I went on a date last night with some guy I met online (OK Cupid if you must know). We were talking, having the getting-to-know-you conversation that ranges across personal histories, family, cities lived in, etc. In and among the chatting, it turned out that we had both lived in San Francisco before, and coincidentally for much of the same time. And then, as he was describing his former place of work there, something clicked and I realized we had met before. The vagaries of how the memory works are mysterious to me. I am not entirely sure why certain things stick in our heads and others don’t, or why these things remain buried for years and years with nary a peep until something calls them forward. Only a few jumbled pieces were coming to me. I remember talking at a party and thinking this guy was quite sexy. I remember having a slight crush on him at the time, but that nothing ever happened between us. I remember (vaguely) bumping into him in a couple of other situations in SF at that time. And that was it, but it was enough for me to marvel that after all these years he should contact me to ask me out on a date. And although it was slight, I noticed that this past feeling of longing was somewhat coloring last night’s date, and that I felt myself slightly more attracted to him than I would have been had we just met for the first time. It was as if my younger self was still wanting a chance with his younger self. And the date itself went very well, drinks moved on to dinner, and we had a wide ranging, easy conversation that I honestly enjoyed. Since we were close to my place, he walked me back and I invited him in for a few minutes. He made some remark about it not being a good idea to come up, but did anyway and soon we found ourselves on my sofa talking when he planted a kiss on me. And then we kissed more fully. It was pretty awkward and awful to tell the truth, and whatever spell had been cast by my younger longing was pretty instantly broken. I suddenly had no desire for him at all. I quickly moved off the couch to get more water, and repositioned myself a little bit away from him. We made some noise about seeing each other again, and I led him to the door. He was a nice guy, and someone I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but I am not the same person as I was years ago, and neither is he. As he left, a big smile crossed my face at the circularity of things, and how years and years of distance can suddenly touch each other across all that time and space. Even for those things you had no memory of, and that seemed so small and insignificant.
I just adore the (semi)randomness of life. I was down in Chelsea today on my way to the gym, and noticing that I was feeling somewhat low energy, decided to pop into the corner store in front of me to grab a Clif bar in advance of my workout. There in line was a guy who looked kinda familiar. He stared deeply into my eyes and said “Stephen? Wow!”
So, ok….clearly he recognized me. And he did look familiar, but I really couldn’t place him.
Then he said, “It is me, Marc.”
Hm…Marc…and then it hit me: We dated for 4 months in San Francisco around 1993. It was really stunning to run into someone from the distant past, I thought. He has been living in New York for the past 10 or so years.
I said, “Didn’t you move to Miami?”
“Atlanta,” he said. Whatever. How was I supposed to remember all that? Then he started asking me about people we used to hang around with from the cafe I worked at back then.
“Oh my god, how is Eric, how is he doing?”
I searched my clearly pea sized memory and came up with nothing. “Eric who?” I asked.
“Eric, the French guy”
Um, duh, they were all French where I used to work…I gave him a blank stare.
“Air-EEK, the French guy. With the big, full lips…”
At this point I wondered if he and Eric might not have had, as the French say, un liason. He was giving me stares that indicated he thought I was either super lame for not remembering, or a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s. So I faked it:
“Oh OF COURSE. Air-EEK. With the LIPS. Yes, Yes. Ah, good old Eric…I have no idea how he is, I haven’t seen him in at least a decade.”
Then he gave me a head to toe look and said, “Wow, you’ve got some grey hair coming in there…”
Mean comments about his slightly protruding belly flashed in my head, but I simply smiled and said “Yes, we are all getting older. I can’t believe it has been 15 years since we last saw each other…”
We awkwardly exchanged phone numbers and promised to call each other and get a coffee sometime. It might happen, I thought. Maybe I can get Eric to meet us there…
I met a nice friend of Gabe’s yesterday who showed me around some parts of Salvador that I hadn’t seen before, culminating in a visit to the somewhat creepy but fascinating Igreja de Bonfim. We discussed in part my travels and he told me quite a bit about his personal life here, sharing with me stories about his ex boyfriend, his parents, his godfather, siblings and growing up here. At one point we talked about the value of places, and he made a statement that I totally agree with: That people are more important than places. It was interesting in our walks around then that every place he took me to was a part of his personal history and held a significance to him almost exclusively related to his past and upbringing. Whether is was stopping briefly in the rundown neighborhood where his father and brother live to run an errand, to visiting the area around Bonfim where he grew up, to the school he attended, to the hospital where his sister works, every place clearly held great significance for him. And more than that, he seemed very strongly bound to these places and their meanings. It seemed to me that his past is very much a load that he carries in the present. He is both comforted and tortured by this past. Maybe it was the rain bringing out the saudade and melancholy, as he told me many times that Salvador is a much better city in the sunshine. For me, it was a fascinating trip down someone else’s memory lane, and I got to see parts of the city that I never would have without him. I didn’t mind the rain really.
It seemed appropriate that the apex of our walkaround should be Bonfim, with its rituals of healing old wounds. The architecture of the church is nothing special, but that it is a place which is thought to have curative powers is fascinating, and there is a room in which people have left prayers and wishes for healing. This room has its walls covered with people’s photos, some of their faces and some of their wounds. There are also plastic representative body parts hanging from the ceiling with notes on them, prayers for healing on these locations. My friend told me the room made him a little uncomfortable, and after a few minutes we moved on.
Dallas and I went to an Indian restaurant in WeHo last night. I was amazed that there were all these dishes on the menu that I recognized, like bhel puri. I had been to this restaurant several times before I left for India, and it struck me that these items had always been there, but I had never known what they were, or they never sounded very good from reading the descriptions. Now, having returned from a year in India, I totally recognized them with a fondness and memory of the various places and times I had experienced eating them. It is funny how we form habits, even around the “foreign” things that we recognize, and that sometimes these habits prevent us from venturing into new territory.
Unfortunately, they were only so so, de-spiced as they were for an American palette. But it was a lovely reminder of the past year.