The Best Medicine, July 14, 2014
A few years ago I had a conversation with Sorin about happiness and sadness. Sorin is a sage, he’s always spouting profound things with the same casual attitude as he does discussing his breakfast. He said something important that germinated in my mind, and by the time I’d moved to New York, I expanded on it, and turned it into my motto.
“It’s important when you’re sad to remember that you can be happy someday,” he said.
From my own experiences, I expanded this idea to the following: “When you are sad, it is important to remember that at any moment you could be happy again. When you are happy, it is important to remember that at any moment you could be sad, and to be thankful that you are laughing in that moment.”
Last weekend perfectly illustrated this idea.
On July 5 I sat in the window at Two Hands (a coffee shop just east of Little Italy) for a very productive hour of writing, then I went west to see my friend Fleur. She and I sat on the benches outside the Mercer Hotel, which has become one of my spots as of late.
“He did The Fadeaway,” I told her, explaining my recent romantic pitfalls in the shortest way possible. (I left out the dramatic parts, for example, I left out the details of Thursday, July 3, the climax of my sadness. I’d left work and walked up Fifth Avenue in the heat, having a good street-cry. I got on a train going in the wrong direction, and realized it almost too late. I got out, cursing, angry. After living in New York for nearly six years, that was the first time I’d ever gotten on the wrong train. It was bound to happen sometime.)
The fellow responsible for my heartbreak had been the subject of all recent conversations with Fleur. So she knew I was hurt.
“What!? He faded on you?” she hissed.
“Yeah,” I said. We were eating cupcakes, I could barely talk, my mouth covered in chocolate peanut-butter fudge. “We’re no longer seeing each other. I hate this.” We sat in silence for a moment. Then suddenly, from the sky dropped a large, green, steaming, mushy plop of bird poop. It landed on my bare thigh.
“Oh my god!” I screamed. There was some commotion as neither of us had a napkin. I maneuvered my cupcake bag at an angle to remove it.
Then the following dialog happened all at once:
“That’s good luck!” Fleur said.
“You could just scoop it up with your cupcake and eat it,” said the stranger, a gentleman in his 70s, sitting to my left.
“No, no, it’s poop!” I said.
“I don’t understand!?” he said.
“It’s good luck!” Fleur said.
“Wait, that’s poop?” said the stranger.
“From a bird,” I said, “the first time that’s ever happened to me!”
“Oh my goodness,” said the stranger. “I’m so sorry, I thought it was icing from a cupcake! You must think I’m mentally ill!”
Then all of three of us erupted into laughter.
Embarrassed, the man hobbled away after nodding us goodbye. I hadn’t laughed that hard in awhile.
I parted with Fleur and did not know that I was walking right into another farce.
My new weekend haunt is Washington Square Park. I went alone, and sat in the shade. Then I heard a voice and looked up, where a fellow was standing.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, I didn’t mean to keep you waiting,” he said. I wasn’t planning to meet anyone. I smiled, and looked to my left and right.
“I’m sorry I…”
“I’m kidding, I’m joking,” he laughed.
“Ah, clever,” I said. I nodded. He nodded. “So can I help you?” I looked him up and down. He was tall, lanky. He wore a navy button down, with wrinkles up the front. He had his hands folded at his waist, but out of habit, not out of nervousness.
“Ah, I just wanted to say ‘Hi’. I mean, what happens when attractive guys come and talk to you?”
“That never happens,” I said.
“Never!?” he said.
“Well, maybe only twice,” I said.
“What happened then?” he asked.
“I can’t remember,” I said.
“So they did such a good job…” he started to say.
“That I can’t remember a thing,” I said.
“My friends who are girls get hit on all the time, they say it is like a mob,” he said.
“They need to tell me where to go,” I said. He laughed.
“So why do you think it is only two guys?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “maybe because I always go out in groups.”
“So uh,” he said. “usually what happens is, when I talk to women, is they invite me to go have a coffee. And I say, ‘I don’t drink coffee,’ so then we go and have an orange juice!”
I blinked at him absently.
“So, let us go,” he said.
“But I just got here!” I said like a child throwing a tantrum. “I just got to the park and I want to people watch.”
“Then we can walk around the park,” he said.
“I just walked miles,” I said.
“OK,” he shrugged. “I see that you are not showing any interest. So I will let you be alone.”
Then he walked away, disappearing in a random swath of people of similar height and casual dress. Probably on his way to get an orange juice. The timing of this occurrence, made me amused and light-footed the rest of the day.
Eventually I also got up, I walked until I got tired of walking. All the while I kept smiling, I kept remembering that as long as we keep moving, as long as we keep living, we’ll keep having moments.
Eventually, we’ll laugh.