The Normal Heart
When you think of the word “normal”, we tend to think of adjectives like, “common”, “familiar” or maybe even “boring”. These are adjectives that I never like to use in my own personal vocabulary. Part of the reason for living in a city like New York, is that we thrive on not being normal but rather radical. We are extreme in everything that we say and do. We leave the “normal” way of living for the rest of the world because we know that there is no other place like New York and living here takes a certain level of desire. Regardless of where we live, how we live our lives; I couldn’t help but think about our hearts. As we strive each day to tell the world that love is universal; I couldn’t help but think what constitutes a normal heart?
The week started off on not the best foot. After celebrating Easter with some amazing people, I woke up on Monday feeling “off.” Not in a hangover kind of way but like I was coming down with a cold. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one, several of my friends all had the same symptoms. I decided to cancel all my plans for the beginning of the week and focus on getting better for I knew that the weekend ahead was when I needed my strength the most.
Thankfully, by the time that Thursday rolled around, I was back to normal again. Several weeks ago, my friend asked me and another friend of mine to attend a monthly happy hour that him and his coworkers have. I was excited about it but also a little hesitant because my friend works in the finance world. I can barely keep a balance in my checking account, so wasn’t sure I was going to have a lot in common with this particular group.
When I arrived at the bar, Industry, my friend and some of his coworkers were already there. To my friend’s defense, he did warn me ahead of time that the turn out might not be so great. I got my drink and began to introduce myself to finance men. They were all friendly and not as uptight as I was anticipating. My other friend showed up and things were beginning to pick-up; with our usual talk of men and socializing. The drinks were beginning to go faster and seeing that there was a two for one special going on, that certainly didn’t help matters or maybe it did.
However, I did notice this one cute guy that wasn’t part of the happy hour. I told my friends about him and of course, we quickly sized up the guy. We knew based on his attire and manners that he wasn’t from the city. I knew that he was also on the younger side and that he was alone probably waiting for a date. I even told my friends, “He looks so normal that I bet his name is something like John.” We never really made any eye contact therefore, I knew from my dating instincts that he wasn’t interested in me. Which was fine but my friends thought otherwise. For about ten minutes, they continued to pressure me into going over to the guy (who was now sitting on a couch drinking a beer) and actually talking to him. They finally wore me down and I took a big gulp of confidence otherwise known as a vodka cranberry with a splash of soda and walked over to the guy.
I walked over there and opened with the classic line of, “Is this seat taken?” He offered me a seat next to him and so I sat. I said, “Hi, my name is Alex, how are you?” He replied with, “Hi, I’m John, nice to meet you as well.” Yes, his name was actually John. As we sat there, he offered to get us a beer and I graciously accepted. My friends were giving me the thumbs up and I gave them a look that indicated that I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on.
When we sat back down with our Blue Moons, I began asking the normal first introduction questions. He told me that he is from North Carolina and now lives in Hoboken, works in pharmaceutical advertising and rarely gets into the city. These are the things that I knew solely based on appearance alone. He asked how long I have lived in the city and when I told him almost 18 years, he then asked how old I was. I never lie about my age and so I said, “I’m 35 and will be 36 this August. How old are you?” Before he answered he said, “Wow, I thought you were in your late twenties.” I wish he would’ve stopped there but he said, “I actually just turned 25.” I smiled and I also knew that he was waiting for someone based on how frequent he was checking his phone.
John was really nice toward me and I was proud of myself for going over to talk to a cute guy. However, I also knew he was acting kind of funny after his second beer. He told me to sit tight and he will be right back with our next round of beers. Well, he never came back and when I got up, I noticed he was drinking both of our beers simultaneously while he was talking to another guy. I wasn’t entirely pleased with my friends for pressuring me into talking to someone that I had a gut feeling wasn’t into me to begin with but there is no use in crying over spilled beer.
After that episode, a few of us decided we needed to grab some dinner and went to Arriba Arriba. There, we all got our margaritas and after we finished with our drinks and meal; it was official…we all were drunk. Another set of friends were at a bar around the corner but I knew I was already past the point of no return, so I got a beer. I only had one beer because that was all I could handle and said goodbye to everyone.
