It was a short hour before sunrise and I was driving home with the City disappearing in my rearview mirror. The night was behind me and so was the girl whose name I never knew and face I had never planned to see again. It was a long night, which was best defined by the time of year, winter, and Christmas time in New York. The City was all dressed in lights and decoration. The Hustle is different this time of year. The mood is different as well and snow swept streets, cold days and cold nights, somehow warm up easily in places like say, a coffee shop in Chelsea by 28th Street.
I was all over the place this night. Of course, I was not alone at the beginning of the night but it certainly ended this way. We were all over; and by we I mean me and the knuckleheads I chose to run around with at the time.
I was still young enough to endure the late night events and somehow manage myself the next day in a mostly painless manner. I was young enough to break the dawn as if it were a victory and young enough to negotiate the times as something acceptable and expected for a man in his 20’s. These were the years just before weddings and marriages took place of living single. This is when friends like mine would made sure to be out in the scene every weekend without apology.
I was sober, of course, and designated to drive at all times, which was fine with me because (as I saw it) I was always invited to go out. I was able to make sure friends would never drive drunk. In some cases, however, I had to play clean up. There were fights that were stopped as a result of me being sober.
Take for example the night on the Upper Eastside. Dave (or Disco Dave as we called him sometimes) had too much to drink. We were at a place called Polyester when the night took a quick wrong turn. Dave took his mostly funny but somewhat poor dance moves up to the dance floor. The bar was not a big place. The lights would swirl and the music had a 70’s appeal. The girls here, however, were not always of the best standard, —but they were of an easier standard, —and easy is a good thing when you’re a young man and trying to get laid.
The bar was a long thin place, shaped like a rectangle going deep and to the back. On the right side was the bar and towards the back on the left is where the elevated dance floor was with a white tiled floor, which I believe lit it up intermittently with scattered color (like a scene out of Saturday Night Fever) and there was silvery handrails to keep drunken dancers from falling off the sides.
Dave approached the wrong girl accompanied by the wrong man and had I not known a few words in Greek, Dave would have been tossed over that handrail in a matter of seconds and trounced by a small group of drunken Greek men, fueled up, and looking for a fight.
It is true. I had to babysit on a few occasions. There were often drunken arguments, which usually resulted in phone calls with apologies the next morning. But alas, at least I knew the boys I was with would get home safe and again, at least I was always invited to be out in the crowd.
On this night, however, I was alone after a fortunate separation between myself and the crowd. I met a girl at a place called Live Psychic on E 84th Street. She was a Manhattan girl and so was her friend. At the time I was with an old buddy who was unmistakably known as Johnny the Rug (for various uncool reasons) and while Johnny mixed it up with one girl, I took off with her friend.
Meanwhile, the night had ended and I made my way from the City that never sleeps back to a sleepy, Long Island town. I never minded these drives. I used them, actually. I used them as time to think about the life I had going for myself. I would reminisce about other nights, which were either better or worse. I would use this time to contemplate my friendships. I would think about the girls I knew and the girls I wished I never knew. I was somewhat freshly single, somewhat hurt, and somewhere comfortable between random dates and one night stands. However, this was holiday time and if I’m being honest, a piece of me felt left out.
I wondered why I never really caught the relationship bug, —at least, not the right one. I had girlfriends. before, and a few that were long-term, but we never meshed right. There was always something off.
The beginnings were fun but often times, the beginning or “Courtship” is an act to impress. I suppose it was hard for me to put on the act, —or should I say, it was always hard for me to maintain the act.
It was the whole, “Putting your best foot forward,” thing that never made sense to me. Eventually the mask slips, we become real, and then you wake up next to someone and realize how little you really know about each other.
Alone but content, I drove home with the unshakable smells of the night drenched on my clothing. I smelled from cigarette smoke, a spilled drink on my shirt. and an unknown girl’s cheap perfume that I lied about liking but honestly hated it. I only said what I said to achieve a specific outcome.
I never liked dating much. I enjoyed meeting people. I enjoyed when things clicked and I certainly enjoyed the “Go ahead” signal that led me to the bedroom. I never liked the relationship act much. I never liked the rules of engagement. I never liked that unsure feeling of, “When should I call,” or, “Should I call because I want to call but yet, I don’t want to call because if I do, I might seem too disparate and then she’ll blow me off and I’ll feel stupid.”
I never liked the fake games that went on and the unspoken expectations of how to properly interact with a girl. I never did this well. I suppose I felt awkward. I suppose I felt insecure. I suppose, in part, I never wanted to interact with these sort of problems, which is why I chose a different way of engagement.
Pulling up into my driveway, the sun coming up, snow on the ground and the difference between Christmas in the City and Christmas on Long Island was on my mind. I thought long and hard about the relationship bug. But it was time to sleep now. I was home and about to unwind. It was time to temporarily switch off the brain.
Undressed in my room, —the bright light from my phone’s answering machine flashing a red number 2. It was the girl thanking me for a good night but asking about Johnny the Rug. And the second message was less than kind. It was the same girl shouting about my boy Johnny and the way he behaved with her friend.
Ah, to be young, sober, and single
It was fun for the time . . .
But if given the chance, I don’t think I could do it again