Saturday, May 29, 2010

Insignificant Others

You are insignificant to me. An insignificant other, I think, as I walk down this concrete sidewalk in the late hours of a Saturday afternoon that's well past its prime. I embellished you and made you into this wonderful creature of a man in my own head, yet you think nothing of pulling quite a little number on me.

I pass a college-age couple holding hands on their way to Potbelly and I smirk at the idea of holding hands with anyone. Ever. I am frigid and will not be letting my fingers loose any time soon, not even for a single moment because a single moment is enough for me to clench that Blackberry and type a dramatic one-liner to you.

I can end it with you right now. But I am still waiting.

You want me to get on that roller-coaster of an emotional ride where the high peaks are counteracted by the deep and infuriating lows. You want to make me feel how intense of an effect you have on me by making me go from balling my eyes out on my bed in a fetal position to throwing something at you and punch a hole in my apartment wall, one right after another. But I won't/I'll try not to.

I enter Potbelly to order a sandwich and stand behind the lovey-dovey couple, half-heartedly contemplating getting a tuna sandwich with swiss cheese and a bottle of Orangina. You pop up in my head again and distract me enough to not be able to formulate a cohesive order once I approach the sandwich girl behind the counter.

"One second, I haven't decided yet," I mutter and step back, letting the people behind me place their orders instead.

The chalk-board with daily soup and milkshake specials is to the left of me and I pretend to be perusing the selection, deep in thought. Meanwhile, I unfold the palm of my hand and look down at my Blackberry, as my anxiety builds up inside and threatens to spill over.

This must be the fiftieth time today that I've checked my phone hoping for something, anything from you.

No messages. No messages for three days, while you're galloping around somewhere in the exotic Mediterranean lands with your study-abroad friends. Do you believe that?

I curse my Blackberry and technology of the last twenty years in general for making me feel so alienated while being so connected to the world. I can't miss a single newsletter in my Gmail inbox from Architectural Record, yet your daily updates have been abruptly cut down from three or four to none.

"Are you ready to order?" the sandwich girl urges me to make a decision and prevent me from blocking the inflow of customers coming in for a dinner after some baseball game.

"Yeah... tuna sandwich on white bread with provologne... please..."

My meal is the least of my problems right now.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And After Tonight

To Grandma. I miss you every day.

You look up at the stars winking down at you from the sky and see them smirking back in silence at the tiny human speckles down below on the ground - speckles that are going about their daily lives, so immersed in the daily troubles that they cannot notice anyone but themselves. The stars look down from a distance that cannot even be grasped by your understanding. Your perception is that we are enclosed within this little box of a world, because we can't and don't want to understand our insignificance in the grand scheme of things that had happened and are yet to happen long after we are gone.

Yet there is a sense of comfort that can be found at gazing up at the stars in those late-night moments of loneliness. Knowing that there might be someone, somewhere on this tiny little planet looking at the very same star at the very same time creates an illusive but calming connection to another human being thousands of miles away. And at that moment, even though thousands of miles away might as well be light years of a distance, we can tell ourselves that we are somehow connected to each other and feel relevant and needed.

Dare I admit that in my moments of sappiness I, too, look up at the stars and become a hopeful, naive and wide-eyed sixteen year old, even just for a limited number of minutes? Because I do and because lately I've become more and more appreciative of my moments of innocence, which I crave and long for. That delectable feeling of opening your heart to the world, where you are not yet aware of all the hurt and pain and disappointment other people can inflict upon you if you are not too careful - those are the moments to live for. To never become too cynical or reluctant to experience and explore new things. To never settle for anything but the butterflies, as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City would say.

Today was that day when I lived for the butterflies and I let my heart feel things, even where the sky was still much too bright for me to see the stars.

Today was the day that ended a chapter in my life with me successfully defending my Master's thesis for the very last time in front of an audience of 10 skeptical and very tired architectural critics.

Today was the day I had my heart broken by my career choice and the gloom of today's economy when I got rejected by a firm that I worked for three years ago, in the hey day of the architectural and construction boom. I have a 4.0 grade point average and I am unemployed. Let my brilliance sink in the ocean of unemployment, why don't you America.

Today was the day that I submitted my 170-page thesis document for the university's approval, but not before adding one more page - an acknowledgments blurb where I simply stated,

"To Grandma, I miss you every day."

