Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sad Strangers

Yesterday I was driving home from the gym, talking on my (wired!) headset to my sister in Maine.  We try to talk at least once a week.  When I was about 2/3rds of the way home, I received a text message from Andrew, a college friend who I'd committed to pick up at the airport.

Blast! I felt silly having been heading in the wrong direction for that whole time.

(I'm not going to turn this post into a commentary on that last sentence and the deeper truth that lies within it, though it's very tempting. I think my readers are smart enough to feel where I might go with that)

So I swung all the way around--north, then west on the 101, then south on the 405 to Century Blvd.  Andrew is gay, and now that I am more comfortable and "out", I get special delight in re-visiting my old gay friends.  I used to be somewhat uncomfortable around my gay friends, because I feared that they, being gay, had some special sixth sense, and would quickly figure out my dark secret.  I feared I'd be outted by them--not directly, perhaps--but maybe people would notice the similarities between me and my gay friends and come to a (correct) conclusion that I, too, was homosexual.

Well, all that crap is in the past now.  When I got to the airport, Andrew and I embraced in a way that seems exclusive to homosexuals and close family--that great big unrestrained bear hug of joy at seeing someone you care about after a long absence.

Mind you, I've no interest in a relationship with Andrew, but I love hugs and I do care about my friends very deeply.

We drove towards where he was staying in Sherman Oaks, and we stopped and got In-N-Out for dinner.  (I limit myself to no more than once a week, because I literally get giddy when I eat In-N-Out, it's just that good.  It makes up for the lack of decent pizza out here).

While we were talking, I noticed a guy sitting alone on a stool at the bench.  He looked to be in his low to mid 20's (I'm a terrible estimator of age) and slender with a jacket and a cap, five-o-clock shadow, and moist, sad eyes.

I couldn't help but watch him.  He looked as if he was really upset, yet didn't want to show the world his pain.  My heart reached out to this guy, and I really really wanted to go over and ask him what was wrong.  We made eye contact one or two times, but I didn't get a read on him.  I hesitated, minutes slipping by, trying to talk myself into going over and asking "is everything ok?"

But the moment slipped away.  He muttered something to him self, got up, dumped his trash and left.

Earlier this week I'd been reading articles about picking up a guy, and I'd committed myself to at least try striking up a conversation with someone I find attractive.  Why didn't I do it?  A wasted opportunity.  I feared that maybe he just wanted to be left alone--there was a reason he wasn't letting his tears flow--and maybe if I approached him, he'd be angry with me for not minding my own business.   But maybe he would have been grateful that in cold, uncaring, "blade-runner city" LA, someone at least tried to reach out.

But I still feel cheap, because my motivation wasn't 100% altruistic.  I thought he was cute and wanted to talk to him.  Eh, what are you going to do.

We're all sad strangers, walking the streets alone at night, staring up at the stars.  Wondering if somewhere out there your other half is looking at those same celestial bodies, questioning if he'll ever find his.



  1. It's a journey for all of us Ezra. Live and learn as we go. You may have missed that opportunity but there will be others. Don't worry about "mixed motivations." That's most of us, most of the time. Welcome to the human race. Keep your eyes open and you'll have more chances.

  2. Completely Agree with Alan, the joys of being Human! I had a similar situation last week and have been kicking myself over it since. But we can only learn from all experience, hopefully for the better. Good luck mate!

  3. But I still feel cheap, because my motivation wasn't 100% altruistic. I thought he was cute and wanted to talk to him. Eh, what are you going to do.

    Like Alan said, mixed motivations are to be expected. The fact that you're indulging in self-analysis puts you ahead of the curb.

    I think as Mormons we all strive to 'be ye therefore perfect'. This is a nice ideal but we don't have anything like a kol nidre to balance the guilt we feel from our inevitable failure to transcend the human for perfection.

    You're a good man.