Willing to Climb
do you remember our first walk together?
i probably talked too much.
there was a girl named E who i met on hinge in early 2021 when i had just moved to manhattan. blonde and mouth-agape, we had dinner and talked about her internship and ambition to be someone in fashion journalism. she took a liking to me — “you’re ambitious, and i really like people who are ambitious.” — and i didn’t find her all that ambitious or attractive, but you can’t have it all.
she invited me to a party in hudson yards hosted by two girls named J and L. the apartment was an entire townhouse on what seemed to be a much taller building. their unit was two stories with a balcony. every piece of furniture, from the rugs to the demisch-danant lamps, was luxury. chanel, dior, maison margiela boxes and trinkets everywhere. the apartment was gaudy in a way that only a rich fashion-girl could make it. perfect for a party.
out of curiosity, i checked L’s instagram and see that she now lives in quite a normal looking apartment. she doesn’t follow J anymore, and all of the tags on the photos of them together are removed.
i met a lot of people that night, from a brooklyn boy that J matched with on hinge to some models named T and K, and an incredible group of gay men lead by L and J. they exist to have a good time, and no amount of “i’m too good for this” energy is going to stop them. while T and K spoke with each other as if no other people existed, i danced and flirted with L and J and their whole crew while they teased me for being straight.
L had a great big smile, a big voice, and moves as if he is worthy of all the attention in the room. he is. J is less outgoing but just as present. in truth, i wanted to win them over. i wanted them to think well of me because i wanted to be like them — perfectly unattached to the wealth, the beauty, and vanity of the room. if i felt misplaced with that crowd, i wasn’t about to show it. L and J liked me, we exchanged instagrams and kept in touch.
E, the girl who brought me, looked on as if she was proud that i was doing so well in this room. she wanted very badly to present as if we were a couple, despite it being the second time i’d ever met her. she’d saddle up next to me every couple of minutes and try to hold hands or hug me as if to show everyone, “i brought him. that’s mine.” it felt possessive and uncomfortable. the gay men knew i wasn’t much into it, and plenty available. perhaps not for them.
at the end of the night i was too tired and too budget-conscious to do separate ubers to her apartment and to mine, so i slept in her small bed in the lower east side, woke up, and walked to meet MB.
“i’m done with girls, but i gotta tell you about these crazy rich kids i met.”
though the time is a bit hazy in my mind, i met you shortly after i went to that party in hudson yards where i met L and J. i was on the apps, had just moved to manhattan, going out just a tiny bit more, and feeling quite alright about life. sending voice messages to strangers while i walked around my new stomping grounds, wondering if anything would come of it all.
i went out with a lot of girls at that time, and my interest tended to be: make out with them, or get an experience out of it — invites to fashion-girl parties, notably.
i really wanted to get into something serious, but when the heart says no to someone, there is not much left to do. when some girls asked me what i wanted, i told them i wasn’t sure because it felt quite uncomfortable to say: “something very serious. but not with you.”
i remember one of those first times that you came over and i asked you what you wanted and realized your answer was not quite as serious as mine was. it tore me up a little bit, but i realized that was ridiculous since we are both young and you’re in college and i can’t possibly expect people to feel so assured about what they might want out of love, out of themselves, or out of a partner.
i didn’t contemplate the possibility that when i said “i know what i want”, i might have been just as clueless as anyone.
but you were the only person i ever had that conversation with. i figured i could wait for a summer, and maybe some love would come out of it.
i am quite a nobody in this city of people-who-seem-like-somebody. maybe that’s not the best way to put it.
E brought me to motel 23, where i saw OS, a model boy who i met during a night out in january. i saw a guy named WK who i met at some rooftop club in may. L brought me along to the q where i met N, A, and someone else. i don’t remember. i know N’s face already because of instagram — she’s a bit of an icon and shows up on my feed all the time, probably just with L. all of these people seem connected somehow, if only by the fact that they can show up to these great clubs, get in without waiting in line, and have a great time.
i like being a part of it, but not too much.
it’s a required experiment for me. i’ve gotta see more of my accessible social world. i’m determined to break into as many rooms as i can and meet these people. it’s the only way i’ll know what the fuck i’m missing out on. (a lot, it feels like.)
according to my observations, [club] is a place where notable, sociable people go. that dj i met months ago, O, plays there and at the other location, [club]. instagram doesn’t let me forget the name when it shows me pictures of the cooler people i know at [club].
AG and her friend from back home, I, happened to be there on a sleepy wednesday night. I is a software engineering intern at facebook, and was joined by her cousin, A.
