The Saturday before Christmas I attended my friend Kristin's tree-trimming party. She has this gathering every year -- the first time I attended was in 1987, I think. She lives with her husband and child in Peter Cooper Village in the apartment she grew up in. Over 20 years ago, her fledgling theater company invited me to write music for two shows in their first season, and that began my career in New York theater. I even lived in her apartment for a few months in 1989 when we had both broken up with boyfriends around the same time. I had left mine and hers moved out, so it worked well.
At the party I saw friends I haven't seen in years and friends I still see frequently. I was struck with that sense of destiny-in-hindsight that reunions conjure up. A great deal of what has been important to me in the last 25 years of my life -- relationships, my work -- I can trace to my friendship with Kristin and the opportunities she gave me to create music for theatre, something I had never done before.
Tim, my friend and collaborator on Lizzie Borden, was also one of the founders and directors of Tiny Mythic Theater Company, which did most of its early shows in the recently-shuttered Ohio Theater on Wooster Street. I spent a good chunk of my late 20s and early 30s in that theater, and, now that the physical space is gone, I feel an urgency to protect the friendships that have endured from that time, like the magical source of a spring. That is only one among many reasons why I cherish my long friendship and collaboration with Tim: it anchors me in a history that I had a hand in creating. It helps me to feel like there's a meaningful arc to my life rather than (what it more often feels like) just a lot of random reactions to whatever circumstances present themselves.
I don't mean destiny in the sense of a deterministic view of the world, according to which everything is the result of chemical reactions that can only go one way so that's the way they go. Maybe it makes some kind of poetic sense when describing the sense of inevitability of a certain biography, but to say that a chain of organic events led to, say, a love affair, gives a lot of weight to the idea of a discrete self, a notion which a deterministic view eventually makes hash of.
At the beginning of December, I moved out of Tim's place to an apartment a few blocks away. I didn't know my roommate well before I moved in, but we have a couple of mutual friends, he's a writer, and his apartment is one of those magical New York apartments you always wonder who lives in when you walk by. His roommate moved out I think in October and he asked me if I wanted to move in. I said no -- I didn't want to stay in Inwood, thought it was too remote at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, and the rent seemed high. But he still needed a roommate in November, asked me again, and by that time I had grown to love Inwood, and, after being back in the city for a while, the rent looked reasonable.
It's a sweet house with 4 apartments nestled among the type of huge pre-war brick apartment buildings that characterize most of Inwood. My roommate knows the other tenants in the building, a fact which I found reassuring, and in fact his best friend of many years lives across the hall.
A few days after I moved in, I got a wild hair and took out an ad on craigslist. I read the MFM ads from time to time, but more for entertainment than with the intention of responding to any of them or meeting anyone. The anonymity of them is what makes them sexy to read but it's also what makes me apprehensive to meet someone. Anonymous sex is one thing with someone you meet in a bar or club, but to invite someone to your house or go to a stranger's house without even meeting beforehand, well, I can be pretty fearless but that scares me.
My ad was basically a sex ad. I was specific about where I was and what I wanted. I got a handful of responses; one seemed promising. He was in the neighborhood, and he was as direct in his response as I was in my ad. We emailed back and forth a couple times. He sent a photo. He looked familiar, but I couldn't place him. I asked where he lived. Same corner as me.
Then I looked at his return email address. It was my roommate's best friend across the hall.
I emailed and told him who I was and that I knew who he was. We were both a little embarrassed, but by that time I think we both had a strong hunch we could have some fun together. He invited me over (I didn't even put shoes on) and we did.
All I wanted that night, frankly, was a blowjob, but he's handsome and he smiles with his eyes, he makes me laugh, and he's the perfect height to fit in the crook of my body. And now I'm falling, falling, falling. Jesus fuck me, why is this shit happening? After that first night, when we had ferociously intense, deeply connected sex and then spent a couple hours in each other's arms talking, we saw each other nearly every day for two weeks until we both left for Christmas. We've curled up on the couch and watched movies, shared with each other music we love, talked freely about our lives, our desires, our disappointments and loves.
I am not ready. It is not my turn. I did not want this. I did not look for this or pursue it in any way. I am not ready.
I've had several conversations with Tim. He's the one who listened to me crying on the phone from Austin when M and I broke up this summer, so he knows how badly timed this is and how afraid I am. He knows what I'm afraid of, a thing which is so recent and vivid and raw. Tim's advice is to enjoy this without fantasizing about what it might mean, what it could be, how it could end. Let go of the storyline, as Pema Chodron says.
It's good advice, but how to follow it? Isn't half the thrill of this moment the anticipation, isn't half of what gives this moment meaning, the recognition of a seed of a possibility of something deeper and more enduring? Isn't it all about the storyline? The sex is great, the physical contact, the ecstasy and comfort of being with someone who knows what I want and wants to give it to me. But there is also tangled up in it something more intimate, domestic, an affinity. How do I enjoy this moment without wanting what it portends? How do I not spin out the fantasy? He sees me. I feel like myself when I'm with him. I feel safe. Am I?
Is falling in love something that I just, for some reason, do? The timing could not be much worse. And I second-guess myself. Am I so susceptible to this new man because I still hurt, because I still feel the lack of M? Has M hollowed out a place where C fits nicely? Even if that is true, is there something wrong with that? It seems like an awfully punitive attitude to take, saying I should not be allowed to feel love because I am unusually open to it right now. Does it really matter where and when? Shouldn't love always be welcome and appropriate?
C is smart and soulful. He has great taste in music. He's funny. He likes my cooking. He's very, very sexy, and he wants to be with me. I just don't think you say no to that. I don't feel as though I deserve it -- how many chances do I get? -- but in what universe do you say no to that? He read my blog. He knows the worst of me. He knows stuff about me that not even I remember. And he still seems to want me.
I keep trying to bring what I may have learned from those months with M and how blind I was into this new beginning. What did I do wrong that I can do right this time? What did I say, how did I behave, what did I miss? But it doesn't work. C is not M. What M may have wanted from me won't be what C wants from me. All I can do is be myself. M didn't want that, and, though it's awfully early to tell, I think C does. The lesson is that there are no lessons. Every time you're flying blind.
Or the lesson might be: you are never ready for anything. Which is to say, you are always ready for everything.
In spite of whatever I might think about the timing, I find myself so willing, still wide open, yet in my head repeating, Don't hurt me, don't hurt me, please just don't hurt me.