The next day, I was a little sluggish but still managed to push through the day. After what seemed like the longest work day of my life; I went home to begin getting ready. I was having a first date with this guy and he suggested we go to this cute little place called, Alice’s Tea Shop, on the Upper Westside. I was actually looking forward to it because it’s a really cute place and this was a date that didn’t involve drinking. It was going to be sweet and I had a feeling that the guy was going to be somewhat on the normal side based on the conversation we already had.
We were meeting at 6:30 and I was on time for once with him being just a few minutes behind. When he arrived all of my “normal” ideas went out the door. He looked so…well…dirty. What I mean by dirty is that he not only looked like he didn’t shower that day but maybe not in a few days. He had a beard that gave Tom Hanks in Cast Away a run for its money. I felt bad for judging him based on appearance alone but I decided that I can get through some scones and a pot of tea without this turning into some episode.
As we sat down, he began talking and didn’t stop. He gave the impression that he was somewhat of a hippie that lived in Brooklyn and was a freelance graphic designer. I asked him what part of Brooklyn he lived in and he said, “Kind of all over the place right now. Sometimes I just sleep in the studio where I do some of my art work.” He told me that he’s traveled all over the world and just goes where the wind takes him but that he’s enjoyed living in New York. It was there that he made two confessions.
The first confession was that he really wants to get married. He wants to get married before he turns forty but that finding a man is hard to do, blah, blah.
The second confession was that he hadn’t showered in two days. I KNEW IT. He said, “I’m really sorry for how I look. I usually get my beard professionally trimmed and I just haven’t had time to shower in like two days cause of work.” I didn’t know what to say to that, other than be polite with, “Oh, it’s ok. We all get busy from time to time.” I wanted to leave so badly but the man was not eating the food he ordered. I already scarfed down my scone and had three cups of tea.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and told him that we should get the check. When the waiter came by to present us with the bill, my date asked if he could have all the food he ordered wrapped up. He then looked at me with somewhat of embarrassment and said, “This will be my food for the weekend.” I was done. There was nothing left to say or do. We walked outside of the tea shop and I knew he wanted to hug me and so I let him. We walked in opposite directions and I decided that I wasn’t leaving my apartment for the rest of the evening.
The next day was a big day. It was the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I was excited for so many reasons, for them, for their families, for being able to celebrate with them and of course…being with my crew. The entire day was spent getting ready for the wedding and I was amazed at how fast 4:30 had arrived.
Everyone looked so dashing that day at the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea. As we were all seated at 5:30, the doors opened and the family was escorted down the aisle and then we saw the couple and that is when the tears began. Beautiful vows were shared, we all as family/friends gave them away to one another and the prayers that were said were extremely touching. It was there that I felt how “normal” and right everything was for this couple and their special day. Once we all dried our tears away, it was time for the cocktail hour.
After the hour of drinking and meeting family members from out of town, it was time for dinner. I was seated at the table where I had a funny feeling that we were going to be known as the “loud” table. Shots of tequila were ordered even before the first course came and they didn’t stop. By the time the speeches were said, we all were drunk.
The dancing finally began and it was so nice to see everyone having a wonderful time. Time flew by because the lights were on and the next thing I know, we were at a deli making a pit stop before heading over to my friend’s apartment. It was there that we continued to dance and drink till way past 3 a.m. I walked with my friend to the corner of 26th and 8th Avenue and jumped in a cab and passed out.
When I woke up yesterday, I knew that I was going to be down for the count. I only managed to accomplish two things yesterday and that was brushing my teeth and ordering food. It was a day to relax and based on the numerous messages I received from my friends; everyone was in the same boat that I was in.
Two wonderful men, friends of mine, stood before us all and declared their hearts to one another this past Saturday. Two men, whom confessed to me that evening, that they’d never thought in a million years that marriage would even be possible for them and yet there we all stood. Together we celebrated and supported their union. It didn’t feel strange, odd or unfamiliar…in fact, it felt “normal”.
We’ve come a long way in this journey for equality to be able to say that love is universal, love sees no age, ethnicity and in fact it’s all normal. The journey will never be over but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop along the way on this journey to take pause and show our gratitude.
Normal is how we love, normal is how we have the same ups and downs and fight to make it all work in the end. However, the most normal thing above this all is how we all have hearts and there is nothing “common”, “familiar” or maybe even “boring” about that. The Normal Heart.
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