This August, I’ll have lived in Gotham twenty years. In those twenty years, I’ve lived in eleven apartments, though I’ve spent fifteen in the one I’m typing in right now. I moved around a lot my first five years, which is pretty typical for new New Yorkers, actually. In those eleven apartments, I’ve lived with four men, with collective whom I shared around eight years, to make a smeary approximation. Add to those eight the five years or so I’ve spent with assorted other dudes (including the three-ish years I spent with Donny) and for a total of thirteen years, give or take, the cavalcade of my dating life has been traipsing through Gotham.
There are many bodies that hang like asteroids in my one-score chunk of Gotham time and space. There are bodies who throb and glow like pulsars, and others who lie dead and dormant like white stars. There are none whom I’d call black holes, thankfully. But they’re all there, somewhere. Spend enough time in a city, date enough people, and the landscape becomes dotted with relationship remembrances, a ghostly breadcrumb trail that pulses with meanings invisible to any other naked eye.
Taking a cold empiric if necessarily hazy accounting, I’ve spent only seven years on my onesy, and yet it feels like I’ve spent ever so much more time alone than partnered. I am, of course, single now and feeling fine about it. I suffer an almost rosily nostalgic glow when I see couples performing couplehood, which couples do as much to express affection between themselves as to express their bond to the world. Ah, I think, I recall holding hands. Yes, I know of having a wisp of hair brushed from my forehead. I can recollect that specific canting of torsos, the one that implies shared intimacy, emotions and bodily fluids.
I remain able to summon a vague cloud of dating interest, a romantic nebula. It’s a pretty sight when I let my mind drift into that telescopic view. I see the sparkles and the lightning flashes and that ethereal glow intrinsic to the happy clashing of two separate people who spontaneously unite into one hot element. I can visualize that moment and feel it resonate with that pleasurable bassy thrum that bounces between my solar plexus and my svadisthana, to drift a little old-agey prose-wise. I can see it, but I can’t touch it, and I’m not sure I want to.
Which is all to say that at some point in the past few years a seismic change took place. Something major shifted, almost without my notice, and the landscape of my interior life changed, possibly irrevocably. I used to feel a mad desperation at being alone. I felt oppressed by singularity, disfigured by it, strange and crazed and wild at my single experience. I dated in a frenetic rush. I flagellated myself with my own undesirability when I wasn’t dating. I felt the press and crush of my own romantic failures with gravitational force. I nearly broke myself with my own pressure to date. Without a man, I was nothing. I didn’t cease to exist—that would have been a step up in emotional health actually—rather, I turned antimatter, a singularly horrid and shadowy incarnation of my dated self.
Now that wild compunction is past. I put my eye to the romantic pinhole and see the expansive glory that can be a romantic relationship, but I’m still nonetheless aware of what lies just outside of the rim of my vision. The unavoidable disappointment, the uncomfortable sleeping, the pain and the fear and the meeting of parents and other family, the boredom and the sports watching. The apparitional specter of Xs and the weighty baggage that every human accumulates after adolescence. The bad smells and the anger and the stuff that drifts gently away like so much space detritus.
I hope some day that I’ll be able to put these two views together—the rosy macro and the lurid micro—and finally put the “real” in “relationship.” Neither one view nor the other is valid, though neither are they false. And yet, even a contented spinster such as myself can see the value in the coupled state. Plus, I would really rather enjoy someday having sex. Bodies in space are nice, but bodies in bed are nicer.
Or, faint as the morning star, so I seem to recall.