Disclaimer: This part of the travelogue doesn’t have much about the travel aspect. It’s about a moment during the trip that needs documenting. There’ll be more travel-related destination banter in the next one. So there you go.
The next day, I woke up in the Bronx with a pounding headache, lying next to a near comatose Italian* chef from Detroit. This man was NOT the DJ; this man was not who I was supposed to end up going home with. So what the hell happened?
I wish that I’d taken pictures that night, because my memory is not quite as sharp as I wish it were…
When Lisa and I got to the DJ’s gig, the first thing the DJ did was take us inside and make sure his bartender friend Neela took care of us. We sat at the bar and got comfortable with the plethora of shots that began making their way to the bar, into our hands, and down our throats. The DJ was in good form. He was always in good form. He’s one of those people who always maintain the perfect amount of positive energy. You know when people say “your smile could light up a room”? He’s one of those people you’d say that about. And boy did he like to keep those dark rooms bright.
Throughout the night, we saw the crowds come and go, mixed bags of yuppies and out-of-towners and aging hipsters and people just looking for a night cap. The DJ played on, and took cigarette breaks as often as possible, and then began taking dance breaks as often as possible; his tall, lanky self pulling Lisa and Neela and I out on to the dance floor, smiles aplenty. And the drinks, and the drinks, and the dancing and the drinks until my head was swimming and I wanted to grab him and kiss him and tell him that he still meant something to me, that he always had. The streets of Manhattan were quiet outside while the noise in my head was only muffled slightly by the alcohol.
The hours went on and the party did too. I would sneak over to the DJ while he worked sometimes, and I held his hand, and he squeezed his fingers in mine, and I would get sad because I knew that it might be years before I got to see him again, and how long would this go on? More drinks, more smokes. And then another man walked in, and this one knew the DJ well, so much so that he and the DJ began to dance. Then the DJ introduced us, flinging me into the strangers arms as he made his way back to the DJ booth. This is how I met Parker.
Parker hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s not the right way to say that. He didn’t hit me. But something about him hit me. He had another one of those smiles, though nowhere near as endearing as the DJ’s. But still, he had a good one, and I’ve always been a sucker for a nice smile. Parker was working overtime that night. The way he’d look at me. The way he’d do anything to force me to stare back into his eyes. And my god, did he lay it on thick. “Beautiful.” “Baby.” “Gorgeous.” I would tell him he really didn’t have to, but then he’d spew another “I’m not a player or anything, I’m being serious,” and i’d laugh it off because there really wasn’t anything else to say or do. Lisa began sitting out more dances, buying us more drinks. Parker kept on, and on and on. Until he’d invaded every inch of my personal space, and with his finger tips lifting my chin up, he kissed me. It hit me. Like a ton of confused, awkward bricks that have landed everywhere after an explosion. It was fantastic and awful and i’m pretty sure the only thing I said or thought for a good while afterward was, “Oh, fuck.”
The DJ saw everything. The DJ kept playing music. The DJ kept drinking and smoking. The DJ, the DJ. Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ…
I ran to him like some scared little girl, unsure of what to do next. The DJ was still my friend. I felt terrible about Parker, and worse about what I knew would happen next. I grabbed the DJ and asked him what he knew about Parker, what he thought.
“He’s a good guy.. I like him. You should go for it.”
…Alright, It’s been over 6 months since this incident. It’s taken 6 months for me to say all of these things and be (almost) okay with them. But I’ll tell you this: at that moment, it was one of the worst things I’d ever heard anyone say to me. Ever. It’s tough to admit when we’re wrong about something, and even tougher still to admit when things just don’t go your way. Because I know deep down I would’ve wanted there to be some kind of jealousy, or at least a sign to say “hey, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” Nothing. Go for it. So let’s just say this: It fucking hurt.
Why didn’t he care? This plagued me to no end. He didn’t seem thrilled about the situation, but I couldn’t tell if he cared at all. At that point in our lives, we hadn’t been talking very much. For all I know, he was seeing someone. Maybe having an affair with Neela the married bartender. Maybe he had a girlfriend that he didn’t like to talk about. Maybe he’d just finally stopped feeling that chemistry that had existed between us for so long. I couldn’t be sure. When you’re plastered at 3am in the city that never sleeps, it’s hard to be sure about anything.
What I did know was that Parker seemed to have taken a liking to me. He wasn’t the DJ. The DJ was lost to me now. Parker was real, and his arms would wrap around me, and his lips would kiss me deep, and my head would spin. So I said fuck it.