- and surprising even myself by uncontrollably balling my eyes out as I struggled to type out the words.

Today was the day I looked up at the night sky from my balcony, soaking in the little triumphs and disappointments of the recent moments that are defining of my personal history but are, most likely, simple irrelevant inner struggles to anyone else but myself, and became grateful for all that I have, despite all that I don't have.

Grateful for being able to say that I have experienced the feeling of being in love and for being able to love unconditionally like a lusty seventeen-year-old at the age of twenty five, for being able to say that I've given my best to the profession that may never pay off for me, for being able to live and let go of the worries in my drunken moments. For being able to be myself.

At the end of the day... well, maybe not every day, but at least once in a while, I think we should all be able to be grateful to be in our own skin. Even when the grass seems a bit greener on the other side and the stars aren't shining down on us as brightly as they can be.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Drug of Choice

Drugs can be addictive, kids - it's a fact. Some people feed off of their own high, just living for the next moment they can get their fix, with everything else just becoming a filler until the next time they get their dose of happiness in a syringe, packet or a blunt. And what is all the anticipation for? A quick couple of hours spent feeling lifted and a very possible withdrawal later on, just to come back and repeat the cycle all over again. Oh what a feeling it is to be relying on a substance to get through and to be happy, but some people will do anything to be happy, even if they are paying a fatal price for it.

Doesn't love operate on the same level, when a guy/girl might be wrong for you but you keep coming back because there are glimpses of bliss, here and there, because there is hope for something you conjured up in your own head to get you through the stressful minutes of the every day?

I tried to quit my drug because I wanted to move on, convinced that there might be something better out there, convinced that my withdrawals and hangovers weren't worth the couple of hours every couple of months where I felt completely and totally happy. I tried working on moving on, maybe half-heartedly and maybe still hoping for my drug to keep my heart fried all the time without any side-effects, but I did try, nevertheless.

However, when my drug... Mr J contacted me and said that he wanted to come visit me for a day before he left for Europe to take a couple of classes in some abroad-law-school program, I could no longer deny my interest in him. I shifted things around, I stayed up later every night to squeeze more work in and be more productive, all so I could free up some time to see Mr J.

I was discombobulated, exasperated and out of breath, rushing into my apartment Friday evening - fresh from an airport and a job interview in Philly , I beat Mr J to my apartment by only a couple of flimsy minutes. While at my place, I ran around frantically, stuffing excess articles of clothing and books on my living room floor into the nooks and crannies of my closets so that my apartment would look pristine in time for his visit. I couldn't forget freshening up either - I curled my eyelashes, applied some mascara, powdered my cheeks with blush, sprinkled a bit of my favorite Vera Wang perfume on my wrists. I was about to revert back to my old way and give into my drug of choice, and I couldn't wait to do it.

He arrived a few minutes behind me and called to let me know he was at the door in the lobby downstairs. I came to get him, opened the front door. A slightly reserved but a heart-felt hug and a few flights of stairs later, and we were cozying up on my living room couch.

This time was different. We were both quiet for quite a bit but there was a feeling on unspoken tenderness between us. He put his arm around me and kissed the top of my head. I wrapped my legs over his, my head resting on his shoulder, not a word spoken between us but so much being said at the same time.

After a while, he finally broke the silence, "Did you miss me?"

"Of course I did. Did you miss ME?"

"I did. I missed you a lot."

I felt unconditional love again. The love I've been trying to suppress and move on from and flat out reject all together. All because I couldn't stand the feeling of longing I had for him when he was not with me. But is the feeling of longing worse than feeling nothing at all? Is it really worse than trying to coast through my dates with the Entrepreneur, feeling tingles of excitement here and there, but for the most part experiencing all-encompassing numbness and indifference?

And like a crackhead right out of rehab and back on the street again with no supervision and no willingness to remain sober, I gave into my drug once again.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Playing the Field

I haven't been to this stupid bar in over two years, and for a good reason. I always call this place an "Applebee's with a dance floor" because that is exactly what the interior of it looks like. Massive dark wood booths, an assortment of memorabilia plastered all over the walls, an occasional moose head here and there, neon Budweiser logo lights. Oh course, Applebee's does not have a mechanical bull in the middle of the dance floor, nor does it have girls selling beer out of ginormous ice buckets, wearing extremely form-fitting uniforms. But that, of course, just adds to the atmosphere of tackiness.

