On Thursdays, T and I have dinner together. It’s so easy to fall out of touch with friends here, and I didn’t want that to happen when I moved out of T’s place, so we decided to have a standing weekly date.
Regardless of how much I look forward to seeing T, I was feeling anxious last Thursday. I hadn’t slept much the night before. C and I had gone to a fundraiser called New York Loves Japan, a huge, crowded, hectic, loud sushi and sake event, and then for pizza afterwards with friends, all of which I enjoyed but it wore me the fuck out. I have always had to summon a special kind of energy to deal with crowds, and now that when I am in noisy rooms I only hear about 20 percent of what people are saying, even when they’re only a couple feet away, well, I know I complain about it relentlessly but whatever, it’s exhausting.
After a long cab ride in heavy traffic on FDR Drive, we got home near midnight, wound up, not ready to sleep. We watched American Idol and went to bed at about 1:30. I slept fitfully and got up at 6:30 for work. That afternoon, as I struggled to keep my eyes open, I nearly emailed T to cancel our date. But we had some Lizzie Borden business to discuss.
C decided to get Chinese takeout since he was alone for dinner, and the Chinese place is next to Nueva Espana, the Dominican restaurant where I was meeting T, so we left the house together. On our way out the door, C noticed the big plastic bag full of plastic bags that I had left in the hallway.
When I found that our neighborhood grocery store accepts plastic bags for recycling, I started saving them. I try to use reusable grocery bags, but it’s nearly impossible in New York not to end up with piles of plastic grocery bags. We keep our recyclables in the office which is small to begin with and it bums me out when my writing space looks like a utility room so I moved the bag of bags to the hallway where, because it’s one of those errands that never seem convenient when I’m thinking of it, it sat for 2 or 3 weeks. I should have known that it was trying C’s patience. But I didn’t.
On our way out, C suggested I take the bags to the store because it was only about half a block out of the way. I said, sharply, though I don’t remember this at all and C only mentioned it later when we were back home, “I’m not doing that now.” I was preoccupied, feeling anxious because so little of my evening was left for the ration of idleness I seem to need. T was already waiting for me at the restaurant, and I didn’t want to take the extra 3 minutes to drop the bags off. When we got out to the sidewalk, C stopped and said, “I’m going to get the bags,” and he went back inside while I waited. When he returned with the bags, I asked him if he was mad at me and he said, “I had a flash of anger, but it’s okay.”
In some ways we are such different people. I’m a recycling Nazi and I make fun of the size of his TV. He is less selfish than I and makes more time for his family and friends. He won’t call the landlord to fix a leaky kitchen sink, whereas I wouldn’t hesitate to demand it be repaired. I don’t feel any particular urgency about paying my credit card debts, whereas he considers it an ethical obligation. He looks forward all year to a summer house share on Fire Island, whereas I have trouble imagining why anyone would want to be on a beach in the mid-day sun, let alone with a bunch of fashion-obsessed gay men. I consider the Mary Tyler Moore Show to be the most important cultural touchstone of my life, whereas he says, “I think maybe I’ve seen a couple episodes, but I don’t really remember them.”
On the other hand, in some more essential, fundamental way I think we have known and seen and understood each other from the moment we met. I have trouble articulating exactly what I mean by this. Maybe it’s because it started with the raw, specific solicitation of a Craigslist ad, which made our sexual compatibility undeniable from the get-go. I will not underestimate how powerful a bond it is to be able to know that we turn each other on, and, more than that, to know that we give each other what we most want. The confidence of that is a tonic. It’s a moment -- and good god they are rare, aren’t they? -- of feeling like I have exactly what is needed.
But it must be more than that. I know my heart was flayed and raw from my breakup with M in Austin. I hadn’t had time to recover my defenses, so C could walk right in. And I know that he was looking for someone to commit to. I know he had a specific idea of what kind of commitment he wanted to make (lifelong, monogamous) but hadn’t yet found someone he was willing to make it with.
After dinner, at home, I told him how vulnerable his anger made me feel, how this new experience of anger in our relationship had made me fearful and insecure. I thought it was a natural response, considering that this was the first time anger had surfaced between us. He said it wasn’t the first time.
I haven’t had any flashes of anger yet. No flashes, no flickers nor slow burns. I haven’t been mad. I don’t think I’ve even been slightly irritated. I don’t say this to paint myself as more virtuous in some way, more tolerant, loving, more serene. If anything, I want to say that I’m less. Less self-aware, less emotionally open. But I think I’m just more afraid. C is straightforward. The idea of anger doesn’t, with him, spin out into a wild paranoid fantasy, a terrible apprehension that everything is rotten, corrupt, wrong, false, over. I avoid anger because it terrifies me. He seems to understand that it’s just something people feel from time to time.
He said that if we're going to save plastic bags he wants to keep them in the office, not the hallway. And he told me, “This is not fragile. My love for you is not fragile. You don’t have to worry about it. For this to work, you have to know that.”
The temperature has been in the 60s and 70s the last week and our neighborhood is thick and smelly with flowering trees. It is spring and this is the first change of seasons since C and I met in December. (How could it be true that we have only known each other 5 months?) We joke about the weather. I say it’s hot, he says it’s chilly. I dread the summer, C lives for it. He can’t wait till it’s 95 and sticky. I love winter and particularly enjoyed this past winter, and I feel sadness and regret to see it end, because I spent the last few years in San Francisco and Texas where there is no winter. We both worry a little that our incompatible weather affinities will be difficult to manage, one of us always relieved while the other is irritable. All winter C half-jokingly complained about how miserable and cold he was, and I fell in rapturous love with each new ridiculous snowfall. As the tables turn, I wonder if I will play the role of the miserable one with such charm and humor.
Friday at work, C texted me, “I love you. And I don’t get mad and stay mad. Stupid bags are stupid. You are beautiful.”
I texted back, “I love you, too. I love our life together. And stop making me cry at work.”