(An edited version of this was posted on Bilerico.com.)
I was on the train coming home from work one day last week and noticed two boys standing across from me, typical kids with their iPods and goofy smiles. They could have been anywhere from 14 to 20, it's hard to tell, teenagers develop at such different rates. (When I say typical, I mean that their pants were more than halfway down their asses, and while I'm on the subject I've been wondering: does the average kid on the street or the train or wherever, a suburban grocery store, does he know that homosexual men are flipping out inside at the sight of a young guy in, essentially, his skivvies in public? Does he know? It's a real puzzle to me. I don't know how to interpret the trend except as some kind of sexual display, but it's their asses they're displaying. What? It's rebellious, so I like it. It makes regular folks blow a gasket, so I'm all for it. But aside from the discussion of what it means for young men to be offering up their backsides to public view, what I find even more interesting is the sheer quantity of attention men are giving to their pants, constantly adjusting, tugging, touching them. Have pants ever before in their history been so interactive?)
I was reading, so not really paying attention to these kids until one of them hit the floor like a sack of rocks in front of me. He had fainted, but he smacked his head on the floor hard enough to wake himself up. Several people jumped to help him up, tried to get him to sit down but he didn't want to. (This was a well-dressed, cute white kid. I couldn't help but think that if he had been, say, a homeless man, everyone would have scattered instead of rushing in to help.) He finally sat down, kept insisting he was fine. He was hating all the attention. I looked more closely at his friend and it dawned on me that they might have been a little high. I hate to assume, but his eyes were awfully red and he couldn't stop smiling.
At the next stop, the conductor came over and asked the kid if he needed a medic; the kid was mortified and said, over and over, "No! I'm fine. Really." A woman sitting near him insisted that he get off the train and get to a hospital. One of the men who had helped him up hovered over him and his friend, expressing concern, trying to convince his friend to get him to a doctor. Both kids -- the kid who had fainted really did look okay, the blood was returning to his face -- refused to leave the train. They just wanted to be left alone and go home.
The man kept getting closer and closer, more and more insistent, and the situation began to seem less like a person in distress being helped by a stranger and more like someone being harassed by a crazy person in the subway. Most everyone, now that the crisis was past, had returned to their anonymous shielded subway world, except the man and the boy, who was extremely uncomfortable with getting so much attention. He gave the man a look like "Oh my god will you please just get the fuck out of my face, old man?" Then the man raised his voice and said, "I care about you!" He said, "I have a son, and a daughter. I care about you."
Just a few days before this I was at the Eagle. I had a beer and had smoked a little pot before I left the house but it had been a couple hours. I was talking to a man sitting next to me. It was crowded and warm and suddenly I felt my blood pressure drop like I was going to pass out. I put my head between my knees for what seemed like a very long time. (Anyone who sang in choirs in grade school knows what it feels like when you're going to pass out, and what to do to prevent it.) The man I'd been talking to looked after me, sat with me until I felt better, and then -- we found we both lived in Inwood -- rode with me back uptown.
He turned out to be a fairly well-known actor and theater director and we had lots to talk about during our 2-hour A train odyssey to the North Pole, er, Inwood. (Will they ever finish that track work? It's been going on for at least 10 years now.)
(Incidentally, that has happened to me in bars a handful of times over the years -- one or two beers, a little pot, and suddenly I'm listing. Maybe I should find out what that's all about.)
So here's to the kindness of strangers. And not just strangers. I'm moving in a little over a week. I've been staying with my friend T since I came back to New York in September. Back in June when I was falling apart in Austin, crying on the phone with T, he said, "Come back to New York. We'll do theater together. We'll form a new company and make new work. Just come. We'll figure it out." And I did, and T has shown me unbelievable kindness and generosity, as he always has in the 20 plus years of our friendship and artistic collaboration.
Not only has it been a long time since I had a regular job, it has been a long time since I paid rent and a long time since I moved somewhere where I wasn't living with friends. I don't have sheets, blankets, towels. I'm going to be 50 in March, and I'm still starting over, and over and over.