And when I returned there yesterday with a date, it looked like nothing at all had changed in two years. The bull was still there, along with the tacky memorabilia and, I'm fairly certain, that the dance floor and the outdoor patio was still populated by the same people who were coming there two years ago.

It was drizzling slightly, but the breeze outside felt wonderful so after my date did a round of hand shakes with the familiar bartenders, we decided to go to the patio to have a couple of drinks.

I felt like I had this dating game down to a science and, as we all know, science is a precision-oriented, calculated, cold-blooded profession. I couldn't feel the spark of any kind but I couldn't pinpoint out as to why I was apathetic. Nor was I terribly disappointed about the lack of desire to tear the guy's clothes off then and there.

He... let's call him the Entrepreneur, he was certainly easy on the eyes, intelligent and ambitious, and with a lot of jingle in his pocket. Great style, good personality, well-versed and well-traveled. I was enjoying his company even before the alcohol started to hit me, which is always a good sign.

"...And, you know, I just felt like I couldn't really live in New York for a very long time. I mean, I love the energy and I love how busy it always is but I also like my peace and quiet.." He was telling me about his recent trip to the Big Apple.

I looked around the bar, while at the same time being careful as to nod and smile to show my engagement in our conversation. Meanwhile, these two guys at the bar caught my eye, not because they were particularly attractive or obnoxiously drunk, but because they kept looking over to my table. They, inevitably, noticed me noticing them and, to my slight dismay, one of the guys got off his bar stool and approached our table.

"Hey, can I buy you a shot?" He was direct but friendly.

"What kind of shot?"

"Any kind you want. Tequila?"

"Well I really don't like tequila."

"Yeah, sure. I"ll get you a SoCo and lime. So.. can I buy it for you?"

I was about to say no but before I could say anything the Entrepreneur suggested that we both walk over to the bar and take the guy up on his offer to buy me a shot. He looked undisturbed by the fact that a man just imposed himself onto our table and disrupted the conversation. I felt uneasy but before I could even hesitate I was already on my way to the bar.

"So who is he?" Bar Guy asked, nodding at my date. I looked in the direction of the nod - my date was already busy conversing with a couple of Bar Guy's friends.

"Oh, he's a friend. A good friend," I said with hint of uncertainty. I was pretty sure that the Entrepreneur couldn't hear me, but I also wasn't completely sure. I glanced at the bartender - she was in the process of pouring my shot in a shot glass.

"Oh, a friend?" he didn't seem to believe me, "Well, you looked really bored at the table and I thought you might need to be rescued."

Gosh, I didn't think I looked that disinterested in the Entrepreneur - I was certainly not having a bad time, but maybe my facial expressions were speaking louder than words.

"I don't think I can drink it all at once." my shot finally arrived but as the liquid touched my lips, it tasted toxic and felt overpowering on my tongue. I also was losing whatever little interest I had in the Bar Guy. The whole situation... sandwiched between Bar Guy and Entrepreneur, just enduring the awkwardness for a shot of Southern Comfort. Yeah.... I felt shady.

"Let's go to a different bar," I felt a tap on my shoulder and realized that the Entrepreneur had enough of the conversation with strangers. I looked down at my shot glass - it was still two-thirds full.

"Yeah, okay..." I looked at Bar Guy. God knows what he must have been thinking at that point. He certainly didn't buy my "He's just a friend" excuse. "It was good to meet you. I gotta go."

My date and I squeezed our way through the crowd, making our way to the exit. It felt wrong to be getting a free drink from a random guy and then bolting out of there like the place was on fire. But it was also odd that the Entrepreneur seemed okay with it all. I liked me some free drinks but I also would have liked it if, upon Bar Guy approaching our table, my date would have said something along the lines of "Hey man, it's all good but I don't think the lady is interested." Maybe it can be defined as just some old-fashioned machismo, but I probably would have appreciated it nonetheless.

At any rate, I just did not feel good about the free shot. At least I left two-thirds of it at the bar for Bar Guy to enjoy it. As for the bar itself... I won't be terribly upset if I don't come back there for another two years or so. Maybe getting free shots from random men just ain't for me after all.