from Saturday night September 12th 2008
I went out to THE DOCKS last night. There was a 1984 Prom Night Party in which everybody (almost) dressed up in period kit. I had forgotten that this was the night of the long-discussed event. It kind of makes me sad when people look back nostalgically on a time that doesn't seem all that different to me.
I noticed that all the women were still quite concerned over looking attractive and not at all ridiculous-as opposed to keeping to the period. Men, on the other hand, could afford to push their costumes to the edge of silliness. I suppose that no matter what the theme of the party might be, these women have to think about the game.
I sat at the bar and talked a bit to an older guy-I think his name was Kip-whose wife was from Missouri. (This was our only possible connection but it seemed to interest him extraordinarily.) Lola the very former Rockette dancer was there, nursing her white wine with a lizard like smile on her face. In fact, she is a very funny woman-although at times I am not exactly sure whether she intends to be. This is true of most New Yorkers, their sense of humor is very sharp and dry and, unless it is part of the act, they rarely find anything humorous in the things they say.
Anyway, sitting at the bar was also a round black guy named Jackson. He and Lola were discussing the size of the galaxy and what would eventually happen to it. The great thing about meeting people in a New York bar is that the conversation is almost always entertaining. They are quite developed in this respect. They may not exactly be well-informed or even correct about a lot of the subjects but they seem to be full of interests. (This is a key ingredient of good conversation, I have always thought.)
For example, Lydia was telling us why meeting and developing relationships with people on Internet was such a lousy idea. "In order to judge whether a person is good or bad, I need all my senses. Not just sit there typing. That's nonsense. You have use your sense of eyes, your nose, your touch.."
I stopped her. "Your nose?" I think I laughed a bit.
She appeared slightly miffed at my reaction. "Sure, everybody has a smell. Years after somebody dies, the smell remains in their clothes."
"Well, I hope I don't smell too much. What about Kip?"I asked, who had just left.
She took a sip of her wine and waved her hand."Oh, him. No, he just has bad breath."
Later, after Lola and Kip had left, Jackson and I remained in the far end of the bar, increasingly pressed together by the crowds. The music became noise and, as more and more people piled in, it soon became apparent that the owners of the bar had never expected this turnout. Seriously understaffed. Normally in a bar, you have a line of customers waiting at either end. About an hour into the party, the entire bar was crowded with people, standing over the people trying to sit at the bar. You could see the entire order of the bar break down and customers becoming frustrated, but still laughing. Jackson kept saying he would be leaving and instead other Jack Daniels would appear. He finally had to wait for nearly an hour to get his credit card back.
I made eye contact with a lot of men and women after Jackson left. One woman sat next to me and began talking. Her name was Andrea and she was covered in ugly tattoos like lichen on limestone. She began this stream of mindless chatter that I could barely understand amid the live music. (The speakers were right behind us in any case.) On and on she went, something about her ancestry. Finnish -Irish. Something about her being married 3 times. At first I strained to hear every word and then I realized that it would not be worth it in any case. This was no place to have a chat and she was probably not the kind of person I would appreciate or even enjoy. Eventually she became an annoying addition to an already uncomfortable situation. "Are you married?" She suddenly asked me. I stopped for a second. And she said, "Ah, you are. " In fact the reason I hesitated was simply because I had to remember. "Yes, I am." "Oh," she looked sadly in her drink. "Figures, the only handsome man who isn't gay or with somebody, I should have known. Well, we can just be drinking buddies then." Frankly, although I didn't say it, but I wondered if I even wanted to spend the next three minutes with her. There was this particularly irritating desperation and bullying approach. As if I had broken her heart by being married, she scrambled off the bar stool and was suddenly gone. I apparently played some minor role in her drama of the night
Right after that, a kind of inward focus took over, you know that feeling if you have ever drunk a wee bit more than necessary. Like the circle of awareness has irised in and a circle of about 5 feet is all that is important. I recall that there was the married couple silently searching for a third. She was tall and thin and unattractive in a British housewife sort of way. He stared on in the background with a cool and distant glare, waiting to give his inevitable nod of approval for her choice. However, his distance bordered on effeminacy. But something in my return glance must have given the show away for they retreated into the crowd like something that rises from the greenish murk of a lake by its own gases and then softly submerges once more.
Walking home in the drizzle, I crossed the street and looked over into Brooklyn. The Veranzano bridge was lit up with pale greenish lights and the top half of it was lost in the rain clouds. Maybe it was the alcohol but I suddenly had this wonderfully giddy feeling. As if I was the luckiest person, to be here and to be now, after everything I had been through. All those suicidal feelings in Greece that had come and had gone while I was slowly being digested by the sounds of the waves and wind off the sea. All through that time, I kept telling myself that things would get better although I didn't believe it. It seems as if just repeating that assurance was in itself a reassurance.
But now standing at the railing, looking over the skyline at night, the throbbing sounds of music from The Docks, I felt euphoric to know that it had, in fact, been true. Things had not been quite as bad as I had thought. Nearly… but not quite. And it is not as though I would have been so greatly missed by the world if I had died. There might have been a few tears for a few days, but experience has shown me that the tide of time washes away every trace very quickly. (It is the perhaps the privilege of the chosen few to bear the burden of remembering.) But, suddenly it seemed lucidly clear that if I had my attempted swim back to Turkey, I would have cheated myself of this experience. This glorious view of New York. The bar, the crowds the music, the excellent conversations with Lola and Jackson and Kip. That marvelous appeal to one’s vanity of being studied as potential bed partner by a stranger. The little dramas between people that happen out of nowhere and vanish just as suddenly. Meeting people briefly and knowing you will probably never meet them a second time. I would have stolen from myself all that and all that is to come.
When I got home, Amy was tattooing Brad's leg. Actually she was filling in the outline of the mysterious number eight on his leg. The sound of the buzzing of the tattoo machine sound like a huge but invisible wasp. I told them about the annoying woman with the breakneck chatter trying to pick me up and Amy said, not looking up from her work, “She was probably looking for her next ex-husband.”