The Real World
There are so many people out in the world that will do almost anything to avoid dealing with their reality. The vices that cripple us are usually the first things that we gravitate toward to make us feel better about our situations. These vices can be shopping, over eating, drug abuse, anonymous sex, alcohol and lying. It’s also these vices that for a brief period of time make us feel amazing, fuzzy and sense of reality is lifted. It’s when we come down from these highs that we are faced, yet again, with the reality that we’ve created; maybe that’s why so many of us try to combine our fantasy world with our real lives. The Real World…friend or enemy?
Like most, my own real world can vary from a state of chaos to pure bliss. I was still in deep communication with my much younger coworker and last Sunday; we agreed that we would do a happy hour on Friday. I admit, I was looking forward to spending time with him outside the office. I will also admit that I had severe reservations about meeting him and discovering that maybe he wasn’t gay or worse that I created this entire flirtation in my head. However, last Monday evening, he sent me a text message that he was in bed reading my favorite book and was enjoying it. I didn’t press the issue of his sexual orientation then, mainly because that is a conversation I wanted to have face to face and I could wait a few more days until I would get my answer.
On Wednesday, my fantasy world and my real world collided. I was going to see the movie, Wild, with an ex-boyfriend of mine that I broke up with ten years ago this very month. I left him in the most dramatic fashion and over the past ten years; we’ve had our moments of severe ups and downs. Ever since I left him, we would get together every two years, we would get close and he was either in a relationship or my temper got the better part of me and I left him again. If I was honest with myself and told my real world-self what I should’ve done ten years ago; it would’ve been to have never left him. However, I was young and scared. Scared of another broken heart, scared of him leaving me and scared that my happiness was coming too soon. So, like our relationship had always gone over the past decade…he was back in my life. And like our relationship has always gone; he’s currently in a relationship. No. We are not having an affair. We haven’t been physical with each other either. It was never about that with us; it was about a connection. A connection that has kept us in each other’s lives for a long time.
So, on Wednesday afternoon, I was walking on Broadway and 13th Street when we ran into each other. It wasn’t a coincidence that we ran into each other; it was on purpose. We had been emailing about seeing a movie and we finally decided on Wednesday afternoon. We went to get hot chocolate beforehand and since I bought the tickets; he was in charge of snacks. When we sat down at the theatre; he presented us with chocolate chip cookies (my favorite) and brownies. During the movie, there was a few times where our hands touched. Each time it happened, I felt a wonderful feeling inside but knew that he’s unavailable and I pulled away. After the movie, we walked to Sixth Avenue and realized that we still wanted to talk more and so we turned around and walked back to Broadway. We hugged goodbye and both went home. My fantasy world wanted nothing more than to be with him but my real world knew that he is with someone else. Will the fantasy and reality worlds ever collide again? I have no idea but I do know and I’ve always known…what a great man he is.
By the time Friday rolled around, I discovered that I was still having a hard time shaking off my movie night with my ex. Yet, I knew I had to shut the noise off in my head and focus on my reality. I had asked my coworker earlier in the day if meeting at a gay bar would be alright with him. He told me that he was perfectly ok with meeting at the bar, XES. He had never heard of the bar before, which made me think that he isn’t gay or he doesn’t have a social life.
It was raining heavily the entire day and evening, so when I met him at 5:30, he was already waiting for me. The bar was quiet and we grabbed two seats in the corner. He ordered a whiskey on the rocks and I ordered vodka with cranberry juice. It took only two drinks for me to finally ask, “Are you gay or not?” He laughed and said, “Yes. I like men. It’s been fun torturing you over the past couple of weeks. I knew you wanted to ask but thought it was fun torturing you with the suspense.” Now that we got that out of the way, we were able to talk about our families, our interests and what kind of guys we are attracted to. It was starting to feel like a date and I was impressed with how easily everything was beginning to fall into place.
Five drinks later and we both were feeling buzzed. It was right around the fifth drink that I was excusing myself to go to the restroom when he grabbed my arm and said, “I have something to tell you.” In my experience, when a guy says these words; they are usually not in your best interest. I said, “Ok. What is it?” With his hand still holding my arm, he leans in and says, “I think you are a nice guy but I’m not attracted to you and you are too old.” If we had been in a boxing ring; it would’ve been right there that I got the old knockout punch. It was also there that I realized just how young he is. His delivery was from someone young and his lack of awareness was something that I hadn’t been around in a long time. I told him, “No problem. I still need to use the restroom.” I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror and asked myself out loud, “What were you thinking hanging out with someone that is 25 years old?” The answer was simple…I had no business hanging out with a 25 year old. I splashed some cold water on my face and walked back out with no clue of how to proceed with the evening.
I sat back down and he said, “I really hope I didn’t upset you. You are a great guy and…” Before he could finish his sentence I said, “Please don’t patronize me with the speech on how I’m a great guy and any guy would be lucky to have me.” I told him he didn’t know me well enough to say those things about me and we should just change the subject. Then, out of the blue, he leans in to try and kiss me! I pulled myself back and his lips ended up kissing the side of my neck. I looked at him with disgust and asked, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” He didn’t say a word and I continued with, “You just told me you are not attracted to me and that I’m too damn old.” He finally confessed, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” That was all that I needed to hear to close out the night. I said, “We should get going.” No words were spoken as we gathered our coats. It was pouring down rain and he didn’t have an umbrella but I did. I opened up my big golf umbrella, turned away from him and walked toward the subway.
I barely made it to the subway before I began to cry. I cried for all the right reasons. I cried because I was embarrassed. I cried because I was forced to deal with my real world. I cried because I was finally able to admit to myself that in my real world, despite having the most amazing friends in the world; that I’m in fact…lonely. My real world was knocking on my door and I finally answered it.
When I got off the subway, there was a message from my coworker asking me if we were ok. I said that I would see him on Monday. He wished me good night and I didn’t respond. I haven’t heard from him since and that is perfectly fine with me.
When I woke up on Saturday, the intense cry that I had with myself had me feeling uplifted. I felt lighter that I was able to let my emotions come out through my eyes and was ready to face a new day with new opportunities. I went to the gym and had one of the best workouts I had in a long time. I showered and rushed in the rain to make my 3:30 brunch with some of my dearest friends at, The Smith.
Over brunch, I knew that I was not only going to be just fine but that I was going to have a fun time ahead. We drank, we ate, we laughed and then afterwards we grabbed a cab to the Standard Hotel where we had more drinks. After the drinks at the hotel, we picked up a friend of ours that was dog sitting in Chelsea before heading to our friend’s tree trimming party.
We all participated in decorating the tree, eating, drinking and it felt so wonderful to be surrounded by such amazing people. This was in fact, my real world. I don’t know how or when it happened but the party went on to the very wee hours of the morning yet I woke up on my friend’s couch that was hosting the party. When I woke up, two of my friends were still talking and it just was one of those crazy nights for us all. I walked home at 11 a.m. and it was freezing but the cold wind woke me up and I just went home, showered, got under the blanket and relaxed for the rest of the day.
The Real World, as we know, can be a very scary thing at times. It can be unforgiving, cruel and disappointing. Yet at the same time, it’s the world where you can see the most amazing things, achieve goals that you thought were not possible and if you are lucky, you can even fall in love. With all that we do to escape our real world, it’s both the good and the bad times that help you discover not only who you are but who you’ll become.
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