You’re asking me will my love grow
I don’t know, I don’t know
You stick around now it may show
I don’t know, I don’t know
— Something, The Beatles
Something is going to happen. It has to, because so far, there’s just empty potential. I can feel it. It’s the way the air seems thick and yellow now, like it just has to burst soon. The city’s streets are darker, warmer, full of possibility, full of ‘Yes.’ When you’re newly alone, people suddenly seem like atoms, like bumper cars, like balls of kinetic energy waiting to collide with each other. You’re looking outward now. Seeking.
Suddenly, you’re something to me. Suddenly, you’re in my universe. Suddenly, you’re in my story and I’m in yours.
It’s certainly sudden. It’s certainly something.
Sometimes if I’m walking with someone I don’t know very well I think about how pieces of a building could collapse on us in a freak accident and then we’d forever be tied by some thing that happened to us that neither of us could control. I think about how embarrassing it would be to watch a stranger bleed out.
Or when a car crashes and the newspaper lists the dead and their ages — 17, 21, 22, 24, 31 — and I wonder, were they friends? Or were they just getting a ride with someone they hardly knew and now they died together — this intimate, intimate thing: death — and it ties these maybe-strangers together forever.
Then I think: How awkward.
“I did LSD once and now I always see things with wavy lines around them,” a man who is becoming a friend tells me late at night outside a bar, pointing to a lit street lamp. “You see those lines around the light?” I nod. “I see them around people now.”
“How long has it been that way?” I ask, chewing on my cuticles like I do when I’m drunk or nervous or both. Another friend is next to us but he is not listening. I wonder if the man — my friend — if he sees different lights around different people, like a medium sensing an aura, if he likes certain lights better than others, if he likes my light, if he uses that as a way to make friends, to decide how to spend the time when he is not alone.
“Little over a decade,” he replies.
I lean back against the stone wall and look up at the light.
I have been alone a lot lately and when I am, I hear (in my head) him calling me a nickname he used to call me and I haven’t really cried, but I also haven’t really been thinking about it. That’s how you know someone you miss was really there — because you can physically feel their absence.
Usually having a house guest makes me anxious but on Saturday, JE locks herself out of her apartment and texts me asking if she can sleep over. I am relieved to have someone with me, to be talking out loud.
She comes over and we sit on my bed, side-by-side, writing. I tell her I am lonely. I tell her I am drinking a lot. I tell her I am writing. I end every sentence with, “But it’s fine. It’s amicable. It’s no one’s fault. Everybody’s friends.” She jokes that I’ve said it so much it’s going to be the title of my autobiography. “Everybody’s Friends And Other Tales of Self-Hatred And Denial.”
“Let’s play a game,” JE says, to lighten the mood. “I’ll give you five words and you have to include them in the next piece you write, no matter what.”
I laugh, “I’m not playing a game with my writing career.”
“Why not?” she says. She’s writing her Master’s thesis on Moby Dick. She is way behind on it. It is due in two weeks. She has nine pages completed. She has kind of given up. “You can do it for me too. Pick any five.”
“Cacophony,” I say.
“Arcana,” she says.
I feel relaxed.
I am drunk again.
“Don’t be jealous, don’t be jealous,” he says.
“I am though. I am.”
“I don’t even know who you’re jealous of,” he says.
I shake my head. “I’m not 100 percent sure I really have a handle on that either.”
It’s a weeknight.
Men in their thirties, I think. That’s the ticket. Find someone in their thirties. Someone divorced maybe, with experience, with cynicism, with darkness. Most of the men in their thirties I know right now — and for some reason I’m clinging to them lately like they know something I don’t — anyway, most of them have motorcycles.
So, okay. Find someone with a motorcycle. Someone who isn’t these little boys with their uncertainties and their wants and their angry blood rushing under their shallow skin and their anxieties and their idiocy and their futures. Find a man in his thirties who has some time and who wants nothing, with no urgency, and who knows how to move your body in a way that wakes you up when you didn’t even know you were sleeping. Find someone who will say, “Let me just pay for a cab.”
That will solve everything.
“I think I use sex as a way to not think,” I tell my therapist. “To quiet all the noise in my head. To leave myself.”
“Is that bad?” he asks. He is young. My age maybe. In a collared shirt. His name is Mitch and he is from California and sometimes he uses “gay” to mean “bad” but I don’t think he means it because he always cringes and apologizes after like he’s breaking a habit. He runs a workshop on polyamory and seems very open-minded. I have been going to him for a few months. One time he compared my feeling like two different people to “Miley and Hannah.”
“Well, should I be using it that way I mean? Isn’t sex supposed to be…something, I guess?”
“Is it always something?” he asks.
“Not to me,” I say. I love some people I have never touched. I hate some people I have.
“You need to stop associating sex with guilt,” Mitch says. “What do you feel guilty about?”
A crush in the summertime never feels real and people are starting to feel like summer people. Instead of working on Sunday, I go to see a horror movie with ten new friends. We sit in a long row and pass down beers and Baby Bell cheeses and chocolate bars. We laugh when someone opens their can of Miller too loudly. We squeal at the gore. We ask questions like, “Oh no! Is she going to die?!”
In this moment, I have a crush on everyone. I want to keep them, to wrap myself in them and to not think. I could turn my pulsing, carousing, over-active brain off with any of them. It could be like summer all the time.
I think this is friendship or affection and I am confusing two different kinds of love, which is something I do sometimes. I think, either way, this is love though.
So that’s something.
I don’t want to do LSD because one time I was on mushrooms and the only revelation I had was, “No one will ever know me. I will always be alone.”
“That is so dark,” she says, but she is laughing so then, I laugh.
“I don’t know,” I tell him as we’re lying in bed. “I never noticed you before. You were just…a guy I knew. You didn’t make any impact at all. And then suddenly, the other night when I saw you, something clicked. You had something. Suddenly I thought, ‘Oh yeah! You! You! How could I have missed this?’”
“I know you never noticed me,” he says. “I don’t know what changed.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “Something changed. You became something.”
He kisses me and later, disappears.
I spill my guts about the break up to a virtual stranger over dim sum. I’m talking a lot lately to fill a void — to myself, to friends, to people I don’t even know. I’m over-sharing. I call my best friend but he is away and might be annoyed at me and it’s starting to feel like neither of us are saying what we want to say, just mashing words together to make sure we don’t say what we’re thinking, corking our throats, ignoring the pauses.
It’s depressing the sh-t out of me.
Sometimes I think: Who really knows each other?
I think: All you can do is just be something to some people for some time. You can’t hold on to anything; Someone is so important and then they are nothing.
I think: How could someone mean something and then they’re — poof — gone?
I think: I would never have sex with Mitch.
I think: Where do the summer people go in the winter?
I think: How do you keep friends?
I think: Something is going to happen. I can feel it. I am thrilled. I am alone. I am terrified.