Yesterday my new friend M and his friend D picked me up at home and we met another friend at Epoch for coffee.
R is a guy I hang out with at the bar if we both happen to be there, but otherwise we don't socialize. Last weekend there, at the bar, R and I were outside on the patio about to smoke a little, R saw M standing by himself and thought he looked interesting, so he asked him if he wanted to join us. He turned out to be an artist, a teacher, a really interesting man, we kept in touch during the week. It was from M that I found out that in Texas one can get a job teaching in the public schools with just a bachelor's degree. There's a state program where you can work toward your certification while you are teaching, taking weekend classes or some such thing. (The institution where these certification classes are held just happens to be right across the street from us.) M and I talked about it a lot that night we met, and over coffee yesterday I continued to grill him about teaching. His friend D teaches high school and loves it.
Coffee lasted for hours and it was time for dinner so we all went to a Thai restaurant nearby. It's rare, for me anyway, to make new friends, so it was kind of a thrill. I got home about 8 I think, talked to J for a while. He was excited because his improv class had gone really well. He's enjoying that more and more. I can't wait to see him do it! J went to bed at 9 -- he's preparing for his Paris trip (he leaves Friday) by adjusting his sleeping hours. I'd slept till 10 that morning and I was wired from the coffee and stimulating company, so I was wide awake.
It had stopped raining, and earlier it had seemed warmer, in the fifties maybe, so I decided to ride my bike down to the bar. Once I started riding, I realized the temperature had dropped, I'd only worn a long sleeve t-shirt, but I knew I'd warm up with the exercise. It crossed my mind that it was going to be colder on the ride home.
There wasn't much happening at the bar, nobody I knew to talk to was there, so I sat with my beer, stood with my beer, walked around with my beer. After an hour or so, R showed up. We went out to the patio to smoke. He always has really good stuff and that makes us both, naturally pretty shy, very chatty. I like R a lot. He's a good-hearted man. Every once in a while in our conversations I remember how different we are -- usually it's when he starts talking about real estate. He's very sensitive, has an artistic temperament, but chose a conventional life. So there's sort of a basic level on which we connect but his everyday concerns are very different from mine. Anyway, we have fun talking about sex and random things.
I was getting cold so we went back inside. It was dark in the bar, the music was loud, completely unfamiliar dance music, the pot was kicking in, and I was enjoying it a lot. It's like therapy for me, getting high and sitting in a crowded bar, listening to loud music, with no pressure to keep up conversation. It's one of the few times I feel completely off the hook.
The last couple of times there I noticed a boy, he was a little cocky I guess is why I noticed him, Mexican I assumed from his features, young, small, wavy shoulder-length hair like Peter Frampton but black. Very sexy but not someone I would necessarily take a specific sexual interest in, mostly I guess because he was so young, but also because he seemed to be there with a big group of friends who, for whatever reason, didn't look like people I would hang out with. (Younger and a little more dressed up than the regular flannel shirt beer gut crowd.) But I had enjoyed watching him.
Last night, he was watching me too. Before R got there, he (the boy) had walked past me, stopped, smiled and said hi. Then his friend snagged him and they disappeared. Later, when R and I had come in from the porch and were sitting on the bench along the back wall, I pointed him out to R and told R how intrigued I was by him. While we were talking about him, as if he knew, he walked over and sat right next to me. Within seconds R had disappeared, I think assuming that I wanted to pursue this kid and he would give me room, but honestly I was scared. I was disoriented by someone so young showing interest in me, and I was suddenly very stoned.
Every time I looked over, he was smiling at me. He told me his name was Tim and he was from Mexico, here in Austin going to college at St. Edward's. He had no accent at all. He said something about me that I can't quite recall now, something like "you're interesting," and I being completely hypnotized by now said, "I think you're beautiful." Which embarrasses me now to remember, because it's such an old man thing to say to a young person, but on the other hand, how many times do we get to express exactly word for word what's on our mind?
He smiled and shifted his leg so that it touched mine. I thought, "I am not safe here."
He asked me how old I was. I said, "In a week, I'm going to be 48." He very politely told me I didn't look it, and I said, "Well, it's dark in here." I asked him how old he was. "15," he deadpanned. (I was ready to believe him. He looked very young.) But after a beat, he smiled and said, "How old do you think I am?" I thought 18, but said 20, I think in some unsuccessful attempt to reduce the lecherous troll quotient a bit in my head.
"I'm 22," he said.
I said, "How old is your father?" and immediately wished I hadn't. He laughed and said, "Younger than you."
He kept shifting himself closer to me and if I would look over, he would meet my gaze and smile. He was androgynous -- not in the way I usually think of, neither male nor female but some state in-between -- he was strongly both male and female. It was almost more than I could take. There was something about his age, the absolute beauty of a 22-year-old boy, that was overwhelming, but the other aspect of it was the mere fact of someone who I assessed to be very much more attractive than me expressing sexual interest in me. I have no power over that. Nothing has ever arisen in me to protect me from that.
He said, "Do you like to play pool?"
I said, "No."
"Do you want to?"
"Mmm. No. I don't play."
"Really? You won't?"
I shrugged. I didn't want to play pool. I'm sure I was worried about embarrassing myself in front of this beautiful boy who liked me for some unknowable reason.
He looked at me for a moment and then said, "That sucks."
I said, "What?"
"That sucks. You could have at least tried." About 30 seconds later, he got up slowly and walked away, back toward the pool tables, and I sat there feeling like I was 300 years old.
It had gotten much colder and the two beers I'd drunk weren't enough to keep me warm on the way home. I was seriously painfully cold for the first half of the ride. I rode fast to get my heart pumping to warm me up. It didn't really work but it was fun to ride fast. It's mostly uphill on the way home and Springdale is deserted at 1 a.m. My mind was racing too, back to the beautiful Mexican boy to my day with wonderful new friends and my recent fretting about the future and it suddenly seemed clear to me that I should be a teacher. I should look for a job teaching high school in the fall. I've always wanted to teach and the thing that has kept me from pursuing it is the worry that I could not do it and also make art. But this week I met M, who is both an artist and a teacher, as if to teach me that it is possible.
So much points toward it being a sensible pursuit. I have a strong hunch I will be good at it. I complain about the state of American education all the time -- here's a chance to do something about it. It's a field where there are jobs available, which is rare these days. It's a state job, with good salary and benefits. I'll have mountains of student loans to pay off once I finish school. I'm going to be 50 in 2 years. Maybe this is a way to age with some grace.