I remember an afternoon of my younger days and ah, the City, ah the City life, the variation of beautiful people and a walk from the Eastside to the Westside. I went from Downtown to Midtown still dressed in my outfit from the night before. I was on the verge of a new fascination or as it were, I was at the threshold of a new chapter. I was unaware that I was about to turn a page and that my life was about to unfold.
This was strange because this was on a Sunday afternoon which, to me, is a day like no other. To me, Sunday comes with shades of yellow – it’s a day in-between or better yet, Sunday is half weekend, half preparation for the week ahead and part recuperation from the long crazy nights of a man who faced his 30’s. But this particular Sunday was different.
This is a Sunday where the room I left was a room that I would never see again. In some way, somehow, this was the last time I sat with a group of friends (or so-called friends) yet no one knew this would be the last time we were all in a room together.
Nothing tragic happened. Nothing bad at all. In fact, the weekend was good. There were no arguments or anything like that. Instead, a change took place. Maybe it was me who realized that I outgrew them or perhaps it was them who realized they outgrew me. But either way, something clicked and a decision was made. At first, I contemplated the ideas of what it feels like to be voted out of the circle. But next, I realized that it was me who voted them out of my circle.
I made my way towards Pennsylvania Station to catch a train back home. But rather than a cab, I chose to walk from 23rd and 2nd and make my way past the changes of neighborhoods. I passed through different styles and different cultures.
I saw people as they were, real as ever, dressed as themselves and unafraid or unworried about the judgments of others.
The day was warm and the sun went down behind the tall New York City buildings. There was a softness to the moment or better yet, I felt a calmness from an orange hue that took to the sky. The reflections of the heavens bounced down across the red-bricked buildings and I was pleased. I was fine to be away from the crowd. I was fine to be by myself and on my own, walking alone, and with no outside interruptions or interference. I pulled out one of my Camels and lit my smoke.
Admittedly, I had a strut back then or a way of walking. I was stuck in my ideas of a James Dean fashion as if to be too cool to be concerned but, in fairness, I was always concerned about something.
I thought about the billions of different people in this world. I thought about the billions of different personalities yet I found myself nurturing time with people, places and things that no longer suited my best interest.
I was aware of myself and alert to my challenges. It was clear that my dilemmas were fueled by rejection sensitivity. (By the way, if you want to know more about one of my challenges, look into RSD Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria or wait, no. On second thought, maybe this is something we can talk about tomorrow.)
I was aware that if I left my group of so-called friends, no one would call or care. In a matter of weeks, neither them nor I would wonder about each other.
I could be fine to be on my own and explore the world with the enjoyment of a new fascination. Better yet, I could be me and they could be them.
More so, I decided to settle my definition of the word friend. To me, this is an interesting word. To me, friend is a word that is used often and all too often, the word friend is misused.
I understood the meaning of connection. I understand the word “boys,” as if to describe a kinship or connection between people through a means of territory or neighborhood background.
I understood the meaning of personal history or the saying, “We go back like car seats,” which I heard only twice in my life. Once was from a man whom I’ll leave for another story and another time was in a movie with Laurence Fishburne.
We go back like car seats . . .
I always liked that line.
I understood that my history and status was a connection between myself and a group of friends. But at last, my intentions changed and so did my needs.
The way I saw myself changed; but more, the way I saw my friends changed under the light from a moment of truth.
I wasn’t interested in the back and forth jabs of sarcasm anymore. I didn’t want to be on my toes or pretending to care or be interested. I was in need of something new. I wanted more for myself and perhaps this was the first time I allowed myself the chance.
I allowed myself the realization that it’s fine to walk alone. In fact, sometimes walking alone ensures that we are in the best company possible.
I grew tired. And I say this the way a letter reads when you open the mail to read the words, “FINAL NOTICE!” That’s it. I was done.
My city has always offered me a connection. I took my time and strolled from one side of the city to the other.
Know what I saw?
I saw smiling people meeting up with true friends. There was no pretense between them. There were no vicious remarks or reasons to financially keep up with one another.
I noted the different fashions and the bravery of people who walked hand in hand, proving to me that love is love and no one has the right to dictate or determine what love means to or for anybody else.
I saw myself in a different light. I saw my lack of tolerance and lack of patience. I saw my judgments and in the true light of personal justice and thus, I realized that it was me who was ill-informed. It was me who was stuck in my trained opinions and assumptions. It was me who was stuck inside the prison of imposed judgments that I was taught to abide by.
But why? Why do we butcher people for being who they are, rich or poor, tall or short, thin or overweight, or why do we look to assassinate others for being who they are?
I can say this to be true about myself. My judgments were based on my beliefs about me.
My judgments were more of a projection about me than they were of anyone else. Yet, alone, I noticed there was no need for any of this. I was free to think, look, dress, talk or act in whichever way was comfortable.
There was no one around me to impress. There was no one to seek attention from; but instead, I was simply a person on a walk.
I was walking through Chelsea near the Fashion Institute when I passed a coffee shop where people sat and talked. Some read from a book and others sat comfortably in lounge-like seats and sipped from oversized mugs of coffee.
Perhaps this was cosmic or perhaps this was the universe explaining, “It’s time for you to go.”
Or maybe not. Maybe this was fate working through its course and finally, I was able to open my eyes and realize that I had outgrown my surroundings.
I didn’t want to play the part anymore. I didn’t want to have the same discussion or be at the same places. I wanted more.
I will admit that there was a time when I believed this was all I wanted. I believed that everything was about being part of a crowd or being part of a crew of friends. There were times when I would have soldiered up with my friends. And there were bar fights and crazy nights and rooftop moments that went beyond compare.
There were good times and times that I will always remember. There were sexual victories and one-night-stands and moments that I will admit that yes, I smiled and I enjoyed them.
However, there were growing moments when the bad times outweighed the good. There were growing incidents of bickering or stupid disputes. The hole or emptiness grew worse. Real friends do not create division. No, real friends promote completion.
What I mean is something clicked and I don’t know what it was. At least, not really. All I knew was that I chose to walk away both literally and figuratively.
I never called that group again. They never called me. It was funny how there was a day in my life, which is closer to now, that I walked by one of the people in my old crowd.
We passed each other like two complete strangers. At first, I had thoughts about this but then I realized that the reason we passed this way is true. We were always strangers. This person never really knew me nor did they care to know anyone but themselves.
I have to laugh, however, because (of course) the first thing I noticed is that he lost almost all of his hair. He looked older but at the same time, he had that same old look on his face. He had a scowl of judgment and sarcastic regard. (What a dick!)
I don’t regret walking away. I don’t regret my goodbyes whether they were long or short. I would rather walk away and be sad and heal than stay in the wrong environment and be miserable.
I can understand that rejection hurts. I understand the ideas of being different or “unlike” but the one thing I learned on this walk is that it is far more hurtful and lonely to stay where I don’t belong than it is to dare the world and go at it alone.
I admit this choice came with some worries. I was lonely for a while but as for the question if I am lonely now – my answer is no.
How could I be lonely now?
I have you with me.