friends

Saturday, November 9th, 2013 (Part 2)

Kyle and I cabbed it out to his place in Brooklyn, stopping by his neighborhood bodega for some snacks. For some reason, during the cab ride home, we’d become obsessed with the idea of getting Pringles. (I know, who doesn’t love Pringles? But then again, it’s not exactly the first drunk snack that comes to mind. Usually I go for something like a bacon, egg and cheese all pressed between the buns of a crispy bagel and oozing out or a burrito over-stuffed to bursting with chicken and sour cream and rice.)

Drunk and loopy on tiredness, I’m sure it was a sight seeing us order our Pringles. The bodega itself was closed, but they had a guy in there running things through a little order-out-window. We got just about every variety of Pringle they had…which was really only two — BBQ and Jalapeno. (If you’ve never had Jalapeno, go out and try it immediately! It was the best thing ever on a drunk tongue. It’s flavor scorched right through the boozy coating on my tongue left there after five hours of drinking and about eight whiskey-cokes.)

After getting our two cans of Pringles, we made our way to Kyle’s place. We sat there in his living room for about another hour, chatting comfortably and eating our Pringles. Not a single one was left by the time we made it to his bedroom.

We started hooking up, but then I fell asleep. My tiredness had finally gotten to me.And really, it was probably for the best.

When I woke up this morning, we hooked up and had a nice, casual goodbye. There was no running out of there at the sun’s rise, no pressure to feel like I was overstaying my welcome. It was comfortable. We chatted like usual.

It was nice having someone like that to just sit in bed with on a Saturday morning and shoot the breeze, like we used to do on weekend mornings when we didn’t have plans. There’s a comfort in it, in sharing a morning with someone special, even if you’re only friends. I certainly enjoyed it. It was the perfect kind of morning, bright skies outside, the light streaming through Kyle’s curtains just so, lounging comfortably in bed.

Eventually Kyle had some sort of dip brunch to get to. So I left him and walked towards the train, stopping at Chipotle on my way, getting that over-stuffed burrito that I usually want as a late night, drunken snack.

It was delicious, sitting there in Brooklyn, watching the bright street outside of the Chipotle as I thought back on the night I’d had, knowing, somehow, that things wouldn’t be weird with Kyle afterwards. Not like they were with Mitchell F.

I guess I’m making my way through friends of friends. Probably not the best strategy, but Jeremy doesn’t care. He would encourage it, I think. There’s a sense of security in it. A friend of mine is also your friend…that means he vouches for you; I know that you’re not loony. And maybe that’s exactly what I need for my rebound hook-ups, someone I can trust, someone I can be comfortable with, even if only a little bit.

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Last night I ran into Tyler, one of your roommates and your best friend. It was my first “connected-to-you” run-in, and I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, yes, I knew that eventually I’d run into you or one of your friends. It’s inevitable even in New York City. But I wasn’t ready for it to happen just yet. I’ve been living in fear of it, actually. Fear of what your friends will think of me, fear that they’ll have something to yell at me or that they’ll just ignore me completely. Even though they were your friends, I felt like in our year and a half together they became my friends too. I loved hanging out with them and playing boards games. And even though you had told me that they kind of missed having me at group outings, that me not being there changed the dynamics, I still wasn’t sure how’d they react to me now. Especially with you not present.

I always liked Tyler. You’ve known him since you were like eighteen. You lived with him in college for a few years and now you’ve lived with him in New York for the past eighteen months. I always got along with him way better than I did with your other roommate.

But I was still nervous to see Tyler again. I had already thought about it, what could happen when I eventually saw any of your friends out. I have worst-case scenarios drafted up for each of them. Never mind the nightmare it’d be if I ran into all of them at once, which would only be made worse because you’d most definitely be there, too.

Tyler is actually the one I dreaded running into the most. He’s your best friend and somehow I knew he’d be the first one I saw. He goes out the most of all of you. He didn’t like me when you and I first started dating. I remember him drunkenly telling me this about six months into our relationship. He’d changed his mind about me by that point. But it still didn’t help knowing that at the start he had loathed me, thought that I was terrible for you, despite all the sports I could talk with him. If there’s one thing Tyler’s passionate about, it’s Oklahoma State athletics, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, the Oklahoma Thunder and just sports in general. Like me, I’m sure he’d be happy sitting and watching curling all day (which is actually a super intriguing chess match of a sport). Running into him now, I thought that maybe this original distaste for me would show up again, maybe now that we are no longer dating he could get back to disliking me.