I lives in employee housing provided by facebook on park avenue in a building with a goddamn pool in it, AG tells me.
neither of them are very social, nor aware of their lack of social skills — youth — so AG and i absorbed ourselves in conversation. we’ve been talking a lot about the social scene(s) in new york and how i feel so locked out of it all. disconnected. aware and worried about the fact that there are many rooms i haven’t and can’t visit quite yet.
a middle-aged man, alone, was waiting for a drink with a black dive watch on his wrist. it’s a seiko, and is no more than $400. i told him i liked his seiko — “is that an SKX?” — and he responded that it wasn’t, but i was very close. he noticed the santos-dumont on my wrist, telling me he liked it, too. his name is B, and he has the social skills — aged — to make sure and include AG in the conversation. he asks for her name, too, and shakes both of our hands.
“so, what do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“i own this place. so, you could say i’m in the hospitality business.”
that, he is.
after the interaction, I and A thought it so cool that i met the owner. they’re much more enthralled at the idea that they, too, can be a part of new york city’s ‘it’ crowd. for the small price of $25 a drink.
whether you believe it or not, i do love you, a lot. i wanted to call this evening, but instead have been writing for the last two hours because i know i owe you much more than a phone call.
“this evening” refers to the early hours of july 1st, when i started writing this.
i loved being with you in chicago, and i’m sorry for being less forgiving for what are quite normal, human things: leaving phones in grocery stores and driving over potholes. you deserved love in those moments that i didn’t give to you. i’d like to say sorry with a very big hug. or an internet letter like this one.
don’t apologize for any oddities of my visit to chicago. it turned out exactly as it should have: imperfect and honest.
N walks in, i recognize her, and point her out to AG.
“i know her. him. her. that’s N. i met them the other day at [club] with those guys i spent pride with. this is hilarious. she’s gonna think i’m someone, seeing me around the town all of a sudden.”
“hi, N! it’s so good to see you again. are you hosting here?”
“ah! it’s good to see you toooo. no, i’m visiting my friend L, who is hosting a party here tonight. i’ll be in the back, so you come see me and say hi whenever.”
i know people?
AG and i walk to the back when the party starts to fill up. we meet M, A, and T, a wonderfully kind and gracious trio. M is an account manager, A is becoming a heart surgeon, and T works in product management at chase.
men in drag frolick around us, and most of the male-appearing men are gay. AG, unfortunately, is of no use to them socially, and i can tell she feels a bit out of place. perhaps she is. A is telling me about a hookup in paris who had a loft bed with practically no space above it.
“how am i supposed to have sex in this? it was crazy. laying down? that’s the only fucking way. but, hey, this was just some man i met in europe, so that makes it all right.”
the truth is, i’m out of place, too, and i make no mention of my straightness.
closer to the door: a group of identical young blondes with white outfits and white skin and expensive hair, the types i would go for. AG tries talking to them to no avail — they take photos with each other on the couches and have no interest in socializing. there are two girls in the group who are not wearing white: one is asian with light-brown hair, and the other is white with dark hair. both are wearing black dresses.
AG and i leave (I and her cousin are long gone), and as i walk out, i pass by the owner, brian, and his doorman who came close to snubbing me when i first showed up.
counting the man from [powerful corporation] who i met while walking down second street, i met six people tonight.
all is well in the night.
as of this writing, the night of june 30, 2022, i’ve met and taken note of 355 people. this makes my task of meeting 500 people this year at 71% complete only 50% of the way through the year. ahead of schedule.
of those 355 people, i count a few of those as new friends this year. K, S, Q, I, i all met in february. J, AG’s friend from california, i met this year, too. MD, JC, NG — quite a few, actually.
i just learned the other day that J went to carnegie-mellon, is a few years older than i thought, and has already worked in tech previously in his life. it’s no wonder that he is effortlessly knowledgeable and cool in just about every situation. what i most admire about julian is that he’s assuming with how “cool” he is. he’s not trying to prove a point or be suave. perfectly nonchalant about his own competence and intelligence.
so, it’s been a good year on that front.
yet, i’m still dissatisfied, and very much so. meeting all these people and looking back on it has made me realize how difficult it is to make something deeper than an acquaintance happen. so many nights out and chance encounters turn into ephemera. it makes me question what made our tinder diversion into something that has now dragged on
i say that endearingly
for over a year now.
