Last night Daniel and I went to Splash, because I felt like dancing and he felt like picking up young college boys. It was their Campus Thursday night. Mind you, Daniel’s thirty-four.
Daniel’s Italian-American and has that whole macho Italian vibe to him–even though he’s a big queen. He’s not out to his family, and despite the boys and I pushing him to do it, he refuses. Daniel’s a “landscape architect.” When I first met him and said “Oh, so like a gardner?” I thought he was going to punch me in the face, seriously. He clarified that he designs people’s gardens in the Hamptons, and other areas of Long Island. He went on to say that he also works on terraces in Manhattan for the Park Avenue set. I yawned in his face to let him know that I wasn’t impressed. We were kindred spirits ever since.
Three go-go boys danced on the bar in front of us wearing red, white, and blue g-strings.
“How patriotic!” I said nodding at the extra-large one wearing the red banana hammock.
“I’d love to show him just how proud to be an American I am,” Daniel said as his eyes widened. He’d finally noticed the enormous thing that “mr. red” was packing.
“God, you really are showing your age by saying such douche bag things,” I sneered.
“I’m gay. I’m forever young,” he said and laughed.
“Is that what you tell yourself before they stick the poison in your forehead?”
Daniel shrugged and sucked down his Ketel One and soda. I skipped the soda and went straight for the Ketel One. Soda was for sissies.
“Shall we?” he said and nodded towards the semi-crowded dance floor.
“What?” he asked.
“Are we going to dance or are you going to leave me on the dance floor the minute some kid with bigger boobs than me dances by?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Uh huh,” I snickered. I continued,
“What starts as a nice night of “let’s hang out and catch up” turns into “if that guy comes over pretend you don’t know me, and can I get money for a cab to his place in the Bronx?”
“I paid you back,” he said and walked to the dance floor. I begrudgingly followed.
After a countless number of tribal beats with a few divas wailing over them, I’d burned enough calories for the day. Besides, by that point Daniel was occupied with a twenty-three year old NYU grad student. I didn’t bother to say good night. Instead, I walked from Splash to my nearby apartment, but decided to stop in at the bodega across from my place to grab a pack of smokes. Shut up. I don’t want to hear about it. It’s a disgusting habit. I get it.
“How you doin’ tonight?” I asked eyeing a pack of peppermint Chicklets, paying no particular attention to the cashier. He gave me a strange glance. “Okay, then. A pack of American Spirits, please.”
The cashier turned, grabbed the cigarettes and set them and a pack of matches on the counter. With a heavy accent, he barked, “Eight Fifty.” It’s just that I don’t hear EIGHT and FIFTY. All I can make out is “MATE TITTY.”
“Mate. Titty,” he repeated.
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand you,” I said.
“Eight.” He then paused for dramatic effect and continued, “Fifty.”
I threw a twenty on the counter and hoped for the best.
He rang me up, and as he counted my change, he said, “Too late for you to be out.”
“It’s two thirty. Lady shouldn’t be out so late.”
I wanted to say, “Look buddy, this is AMERICA and it’s my god-given American right to stay out all night and dance at gay bars if I should damn well please.” Instead, I ended up saying something more like, “Can I just get my change?”
“You don’t think I see. I see you for seven years. Only with gay.”
“Only with gay? What does that even mean?” I asked.
“You know what that mean. It mean you come in and out of here only with gay people. Where are they tonight? Or they leave you?”
This hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m silent.
“Maybe you a gay?”
“No, I’m not “a gay.” I said through gritted teeth.
“Why you have no boyfriend?”
“Who are you the Korean Dr. Phil?”
He puts my change on the counter. I quickly snatched it.
“You waste your time with men who no love you back.”
I’d had it. Call me a super bitch, but I had to say something. So in my toughest, most brutal voice that I could muster, I said, “Oh shut up.”
“Shut up? You shut up!” He said shocked as if I’d just called him a dog-licking cocksucker.
“Shut up!” I said again.
“You shut up!” he shouted, his eyes nearly about fell out of his head.
“Sh-” I tried to get out.
“You shut up!” he repeated, interrupting my verbal jab. I grabbed my smokes and walked across the street to my apartment. I sat on the steps of my building and lit a cigarette. I took a deep drag and exhaled What a day.
I grabbed my cell phone out of my purse and scrolled down to the name “CHRISTOPHER” and stared at it. He would’ve cracked up if he had been there. But maybe the crazy deli guy was right. Where had all my friends gone? Was the I only one who hadn’t grown up? Had I lost out on realizing the American dream?
I clicked the phone shut, stood up and faced the front door, dreading the six flights I had to walk up. Had I quit smoking and drinking the steps wouldn’t have seemed so daunting, but I will crawl on my hands and knees before that happens. I started up the steps, and then saw the cashier sweeping outside the deli out of the corner of my eye. He looked sweet and delicate. Maybe I had been bitch. I could’ve been more understanding with the language barrier. He probably hated working at that deli. It wasn’t the reason he moved to this country. I should apologize. I turned to head down the stoop. Then suddenly he shouted,
“You shut up!”
To break this endless cycle, I finally burst out, “FUCK YOU!” and darted up my steps like a naughty schoolgirl.
In my tiny studio, I poured myself another drink and collapsed onto the couch. I put my iPod on shuffle. Feeling nostalgic, I grabbed a photo album from under my TV cabinet and flipped through the pages for what seemed like hours. I saw a picture of all of us from 1999–almost ten years ago. I stared at the younger version of me. My life was full of promise, I had more friends than I knew what to do with, and new beginnings happened everyday. At that moment, I felt none of that.
I felt so alone that I actually felt a physical pain in my chest. It was weird because for the first time, I finally felt heartache, literally.
The next thing I know it was morning and I was nearly late for work. The soundtrack from the Broadway musical Rent was playing in the background. I’d put it on repeat during my “sad sally” moment.
I raced out of my apartment like a bad out of hell, headed for the subway to avoid being late for work. In my mind, I sang, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes…How do you measure a year in the life?”
Measure in love.