him, it takes him a good fifteen minutes before he decides to go intrude on someone else’s conversation. Everyone else gives us space. Because they’re theatre people, and Gabe is a gorgeous man giving me the time of day.I start my story again.
My escape from Dublin story is awesome.
Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?
The evening finally concludes around midnight, or a little after. After all, there are still days jobs to go to the next morning, after the magic has all but worn off. I’ve spent a lovely evening chatting about adventures while staring at an incredibly handsome man who asks intelligent questions and has a winning smile. Life is good.
A week passes with the usual business. I know enough of Gabe’s name and occupation that I’m able to find him on social media and confirm that he is, in fact, a filmmaker. Editor primarily. With his own business. Great. Always good to know a fellow’s not a liar. He had talked about one of his shows that he tours around educationally. I see testimonials from educators about his programming. All positive. Good. I trust educators. I was one.
Tuesday rolls around. I don’t always go to the Shakespeare workshop on a Tuesday, but I’m intrigued by the prospect of running into Gabe again. He’s there. We say hi. But I sit elsewhere. He doesn’t go out to the bar: he’s got an early shoot. I drift around the bar after the workshop, chat with a few friends. Avoid Derek. I go home.
Another week. Another Tuesday. Work is getting rough and so I go to the workshop. Get my dose of theatre. Gabe’s there. This time I sit with him.
He smiles and shifts a little so that we’re looking at each other. How was your week? It was full. How was your shoot? It was good. More friends drift through. Hugs and kisses and catching up in the moment before the workshop starts. Everyone’s in their seat. We’ll continue the conversation at intermission.
During the first half of the evening, half my thoughts are on the performances in front of me; the feedback that’s being given to the actor on the stage. The other half of my thoughts are thinking back to that night at the bar. What do I know of Gabe, really? A few facts. But I realize with a bit of a start: I’d been the one doing most of the talking. Not that I minded: I’m usually the one doing the questioning; delving deeper to know who the person is, how they work, what they really want to say. I wonder: is that all I enjoyed about his company? A handsome man admiring me while I prattled on about myself?
I mean, don’t get me wrong: my Dublin story is to die for. And I’m a fascinating conversationalist if I do say so myself. And it had been fun, it had been FUN to reminisce over old travel stories. Take them out and dust them off and make them sparkle and show them off to an appreciative stranger. It was fun to dazzle. Except…
Well. Could he dazzle me in return?
Intermission rolls around. I turn to Gabe. So, about your full week? Tell me more about it.
…And he does.
…And he does.
…And there are all night ravers involved.
…Last night. Monday.
…Wild parties in Dumbo in Brooklyn.
…In old warehouses.
…On school nights.
…So that he had barely made it up to work that morning.
…There was another all night raver in a few hours. After this.
…In a sketchy warehouse.
…Far from home.
…On a school night.
And: with a grin that I previously thought was winning, and now seemed rather wan:
…I should come along.
I look around for Derek. Where the hell is Derek? Why the hell can’t Derek ever get his damn timing right? Just once!
I ask a few more half-hearted questions. Such a man of quality! I had thought: having fallen in love with the way he looked at me and the sound of my own voice. Such a man of culture! I had thought: having enjoyed someone who simply gave me room to speak, and didn’t mention that he was a grown ass man living like a teenager. Such a handsome man! I had thought: although now I looked long at him, and his full hair looked lank, and his height seemed to have shrunk, and his clothes had not been changed from the night before.
I faced forward abruptly.
Oh, dear God.
I’d fallen in love with myself.
Goodnight, Old Lover
The second half of the evening progressed, and I was a bit more attentive to the actors and the feedback. I chatted with some friends as we all tumbled out into the city streets. I don’t know if I said goodbye to Gabe. I probably did, and wished him well on his trek to whatever life he had been living before he stumbled into mine.
And as I wandered towards Times Square, blithely slaloming between the tourists trapped on street corners, unsure of where to go, I decided that it is nice, sometimes, to just be the fascinating one instead of having to find someone else fascinating. To fall in love with all your old adventures, while a handsome man stares deep into your eyes.
So long as you can rid yourself of Derek, of course.
Aware that the handsome guy you’re talking to, might also be a Derek, all along.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
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