But it was Tyler who came up to me. I didn’t even see him. We were going into some bar and all of a sudden I felt this tap on my shoulder. I was already with the only people I know who go to gay bars, so I had no idea who it could be. Turning, though, I recognized Tyler. He had his football friends with him. Lou and Nico who I’ve met on several occasions. I haven’t seen them in like four months, though. And I haven’t seen Tyler since early-August. Crazy how much time has passed already. My friends went on inside. I don’t think they even saw Tyler flag me down. I stayed out and talked to him for a little while.

Obviously some of our conversation involved you. But I tried to keep that topic to a minimum. I asked how your birthday party had gone the night before, and that was it. Then we moved on to mostly sports. Nadal regaining the number one ranking in the world, lots of college football – Oklahoma getting upset that afternoon by a terrible Texas team, Baylor barely holding on to beat Kansas State, Oklahoma State’s terrible loss to West Virginia a few weeks before…a lot of Big Twelve stuff.

I also learned a couple of interesting things from Tyler. First, he tore his ACL. That’s terrible luck. I can’t imagine how much it must be killing him not to be able to run or play tennis or lift weights or play any more games in the New York City Gay Football League. He said he’s having surgery over Thanksgiving, so hopefully that’ll go well. But it’s still a long PT road to full recovery. My kickball friend had surgery to repair his ACL a month ago, and it’s been hard. (A lot of canes stolen at bars.) At least you all have an elevator in your building.

Tyler also told me that your other roommate (the one I don’t particularly like) ended up going home with your boss after your birthday party. At first I thought Tyler meant your actual boss, the flamboyant forty-something man who I met at the Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake concert, your group director, who talked on and on about how amazing the Madonna concert had been at Yankee Stadium a few years before. Kind of queeny and not your other roommate’s type at all. And that’s why it would have been hilarious. Your director’s older and has a nice (I assume) apartment in Chelsea. Think of all the free dinners and beach weekends your other roommate could get out of him. He’s always looking for a deal.

But no, it was only one of your managers. Apparently he tried to get with all of your friends. No surprise that you other roommate took him up on the offer. I wonder how awkward Monday morning will be for you. Hopefully your manager will realize your roommate’s just in it for the sex. Co-workers dating friends…that sounds like a nightmare, especially if that co-worker is one of your supervisors.

At the end of the conversation I told Tyler that I missed our sports talks. I also told him that we should watch a game or something sometime. I know that’s not going to happen, but I felt the need to relay some show of friendliness. Because like I said before, I do really like Tyler. And I love talking sports. All I have now is Kristen to talk football with. I need my regular sports fix which Tyler always gave me. Who am I going to wax rhapsodic with come NCAA basketball season? It’s just around the corner. And Oklahoma State is supposed to be good this year, maybe even better than my team, the Kentucky Wildcats.

One of the best things out of the conversation was that Lou told me I looked skinnier, like I’d lost a lot of weight. My workout success continues, just so you know. I’m still at fifteen pounds lighter. (To re-enforce Lou’s words, later that night my friend Scott decided to make a drunken confession. He told me that back when we were still dating I had “let myself go.” Which is true, especially in contrast to where I’m at now and the workouts I’m doing. But it still pissed me off. I mean, fuck Scott for saying that.  Because yes, I know I let myself go some back then. But my letting myself go is still better than most people on their best days. And I know that sounds super narcissistic, but those are the words that ran through my drunken head last night. I don’t have much of a filter on regular days. When I’m drunk, everything just spews out.)

After Tyler and I finished talking I headed inside. It was good to know that your friends don’t hold a grudge or hate me categorically for being an ex-. One less thing to be afraid of, though I’m still going to avoid Hell’s Kitchen for a while. I’ll return soon. But right now I’d rather not run the risk of seeing you out. I’m lucky it was one of Tyler’s nights with his football buddies or you would have been there. And as well as I am doing with our break-up right now, I know that seeing you and the inevitable awkwardness that would ensue would set me back. When I’m ready to run into you again, I’m sure you’ll see me in Hell’s Kitchen, but until then I’ll keep having a good time in the East Village.