it is now 02:37 2022-07-03, i know it is 08:37 in amsterdam, and i hope your alarm clock is inactive and doesn’t wake you from your sleep at the student hotel for a while. i’d like to send this to you to read before you venture out for sunday morning.
writing is hard when i have much to tell you.
inherent in my social dissatisfaction, though, is a recognition that i haven’t met all the important, great, close people i’ll meet throughout my life. i know that. you know that. it’s true for every young person except for those who are settling down in america’s small towns. we’re going to meet more and more and more people.
and i don’t know what that means for our love lives together, or what the correct answer is. but i do think about it often.
i would be very happy to date you and be exclusive and go explore the vast immense of people that we have at our disposal in this city. i can’t guarantee they’ll let you into every nightclub and bar, though. i also can’t guarantee VIP entry to any place, as i am not a VIP. perhaps if you get famous for a role some time soon, you can just throw me on your guest list.
but i am also very scared that i don’t know enough about what i’ll end up wanting or where you’ll end up in life, and i’m afraid that when you told me you weren’t ready to date, you were absolutely correct in your caution, and i hate caution.
i cried a lot last night because i do not feel very good at love. my eye wanders. i am blinded by birds in bushes. i don’t know the right answer. i can’t tell the future. i want to know that what we choose to do is good for us both and the truth is i have zero fucking clue what i’m doing in love. that pisses me off so much. i hate people who don’t know what they’re doing. apply the transitive property to that one.
i don’t know everything that i want but i do know that i showed your instagram to a girl at a bar last night, told her about you and our little story and why i was in chicago, and how i care a lot about you, and how much i adore the picture of you and some girl named A in front of a sign that says “commit no nuisance”.
p.s. it brings me a great bit of joy to see how many of my photos have ended up in your feed.
relationships are interesting not because of how good two people look next to each other but because of what becomes of the combination. what do we create together, how do we make each other better. i want to be together in exactly that way.
tonight (july 2) was an old-school lonely night for me. MD just moved to the city today, so i stopped by her new apartment in stuytown. her italian father in jersey who owns a pizzeria packed a catering truck full of her stuff for them to move it to the city. i should have stopped by during the day to see him — nothing seems more jersey-italian than that.
her cat, P, is scared of all of the chaos, and marina has shit everywhere. the room is massive. she has two roommates in the apartment. her window looks out east to the highway. an unassembled dresser from amazon — the sort of cheap shit i wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole — waits for my hands to assemble it. i helped. consider it charity work.
MD’s been seeing this guy named J() who seems to be ghosting her. losing interest, at the very least. it sounded so good when she first mentioned him to me. seemed like it might actually work out. luckily, she drifts off from the topic while trying to goad P to explore the new apartment.
after a bit, i congratulate her on the move-in and leave. i don’t have any plans for the evening and feel very lonely, even after coming to see a friend. she must be feeling very overwhelmed and (if anything like my new york city move-ins), somewhat alone. i’m glad i made the effort to go see her and alleviate that feeling.
i don’t plan to try and make myself feel less lonely tonight.
on my walk:
a little girl, father, and mother are packing up the car on avenue b outside of tompkins square. while dad folds up the stroller, the balloon comes lose and the little girl isn’t old enough to think to grab it, so i grab it in stride and hand it to the dad. the look on mom’s face was beautiful.
i am thinking about how happy she looked that her baby’s balloon didn’t fly away, and sad that i couldn’t remember that while on my walk tonight. that little show of love should be all i needed. instead, i thought dark thoughts.
love is really important.
an older middle eastern man is standing around outside of his car and finds himself distracted by the water running into the sewer drain. it’s a steady stream, not from rain, but from some leak nearby. he looked perplexed, the sort of look you might have if you saw hundred dollar bills floating away into the sky, never to fall back down.
ci sat up on one of the spires of the fountain at washington square park when a person named cat approached me and asked:
“what do you think of this fountain?”
“hm. that’s a good question.”
“well, like, whatever you wan—”
“i think the water is less mesmerizing than a flame.”
C is a system administrator for a health n.g.o., but doesn’t elaborate past that. from the midwest. i’m not sure why they approached me, but i appreciated it. they’re very normal looking, and i’m sure we looked like an interesting pair walking to union square after they shut down washington square park.
a short white man with a megaphone is being written a citation in union square for, he says, using his megaphone. soon, the cops are gone and a black man is now using his megaphone to make fun of the cops, and they don’t seem to care. both of the men end up climbing on top of the george washington statue, and either the police didn’t see, didn’t care, or both. the highest point in manhattan is as far as you’re willing to climb.
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