Monday, June 20, 2011

Birkenstocks, a bruise and a bona-fide Frenchman

I was blasting Fleet Foxes in my headphones on the 6 train tonight when the man seated beside me leaned over and inspected something: me.

Immediately, self-consciouness washed over me. Last week, I took a mighty fall and now there's a murky bruise on my thigh, brooding fiercely under the skin. It's the size of my hand and pretty scary-looking. Over the last few days, I've had a couple horrified people demand, "What happened to your leg?!" My hand raced to the bruise in an effort to shield it from sight when I realized the man hadn't noticed my bruise. He was looking at my feet.

He caught my eye and mouthed something. He mouthed it again. I took my headphones off. "Nice Birkenstocks," he said.

"Oh," I looked at my feet. They were dirty and calloused with hairy toes. Embarrassing. "Thank you."

"I have a pair myself," he went on. I detected a French accent. "They're like..." He held up his hand and made a crossing motion with his fingers. I knew exactly the kind he was talking about.

"Oh, right! Yeah, those look too manly on me," I replied. He had gorgeous gray eyes. His hair was dark brown, with specks of white around the ears. He wasn't clean-shaven, but his pink-and-white striped shirt was neatly pressed and tucked into a pair of gray jeans. On his feet, he wore black socks with brown loafers. I loved his style; he wore the kind of clothing I think I'd wear, if I were a man.

He spoke easily, and we continued to talk about shoes. I told him I'd recently gotten these Birkenstocks repaired. Oh, he asked, did you send them in? You can do that, you know. No, I didn't. I took them to a cobbler in Manhattan. Oh, he replied. They look very nice. These loafers are from a thrift store. You should wear socks always, I said. I do, he replied. It feels a little like someone else has worn them. That makes sense, I replied. Because you got them at a thrift store.

I wondered if he was visiting the United States, or if he lived here. I wondered what would happen if he asked me for my number. Would I give it to him? Should I give him my email address instead? I've never given my phone number to a stranger before. I was rapidly thinking of options when my Frenchman turned to his right and began conversing in French with his travel partner. I didn't even know he was with someone. He seemed so engrossed in me.

He and his friend continued to chat in French as the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I thought, Well, he's not going to ask me for my number now. He looked up at me and smiled. "Have a nice evening," I said to him, and out the doors I went.


The Chinatown bus chugs along the expressway in the middle of the night. "I feel like I never meet anyone."

"Well, that's why so many of our friends are on OK Cupid," says Alex. He and I are slumped in our seats, eyes half-closed. I hope there aren't bedbugs on this bus.

I wrinkle my nose at the thought of finding love via questionnaires and games, searching for a man like I'm searching on Google. "I don't know. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I like happenstance. Meeting someone on the street. Or wherever. Out of the blue."

"Yeah," he said. "Me too." And our single selves sat in silence, imagining lucky encounters.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"No sleep until Philly" and La Luz De Un Cigarillo

These next two days are gonna be crazeballs. Tomorrow, I'm getting up at my version of the crack of dawn, 7:30am, to be at a run-through of Alfridge, which I'm teching and opening next week in Philadelphia with some of my best friends and frequent collaborators. "No sleep until Philly," says my director, Andrew. This week, we're going to tech the show, rehearse the shit out of it, write the ending, and, oh, open the show. "Actually," he corrects himself, "No sleep until we're back in Brooklyn."

After the 9am run tomorrow, I'm jetting to my work, then jetting from my work to Political Subversities at the PIT, where we're kicking off our summer run with a brand-new show. Gadzooks! Then, of course, I have to stick around to watch some of my improvising friends, Gentlemen Party, who go up right after us at 11pm. Boy, am I going to sleep well tomorrow night.

Then Sunday, I head to work, then jet to Chinatown and take the bus to Philadelphia, where I'll be for a week. I cannot wait to be stationary in Philadelphia all next week with my buddies. For the past month, I feel like I've been running from place to place, having no time at all to take a breath. Last weekend, as I tore off my work clothes in the locker room, hastily shoved my sweaty feet in my Keds and wiped the lipstick off my mouth, I nearly burst into tears bolting out the door. Am I doing too much? I've asked myself this ten times a day over the past month. But when someone from Alfridge or Political Subversities brings in a brilliant piece of writing or tries a character voice that is the most ridiculous I've ever heard, I have to forget the tears and burst into laughter instead. Yeah, it's all worth it.

I had a moment tonight when all of the busy-ness slowed and I could sit, put away my phone, and enjoy a play. My dear friend and fellow Political Subversities cast member, Ismael Cruz-Cordova, is starring off-Broadway in La Luz De Un Cigarillo at Teatro LATEA. I attended his performance tonight, solo and totally nervous. I knew it would be completely in Spanish with English supertitles. Would I be able to keep up? I forgot that I have been reading since age four; so, actually, I can read supertitles pretty quickly.

The play was really beautiful. It's about a Dominican mother whose son returns home for a couple days for his father's funeral. They can't really connect with each other; she wants him to open up to her, but he can't because he rejects her conservative outlook on the world. They love one another but cannot respect each other. In the second act, the mother goes wild and slaps her son, calling him ungrateful, detailing for him the sacrifices she has made for him to be a happy child and successful adult. Something in the scene reminded me of my own mother, the most hardworking woman I know. In that moment, I saw my own mom, who has made an infinite number of sacrifices for me---working seven days a week, paying for nearly everything I desired, never remarrying to focus on her work---and myself as the son, who fears that his mother will be alone for the rest of her life. As these things clicked into place, I began crying in my seat. I missed my mom. I missed my childhood. I resented every hurtful thing I ever said to my mom. I resented the nonstop work in which she immerses herself. After the show, I called her before I even left the theater. She's the best. I didn't realize that as a kid. Boy, do I realize it now.