Well, I made it. I fly back to Tampa tonight and I have a lot of thoughts on what’s happened over the last few days. I’ve got a late flight, so I will likely write more while I’m waiting at the airport. In the meantime, I’m going to share what happened yesterday and a story from a few years ago that sort of parallels my NOLA trip, in a couple of ways.
I got up yesterday morning and I did not run. I’d only slept a couple of hours and the wine from the previous three days finally caught up with me. David texted and asked if I wanted to grab something to eat (I did) and we ended up going to a place called Luke’s around 3 for a late lunch. David is a character – writer, actor, comedian. Very funny (I can’t remember the last time I laughed myself into a bellyache). He was tall with graying hair, blue eyes, in his early forties, eclectic and artsy. I met him outside of Luke’s and he was wearing jeans and a long sleeved black button down (with the top couple of buttons open), a pair of blue aviators, an orange toque, and a red pair of casual Nikes.
I wasn’t looking for anything more than friendship, especially after the situation with Jason. David was very sweet, very complimentary, but I kept it friendly. He was freshly out of a relationship and his frequent references to it made it clear he was licking wounds of his own. Some of my best friends are men (you know who you are… if you’re reading this, I love you guys), and I know it’s possible to have beautiful, platonic friendships with people of the opposite sex… but I also know they are rare.
After dinner, David asked if I wanted to walk over to a bar called Molly’s and have a drink. We were having fun, so I figured, why not? The Saints were finishing up a home playoff game (which they won, and the city leapt with drunken joy) so the bar was loud and noisy. I enjoyed it, which is out of character for me. Maybe it was the vodka. David was drinking a lot and started getting really complimentary (he was a gentleman though, he certainly wasn’t being offensive), but I just wasn’t into it. Then some guy came in that he told me he had beef with and shit got weird. The guy walked past us and patted David on the shoulder and David nodded and said “hey man,” and then proceeded to tell me that he wanted the chance to fight this guy.
Then this strange stare-down between the two began, across the bar. The other dude had three other guys with him, and they were watching David and I intently. And you know? That’s when I grabbed my coat and told him I was going to head back to the hotel. Testosterone, booze, and whatever history of squabbling these two had between them was a potential recipe for something I wanted no part of. As I got up, David asked if I would wait so he could finish his drink, and I just said, “nah, I’m going to head out.” As I stepped outside, it began to rain, so I ducked under an overhang and called for an Uber. David had followed me and the Uber was there in less than two minutes. I know he was disappointed, but I certainly didn’t want to lead him on, and my gut was telling me there was some shady stuff in the air. The energy shifted when those other guys came in. So I was out.
After I got back to the hotel, David sent a series of [drunk] texts to let me know he wanted to ravage my body.
So, just, UGH. UGH UGH UGH UGH. Why, WHYYYYY does it always have to come back to sex??? He texted “you should get debaucherous with me” and then told me to come back out and go dancing with him. I told him I was exhausted so he asked me to “cordially invite” him up to my hotel, followed by “take a nap dammit.” I didn’t reply. Here’s the string of texts that followed:
“You like attention.
But you ain’t in love with me.
My ego can’t handle it.
It’s how ridiculous I am.
It was nice meeting you.
I’m not your type.
So that was that.
After I got back to the hotel, I walked down to Walgreens to get some Advil. On my way back, I detoured and meandered around for a few blocks, taking in the city, the people, the reverberations of madness from the Saint’s game. I felt good about how I handled this week, disappointed and upset as I initially was. I didn’t let the experience gobble me up. It didn’t defeat me. It made me think about a situation I experienced in 2011…one I responded to much differently.
I had reconnected with an old high school friend on Facebook who had moved to New York. Let’s call him Tommy. I was in the thick of job searching, and many of the NPOs I was interested in working with at the time were headquartered in New York. Tommy lived outside the city and invited me to come up and use his house as a home base while I went and got some face time with people from the different organizations I was interested in. I thought it was a great idea – and it was also naïve of me. Tommy and I had dated very briefly in high school. I had always had a crush on him – he was a jock, cute as could be. I was single at the time, so I was open to a romantic connection, but when he picked me up from the airport, it just wasn’t there. We hung out the first night and I slept on the couch, and then he came out of his bedroom in the middle of the night and tried messing around with me. I had to shut him down, forcefully, and it scared me… his persistence scared me. He wasn’t taking no for an answer until I got aggressive back with him. He finally stumbled back to his room and I laid on the couch the rest of the night, wide awake, planning my exit.
The next morning, he made some comments about how I rejected him the previous night and I brushed it off, knowing he would be leaving for work shortly and waiting for my chance to leave to wherever the hell I was going to go next. After he left, I called my friend Aaron who was able to get me an employee rate at a hotel in Time’s Square and I packed my suitcase and walked a mile to the train station (not knowing where I was going, really). I had been to New York City once before, but with my ex. I’d never navigated the city alone. So anyways, I figured out which subway station to get off of and then proceeded to tote my pink suitcase down the streets of New York to my hotel.
Here’s where the story takes a wild turn, and where my reaction to it was so different from my reaction to the NOLA saga this past week. Shortly after I checked into my hotel, Tommy got home and realized I’d left. He texted me, asking where I was, and I told him it would be better if I stayed in a hotel for the rest of the week. Then he erupted into a fit of texts and voicemails, calling me names even I will not repeat here. He had an expectation that we would hook up. I didn’t meet it, he felt rejected, and that was his reaction. I blocked him and went for a walk to Barnes and Noble.
I felt so gut punched by him, by his reaction, so deflated, and suddenly so alone in this massive city. I thought I’d have a nice week, hang out with an old friend if nothing else developed, pass out some resumes in person. It would be great. But it wasn’t happening as I had planned. I remember walking back to my hotel, thinking how wonderful it would be if I just took on the city by myself. I was in New York City, after all! Make the most of it! Get dressed up, take yourself to dinner, see what this experience has to offer you!
But I didn’t. The next day I booked an early flight back to Florida. I didn’t want to be there alone. I didn’t know anyone in the city. I just wanted to go home. And so I did. The trip was a failure, and I didn’t have the gumption to turn it around for myself.
This, perhaps, is a fundamental difference between the 28-year-old self I was 7 years ago, and the 35-year-old self I am today. This time around, I hung tight to see what the universe had in store. And for that, I feel empowered.