It’s been a very cold and grey week. The Christmas music has been inescapable and the New York holiday crowds are as thick as I can ever remember them. I’ve been an emotional tangle of restlessness all week and while I’ve been trying to open myself up to the spirit of the holidays I’ve had a critical voice in my head that is stubborn, easy to anger and slams closed any door that the Christmas spirit might find it’s way through.
Earlier this week I happened to see a television program, one that I rarely watch, and on that program is a guy I used to fuck around with back in California. I’ve seen him on this show before but this week it struck me especially hard. He’s always been extremely handsome and as he’s aged that hasn’t changed. It was a frigid December night and I was eating take-out from the carton, watching TV and mindlessly shoveling food into my face with chopsticks when this guy from my past; tall, sexy, handsome and so very happy and successful, smiles into the camera and throws me into a vortex of self-pity. I can’t even imagine what a weekly paycheck from a prime-time television show would look or feel like. Immediately I made his success all about my own lost opportunities and lack of success.
Like the one-two punch from a heavy weight champ, the next day I received a message on Facebook from someone I haven’t seen in years, someone I haven’t thought about in years. We were on the same volunteer team for GMHC back in 85 or 86. I remember having a crush on him then and feeling invisible. Since that time he’s had a career as a publisher, started a magazine and been very successful and visible in the gay media. I’ve always found him attractive and have always been intimidated by him. The message read, “When did you move back to New York? The last time I saw you was at the Slow Club in San Francisco”.
I had no recollection of this. Perhaps I was embarrassed that I was waiting on tables and he was a big-wig in gay publishing so I blocked it out or maybe I avoided him because of the aforementioned attraction and intimidation factors and I blocked it out or maybe, and this is the most probable scenario, I was too fucked up to remember.
I answered his message, I made light of my not having any recollection of our West Coast meeting and made some general niceties, hope he was well, etc… Then I went on Facebook and looked through the pictures posted to his profile. There were pictures of parties at summer homes with happy people holding cocktail glasses, laughing. There were pictures of trips to European capitals and various exotic locations, mountains, seashores and familiar feelings of envy, lost opportunity and inadequacy fell over me and solidified like a hard candy coating.
Yesterday a cold rain hammered the slick reflective city streets. I decided to go downtown to try and do some Christmas shopping. I maneuvered my way through a whirl of garlands, poinsettias and twinkling lights, piped in carols, shopping bags and umbrellas. I became so irritated by the crowds, so frustrated at the high prices and so confused by the choices that I went home empty handed. I found myself to be fully under equipped, both financially and emotionally, to deal with the seemingly simple task of buying a few Christmas presents.
I descended the subway steps at 34th street. Wet, tired and dejected I entered the subway car and caught myself staring at a man with a long beard who looked like he could use a meal and a bath. He was wearing plastic bags as socks and I looked away out of embarrassment. As I turned I noticed my friend David leaning against the door, his hands on the stroller in front of him just smiling at me with fondness and affection. He said nothing he just smiled. I bent down and started talking to his child. The boy offered me the toy train he was playing with and the three of us shared a few moments before they got off at the next stop. The doors opened, David smiled at me over his shoulder and wheeled his boy into the crowd on the platform. The doors closed and the train pulled away into the tunnel with me in it and though I still wasn’t happy about the season, I felt a little lighter, a little more at peace, a little more like I was where I was supposed to be.