Thursday, June 19, 2008
The other day I forgot my wallet at home, because it was one of those days where things you’ve been anticipating for eternity end up crumbling and falling dead in your lap, so you wake up and make coffee and drag your tired bones to the closet but GOD YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR and GOD YOU JUST TRIPPED OVER YOUR ETHERNET CORD AND CHIPPED YOUR PEDICURE and OH YEAH IT’S RAINING.
So as I was approaching my coffee cart guy I began digging around in my bag for my non-existent wallet. My coffee cart guy always starts making my order whenever he sees me headed towards him so he already had my coffee ready by the time I got there. “I forgot my wallet,” I cooed sheepishly, like a child who just spilled juice on her Easter dress the week before Easter. I kind of figured he’d give me my coffee for free. He usually gives me things for free, like stale bagels or muffins, which I then gleefully distribute among my lucky coworkers. My coffee cart guy noticed I was visibly distressed, and yes, of course, on the verge of tears, and he grabbed a $10 bill from his money box and said, “Here. Is this what you need?” I practically broke down and hugged him. He is the nicest man alive. I ended up just taking my iced coffee but not the $10, and paying him back for the coffee when Ashley was nice enough to bring me my wallet later.
But it made me realize that there are some incredibly kind people in this world. People who have the ability to look past the bullshit and just care about each other because that’s what life is essentially about. I mean, that’s been my problem all along. I care too much about everyone. I cry thinking about it sometimes. I might act like I don’t care, but the breadth of my affection for other people, even those I don’t know, is astounding. I get upset when people cry on TV or if someone looks sad on the subway. Once I even cried because I was walking by this church basement along the Bowery and they were having a birthday party there and the balloons had run out of helium and sunken to the floor and the voices sounded flat like the humanity had been syringed out of them. I cried about that right on the street! Truly!
And it has always always always ended up dicking me over, because it’s unnatural for someone to love other people this much, and this honestly, and so I just end up being constantly disappointed by what I perceive as everyone else’s inability to care for me with equal measure. And I fuck things up because of this. It’s like I’m constantly putting my neck out and handing the executioner the axe. “Cut me here,” I say, making a thick line across my neck with my finger. “This is how you can really hurt me.”
And I don’t even know my coffee cart guy’s name, but I know all about his children, and that he’s from Egypt, and that his son scored a 730 on the math SAT’s. He knows that I work at the alumni office and that my ex-boyfriend’s a douche bag and that I’m studying in Paris next year. Every morning when I see his face I want to hug him because he represents a kind of stability that New York perpetually threatens to rip out from under me. New York's chaos can be so terrifying to someone who adores and relies upon routine as much as I do. But I do see my coffee cart guy every day, and I always well up with this intense empathy and affection. I frequently have to stifle the desire to ask for a hug. A goddamn hug from my goddamn coffee cart guy. I may as well just wear a sign on my back that broadcasts how utterly lonely I am.
But really, he is like this still point in the turning world. No matter the shitstorm brewing around me, he is there to hand me my coffee and discuss the weather and show me pictures of his kids. And the day he tried to hand me that $10 I was on the verge of trying to become this terrible person. Yes, I was making a concerted effort to become an asshole, because I am tired of being treated poorly by other people. How come EVERYONE ELSE gets to be the asshole? I want to be more selfish. Which is laughable because my family would probably say that I am selfish, God am I selfish, I’m so selfish they could just die. But being inherently selfish and thinking a lot about life, your life, and what it means, are two completely different things.
And I've allowed every guy I've ever been with to walk all over me. It doesn’t make sense! I generally have the self-preservation to stand up for myself, but with men I just melt inside and want to bake them cookies and comb their hair out of their eyes and become this over-domesticized, maternal person who gives them blowjobs whenever they goddamn please. What the fuck? What the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I be more of a bitch? I feel like I used to be more of a bitch but then I just became this puddle.
But the thing is, I don’t WANT to be a bitch. I don’t! I’d honestly rather resign myself to a life of being disappointed by other people - and yes, even by myself - because to be hardened and cruel is to be... hardened and cruel. You can’t love anyone that way, not even yourself. So when my coffee cart guy tried to lend me $10 I completely realized that he’s the kind of person I should be modeling myself after. I should generally protect myself more because I do just always get hurt, because I have this old, sensitive soul that sometimes I really do wish I could just get rid of, but honestly I’d rather be me than some asshole who doesn’t have the ability or the desire to care about anyone. Perhaps I care too much or too deeply, perhaps this brings me more pain than pleasure at this point in my life, but I wouldn’t want to become unfeeling, either.
I am not perfect, I am so far from perfect that it’s hilarious. But I think, when it comes to my relationships with other people, I need to take the advice of my coffee cart guy and keep lending everyone $10 bucks.