I had a date! Yay!
For New Years' Eve I avoided every desperate fear-of-being-alone option, such as picking up the phone when S. the P. called, first my cell and then my land line, or calling my married friends at the last minute and offering to tag along with the newlyweds. They probably wouldn't have minded, but still. Neither did I show up at a loud rock venue in Manhattan to attempt to catch up with an old acquaintance (Grace) whom I haven't seen in a year and a half. We exchanged emails and that was more than sufficient.
Instead I cleaned house and baked some cranberry walnut bread, listened to Prairie Home Companion, and around 7:30 I sauntered up to the Pavilion for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." (They got it right.) After that I wandered down to Barbés, thinking that walking through Brooklyn at night is even more intense and surreal than walking through a forest full of mythological creatures and talking trees, if you only look.
Barbés was the perfect place, the only bar I've ever found where you can walk in alone on New Years' Eve and not feel like a loser and a fool. They had a very very awesome Eastern European-style band, with two accordions, saxophone and trumpet, and everyone in the back room was smiling and dancing like gypsies, all jammed up together. The saxophonist had two sets of lungs, like a bagpipe, and he kept switching them out as they emptied so that he could hold the high notes for, say, fifteen or twenty minutes. The trumpeter was two people, which would be the only way he could pipe up gloriously from the front of the room while the saxophonist was refilling his lungs, and simultaneously dance in the crowd next to me. Everyone in the room, including me, knew all the songs, despite the fact that we'd never heard them before (in this lifetime, at least) and didn't know the language either. (Arabic? Hungarian? Yiddish? Aramaic?) I got myself a beer, divested myself of hot outer garments and was swallowed up.
I emerged at about 2 AM with a new friend, a gentle soul named Karl who looks about fifteen years younger than he is. We wandered the streets looking for a quiet place to have tea, which turned out to be my apartment, since every bar along 5th was unacceptably rowdy. I protested, 'I can't invite a strange man to my apartment at 2 AM,' and then noticed that he was, in fact, a gentle soul. He has lived in Spain, composes music for small, low-budget, avant-garde films, and is leaving for two and a half months in Ecuador on Tuesday. Which kind of takes the pressure off.
We did have tea and he did go home. He called on New Years' Day and invited me out for sushi, apologizing for calling so soon. I forgave him since, as I mentioned, he's leaving for Ecuador. The sushi place was good and one I hadn't discovered; we had green tea ice cream instead of sake. Then we hung out in his room, full of sound editing equipment and a lovely pale blue wall with a paler diamond shape in the center, and talked about painting and poetry and Ecuador and music.
After awhile I noticed that I wasn't so much listening to him as enjoying the sound of his voice, while still attending to the sense of the words. He's not a wit or a genius but simply a nice, calm, thoughtful person. I noticed how, usually, I'm all tweaks and edges when talking to new friends, or old friends, or people I meet at parties--I tell hilarious stories, make trenchant observations, parry intimate approaches. I noticed myself stopping all that. I noticed that I'm a wounded, performative mass of nerves, most of the time. I felt a large, warm sense of stillness entering my bones. We talked for five or six hours, then I hugged him and went home.
This is not Love, people, but what a great guy. I realized that calm, non-grasping gentleness is something that has been signally lacking in most of my relationships (with the exception of Pierre, you wonderful person.) Most people defend themselves most of the time. This is exhausting and impossible to maintain, which is why people freak out, suddenly, when all you are doing is sleeping on their couch. I've received a huge gift and I am very, very grateful.