“Parker wants me to go home with him,” I said to the DJ on our final cigarette break alone.
Parker was back inside, maybe talking to Lisa or Neela, maybe drinking more, I can’t be sure. I couldn’t care less at the time. He was a man I didn’t know and the man I did know was doing everything possible to crush all the feelings I’d harbored for him for the better part of a decade. He smiled and hugged me tight. I wished with every fiber of my being that I could read his thoughts, that he would tell me something that would reassure me that I wasn’t insane. That whatever that thing was that existed between us still did indeed exist. That this would not be the last night. That he cared in some way but didn’t know how to say it, just like every other time had been, when he’d act like everything was fine only to tell me months down the line how much I’d actually been wanted and missed. For fuck’s sake, anything.
“He’s a good guy. Like I said, you should go for it.”
I’m surprised, given how drunk I was, that I didn’t cry or yell or even get angry. Maybe I knew it was coming. I could hear tires driving over the slick streets blocks away. It had rained again, just like it’d rained every day that I was in NYC. I met his gaze and gave him the saddest false smile I’ve probably ever given anyone, and I let him go.
Parker was eager to get out of Manhattan. Lisa thought I was crazy to go home with a near-stranger, but I trusted the DJ. He wouldn’t send me off with a total nut job. At least, that’s what I figured. Parker bummed a final cigg from the DJ and I said goodbye to Lisa, Neela, and the infamous Mr. DJ. Parker and I walked/stumbled down the street, searching for a cab to hail. I could see his Squee tattoo on the back of his calve and figured he couldn’t be so bad if he was a Squee fan. I grabbed his hand and decided to go with it.
A cab ride to the Bronx. My first time in that most avoided of boroughs (aside from Staten Island, although I’m not sure which one is avoided more – any native New Yorkers wanna take a stab at it?) And then we were inside the apartment, which was by far one of the most spacious NYC apartments i’ve ever been in.
“Just one of the perks of living in the Bronx,” said Parker, who actually absolutely hated New York City, and who had plans to move back to Detroit to open up a fine dining establishment someday.
Sigh. From there, you can guess what happened next. The sex was alright, but not terribly memorable, probably for numerous reasons (we were both too drunk, I was still hurt about the DJ, we’d only just met a few hours before, etc). I spent the next morning hydrating and smoking (his very low grade) grass while he snored away, sleeping off the hangover. I felt terribly awkward about not coming back to Tyler’s for the night. Not that I owed him explanations, but all my things were there and he’d been nice enough to let me stay with him for the duration of the trip. I tried to come up with different excuses as to why I hadn’t made it back to Manhattan. I tried to forget all about the DJ.
Parker had to get to work that afternoon, so we took the train back to Manhattan that afternoon. He got off two stops before I did.
“It was nice to meet you,” we both said, with the knowledge that we’d likely never speak again. I thought about how ridiculous life could be sometimes. So many years feeling one way about someone, regardless of time and distance, and now it was over. 6 months later, I still don’t know how I feel about all of it. Except maybe a little grateful.
The DJ and I discussed the matter about 2 months or so later. I told him how awkward the whole thing was, how strangely I felt about it. He was candid, telling me he just wanted me to be happy and have a good time. That he didn’t feel like he had any claim over me, and that he genuinely felt that Parker was a good guy, that he also wanted him to be happy and have a good time.
“I may be perpetually unavailable, but I’m not a bastard; you’re still a good friend, and I do care.”
…And that’s it, really. That’s the anti-climactic conclusion to the longest non-relationship i’ve ever had, all wrapped up in one New York City night. It feels strange to write about it now, but I couldn’t have written it any sooner. So much has happened since then that I’m able to be somewhat disconnected about the situation. The DJ and I have spoken very briefly online since, but for the most part he’s rarely around and it’s for the best.
By the end of the next day, I wanted nothing to do with anyone. Sometimes people need a night away from the world, to walk silently with ones’ thoughts and memories in a city of eight million people. Lonesome as can be. And that’s just what I did.
But I’ll write about that later, because that night did take me to some unexpected places, including making my first friend from Amsterdam. For now though, it’s 5am and definitely quitting time. Quitting on the past, and quitting on tonight.
Here’s a song to keep you company that’s been helping me out while writing all this.
Part 9 in this series will be up soon!
*He was Italian and a chef, not a chef of strictly Italian cuisine. There’s a difference.