Today is hot. A trickle of sweat slides down my back, even though I’m sitting in the shade. A group of men runs, shirtless, through Battery Park, their perfect bronze bodies glistening like Hollister models. Because it’s New York they may very well be Hollister models, or brokers, or bus boys. Beauty appears to be randomly distributed throughout the city with no regard to merit. Even I, despite my perpetual sheen of spray on sunscreen, have developed tan lines, something I never sported during my years in the Pacific Northwest.
A week ago was NYC’s Gay Pride celebration. Even though in years past I cynically dismissed Gay Pride as an excuse for gay men to get their nipples pierced, I was actually excited. We stood on a corner of 5th Avenue and watched the festivities unfold. Cyndi Lauper was the Grand Marshall and passed by in a red car mere feet from me, smiling behind a megaphone. George Takei waved happily in a Boy Scout uniform. Drag queens sauntered by with their faces melting off in the heat. Go go boys with 6 pack abs walked by wearing only underwear and smiles.
The bulk of the spectators were straight families with their children. My cynicism seemed well placed when most of the participants in the parade turned out to be churches, politicians unabashedly fishing for votes, and major corporations unabashedly fishing for gay money. Gay pride seems like such a strange thing to celebrate anyway. It’s like having a parade for people with blue eyes. Well, except for the fact that people with blue eyes can get married everywhere, aren’t in danger of being fired for their eye color, and are usually not singled out for hate crimes.
Carlos was bored and cranky, and I was getting sunburned, so after a quick once around the festival, we went out for Thai food at a place that boasted $8 sangria, having done our part to promote equality through visibility and ogling.
Gay Pride is also a harbinger for another momentous event in human history, the anniversary of my birth. As birthdays go, this one was a non-event. At midnight Carlos gave me my presents which included a LEGO Empire State Building. The next day he took me out for lunch. There was a 45 minute wait at the place I’d picked out in the East Village, and Carlos had to work, so we opted for a low key lunch at a less popular place nearby.
The day after your birthday sucks. You’re just older and there are no presents. It was impossible not to evaluate my life so I could compare myself to other people my age in order to gauge how big a failure I am. At 36 most people have careers, marriage, children, a house, a car, and possibly even a pet. At 36 I’m unemployed, renting a room from a slightly deranged lesbian, and in a constant state of existential panic.
On the other hand, I’m living in New York City with this guy I kind of have a crush on. Since my last birthday, I’ve started publishing articles on the Huffington Post. I’ve dutifully been submitting short stories out in exchange for rejection letters. Things seem to be heading in the direction that I want, which is progress, even though I spend the biggest part of every day terrified that I’ll never get a job, and I’ll have to live under a bridge in Central Park.
After 3 months of not working out, I was dying to head back to the gym. I’d been waiting for a job before I signed up, but since a job hasn’t happened yet, I decided to treat myself to a gym membership as a birthday present to myself. I was immediately daunted when the first place I went to had a $250 sign up fee, a $30 “processing” fee, and a $100 monthly fee. The sleazy salesman, after talking up the gym’s perks, turned to me to find out what I thought. I thought that was ridiculously expensive and borderline rape-y. When I told him it was more than I’d wanted to spend, he had his manager come over and plink around on his computer before exclaiming that for me, today, he could lower the monthly rate to $90. I told him I was going to look around at some other gyms and get back to him, and he got upset. He actually said, “I just made you an offer to excite you and you aren’t excited!”
I blinked before responding, “I’m not excited because that offer isn’t exciting.” Then I walked down the street and found a gym that offered a membership for $10 a month. Make no doubt, the $10 gym is straight up ghetto, but it has a treadmill and weights, which are all that I require.
In order to meet some new people in New York, I decided to sign up with an umbrella organization that schedules volunteers for non profits all over the city. As soon as the orientation ended, I fled, so I wouldn’t have to meet any new people.
The heat persists. Walking home the other night we saw fireflies blinking on and off through Fort Greene Park. At night we sleep above the blankets. Every time my pillow becomes too drenched with sweat, I turn it over and sleep on the dry side. Or anyway, to attempt to sleep, miserable, with two fans angled toward the bed. Growing up in Texas I’d never heard of an apartment that didn’t have air conditioning. Of course, I’d also never heard of anyone paying $2,000 a month for a closet sized studio apartment. I remind myself that this is temporary, that one day we’ll look back on this hot summer with fondness, our first summer in New York.
I’ll get a job. We’ll get an apartment (with air conditioning). I may never have a house, a car, or a career, but I’ll be happy living my nomadic life, however unconventional. Either that or I’ll eat some questionable dumplings from a cart in Chinatown and die of dysentery. All I’m saying is that in the city anything is possible. The summer will end, the heat will dissipate, and change will come. No matter what.