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

My family is in town for a few days. My parents and my older brother. It’s always a mixed bag when they come. It’s great to see them (we only visit three or four times a year), but it’s also taxing, like when any out-of-towner comes for a visit. There are dinners to plan, tourist attractions to force myself to go see for the tenth time and so much walking.

But their visit does mean that I get a lot of nice, free dinners and we always go to see at least one Broadway show. It’s always good to catch up with them. My favorite moments of their visits are always the post-dinner hotel room hangouts where we hang out and play cards or watch television (we’ve been especially lucky the last few visits as the St. Louis Cardinals , my family’s team, have been playing in the Major League Baseball Playoffs each year).

It’s funny how, as you get older, you start to understand your parents better. They become less of these monolithic figures, omnipresent and pivotal in shaping your life, and more normal. They lose that sheen of invincibility and become human. It’s weird looking at them now and actually seeing their characters: hot-tempered, competitive, exacting, dulcet, acquiescent, opinionated. Characteristics I see mixed up in myself like DNA but different because these were impressed on me after I’d entered the world.

I hope that I’ve managed to take the good bits from them both and balanced them, though I know I haven’t accomplished this feat perfectly. I don’t think anyone can and be truly honest about who they are. And you know how I prize authenticity.

Whenever my parents visit it’s a good chance for me to gauge my own self, where I’m at on the spectrum of them. I’m reminded of the things I like and am annoyed by in their personalities and then I’m able to look at mine own actions and inactions and see how I’m doing. It’s a helpful reminder, a gentle correction so that I don’t end up completely like them. Not that I don’t strive to emulate them. I love my parents and all they’ve done for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be better.

(Isn’t that every parent’s hope? That their children will rise above them. Maybe this is usually meant socio-economically, but I think it should apply to personality as well. People always talk about wanting more for their children. But children are allowed to want more for themselves. I can have aspirations, too.)

Every time my parents visit it also serves as a measure to how far I’ve come in my life, how far I’ve distanced myself from my small hometown in Kentucky, and how much farther I still have to go. My family’s conversations are filled with talk of students (both my father and brother are teachers) and their middle-of-nowhere lives. The students’ parents who can’t understand that good grades are earned on merit and not awarded for effort alone, the school administrators piling form after form onto their teachers just to save their own asses from liability and the terror of litigious parents, the students whose world will end if at eighteen they aren’t popular or aren’t asked to prom by the right guy.

These people think life is made in high school, that a thing like valedictorian matters in the real world. They spend their school careers obsessed with all this minutia, never realizing it all matters for so very little. And then they go away to some state college and come back as teachers and lawyers and (the rare few) as doctors, content to spend the rest of their lives wrapped up in the politics of a small hometown where I guess the history of their high school careers does matter.

These people, my former classmates, still remember every high school moment, every triumph and slight, every bad hair day and every A on a test. Me? I can barely remember the names of my classmates, kids I spent fifteen years growing up with. I only talk to a few of them now. And maybe it’s my loss that I haven’t kept close. Some of my classmates I’m sure have moved on to different and exciting lives, far away from our roots in Madisonville. But for those back in my hometown, it seems like everyone’s still orbiting around their eighteen-year-old selves, stuck to that adolescent iteration of themselves and happy to stay there.

I can’t imagine how I’d be now if I’d gone back or stayed in Kentucky in the first place. I don’t even recognize my closeted eighteen-year-old self, I’ve changed so much since back then. What would I even do in Madisonville? I mean, the most interesting piece of recent news from my hometown is that the church near where I lived got turned into a plastic surgeon’s office. (A facelift for the congregation.)

I guess I could work at the bank or teach English at my old high school. Those are about the brightest options.

And as for fun in Madisonville? Apparently the big new thing is karaoke night at Applebee’s. Imagine me singing at an Applebee’s, wearing Walmart jeans and an Old Navy sweater.

Frightening, I know. But that’s what people do there for fun.

Not that living in my hometown would be all bad. It has its silver linings. I could help out with coaching my high school swim team and own a house. I’d save a ton of money on food and rent. But then I wouldn’t have met you.

We do have gays in my hometown, but none like you.