“Wanna come over?” My friend Clare texts me. “I’m packing up the apartment.”
I am sitting alone in my own packed up apartment that no longer has Internet or cable and freaking out because my face has been numb for the past two days. People tell me it’s because of the stress from the move and maybe they’re right. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I couldn’t catch my breath for three months and I was convinced it was because of a lung problem but, of course, it turned out to be anxiety. Now, all these years later, it’s happening to me again. I guess no one can drive you crazy quite like yourself, right?
I clearly need a distraction and I want to see Clare before she leaves, so I take the train to Bed-Stuy where she lives for the last time ever. Everything is for the last time now.
When I go inside her apartment, it looks just like mine: empty and yet somehow cluttered. Her boyfriend, Dylan, is on the floor strumming a guitar, Clare is in overalls, and the two of us immediately start talking about our favorite subject: psoriasis. (Like Kim Kardashian, Clare and I are both sufferers of the trendy skin condition.)
“Last week, I thought I had lice because I was having such a bad outbreak.” She smiled regretfully at Dylan. “Dyl spent two hours doing a lice treatment on my hair.”
Dylan smiled back.
Moments later, Dylan’s friend comes over and, like most straight males, they keep conversation to a minimum and start to jam out on their guitars. Clare and I then go into her bedroom to do what girls do, which is have feelings and talk. I immediately start tearing up thinking about Dylan patiently washing Clare’s hair in the sink because he loves her and that is the grand prize for getting someone to be with you. They help you pack. They search for fucking bugs in your hair.
I’m not usually this emotional but on the eve of any big change, you can’t help but assess where you are in your life, how you got there, and what you could have done differently. While I’ve certainly had an amazing time being young in a city that makes you feel your youth each and every day, I also know that I spent too much time chasing after the wrong things. Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here on my best friend’s bed crying if I didn’t decide to take all the pills in the world or run away whenever a boy showed me true affection. The consequence of feeling too much for the past five years is, as it turns out, literal numbness. WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT?
A few hours later I leave Clare’s and go back to Manhattan. This is goodbye and it’s hard but it’s really only just begun.
I am saying goodbye to my best friend Tanner the only way gay men know how: by dancing in a gay bar to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” JK, there are obviously other ways. This is just the most joyful, I guess. The easiest.
Gay men need gay friends. Tanner taught me that. You need a tribe who can speak your language and relate to all the specific problems and triumphs gay men have. Otherwise, you will be lonely. Hell, gay or straight, you’ll be lonely if you aren’t surrounded by love. That’s another thing I learned in the last few years. In order to be truly happy, you need to seek out healthy love wherever you can find it. Be tenacious. Don’t stop until you get it because everyone is at their best when they are loved and loving someone.
I love Tanner and I know he loves me and for tonight that’s enough to not make me feel numb.
I am moving out of the apartment I’ve shared with Caitie, my best friend of the last ten years. She’s moving in with her boyfriend in an apartment in Carroll Gardens and there’s a good chance we might not ever live in the same city again. I know these are the natural rhythms of twenty-something life but I’m still crying. No, actually, I’m sobbing. We’re sitting outside at a basic bitch cafe in the East Village drinking sangria and shoveling pasta in our mouths. People are staring at me because my sobs are deafening but they can go fuck themselves. I’ve spent the last five years watching other people lose their shit in New York and now it’s my turn.
“And I just can’t fathom the concept of never living in the same city as you,” I say to her. “Just the idea that this will be long-distance forever is heartbreaking.”
All of a sudden, someone Caitie knows walks by our table and interrupts my crying fit, which is totally embarrassing albeit not surprising. This city loves to make you look stupid. It serves you a slice of humble pie every goddamn day. You think you’re hot shit? Well, guess what? You just stepped in a homeless man’s shit. You want to have a dignified farewell dinner? Too bad. Everyone is going to see you ugly-cry into your penne with vodka sauce. The line between chic and bleak is constantly getting blurred here.
Caitie’s friend gets the memo that now is not the best time for small talk and leaves. Without skipping a beat, I continue to cry. I typically never cry but it’s been happening almost every day now. I don’t know why. I suppose change is hard for me and it’s embarrassing to admit because it makes me feel weak. Like, I got hit by a car and lost half of the function in my hand when I was twenty and somehow this move feels more difficult. WTF?
But I think it goes deeper than me moving and being in a time of transition. It has to do with experiencing a moment of clarity that leads to a sincere desire to change the way you live your life. A few weeks ago, I had drinks with some friends and one of them was talking about how he recently made some major changes in his diet.
“I’m fascinated by that!” I said to him.
“Fascinated by what?”
“I’m fascinated by anyone who makes a real change in their lives. In my twenty six years of living, I haven’t made a single drastic change. I’ve lived my life the way I live it for forever. Same shit, different day.”
“That’s good, though. That means you fundamentally like everything about your life.”
“It could mean that. Or it could mean, you know, something else.”