Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Inside My Element

As Mr. T said in one of those "Rocky" films:  "I live alone, I train alone, I fight alone."
I don't do a lot of fighting, but if you substitute "everything else" for fighting, you could say the same thing about me.  I don't have visitors.  The last time someone was in my home was November of 2013 when someone called the cops because they thought I had committed suicide. They were not invited guests.

When I go out, it's almost always alone.  That gives me a lot of time to notice the things around me.  When your nose isn't buried in your cell phone, you can notice a lot of the world around you, and there is a lot of world around you.
Last Friday I was in New York, and Saturday I was in Philadelphia.  Both times, there were events tied into my travels.  Friday's event was a show at Carnegie Hall with Marc Maron and Nate Bargatze. Saturday's show was Gilbert Gottfried at Helium.

Because I buy one ticket, I usually get a good seat.  It may be the only benefit to going alone, other than being able to decide when to come and go, where to hang out before and after the show, and what to do and think while I'm out. OK, so there is more than one benefit to going alone.  But I digress.
SIDELINE:  Recanting my weekend, I told a co-worker that I had taken the train into New York on Friday, and walked back and forth from Penn Station to Carnegie Hall, which is about 30 blocks.
"By yourself?" he asked, wondering how I could do that.  "Yes, of course," I said.  I didn't understand how he equated going to New York alone with some act of bravery.

I got to Carnegie Hall early, as I always do when I go to shows.  I got a beer at the lounge and took a seat.  A woman my own age (imagine that) wandered over and sheepishly said, "Is this seat taken?"  Of course it wasn't, and I invited her to sit down.

We had a nice conversation.  Her name is Laura.  She was there alone as well, and knew Marc when he lived in Long Island.  We talked a little about going to shows alone, but mostly, we talked about what we liked on TV and which comics we found funny or not.  In short, just a nice conversation with a stranger at a table.  I approached it as a blind date - which it wasn't but kind of was - and we parted ways and said good night.

I felt no point in extending an invitation to join me later for something or get a phone number. There's no future in a relationship with someone who lives so far away.  Rather, I accepted it for what it was:  A nice break in my solo travels and an opportunity to speak to an adult for an extended period without having to discuss anything work-related.  It felt like a win for me, as an introvert out of his element - in public - talking to a woman he does not know and leaving without making a jackass out of himself.

Sitting alone at a show is an interesting experience.  When I got to my seat, there was a couple next to me who would spend most of the evening pawing at each other.  The woman was to my left and surreptitiously glanced over at me to see (one would think) if anyone sat down next to me.  As it turned out, the three seats to my right remained vacant all evening.

I get a lot of that - the glances.  Sitting alone at shows garners a lot of reactions.  The people will either engage me in conversation or they will look at me as the Third Wheel - society's cast-off who finds himself lost in a world of couples and groups of friends who attend shows because they are social experiences rather than what they are:  Entertainment.
It's to the point that I have to write dialogue in my head:  If they say this ... I'll respond that ... It's exhausting, and usually goes unrequited since people tend to leave me alone.  It is palpable, though.  Mostly, when I am asked, "Is that seat taken?" at bars, and I have to move over one spot to allow a couple to take my former seat and the one next to it.  My buffer space.

"Oh, you're here alone?"
"Yeah, well it's either that or miss the show entirely."
That sort of thing.

I lost myself in both shows, which I suppose is the object of the thing.   Marc's humor is more my speed:  It is introspective and self-depreciating.  He talks about addiction, divorce, and his regrets in life. It's good food for my soul.   It makes me feel better about myself because I realize that there are people who go through what I go through.  Marc and I have more in common than Gilbert and I, but I find them both funny and entertaining in their unique ways.

After both shows, on my long walk back to the trains, I began to contemplate my issues with finding companionship and living alone in a world that is built for couples.  It leads me down a path that I don't like to be led down, but it's a path nonetheless.  After all, you can't build businesses based on single people.  I'm just happy that most theater rows have odd numbers of seats so that I can get a spot that would otherwise be left vacant.

I get shitty tables at restaurants, looked at askance when I declare, "Just one," and sometimes have to put up with a lack of attention from servers who think that I'll be a lousy tipper.  Only after the meal do they find out that they are mistaken.  Perhaps that's an over-compensation or perhaps it's my personality - or both?

I am self-motivated, which allows me to travel alone and to stay at home when I feel that motivating myself to go out will only result in more self-doubt and longing to be part of the groups and couples that I see.  At some point in the evening, the idea that I am alone grabs me with such force that I am forced to leave.  The term is Irish Exit:  When you leave without saying goodbye.  I apologize to the Irish in advance, since I have no idea where that expression comes from.

It has become a specialty of mine.  Perhaps you have been on a group outing with me and suddenly wondered, "What happened to Anthony?"  What happened is, he got an emotional punch in the stomach and decided that his best option was to leave as soon as possible.  I am the wind.  I have to leave before I start to scream - as the song goes.

It happens suddenly, and inexplicably.  Whatever it is inside snaps, and I realize that I am on my island, staring out at the world around me. I have to get out of here.

It isn't easy.  I don't bother entering any contest where the prize is "tickets for two," since I know that I will not be able to find a companion.  It's rough, but I have adapted, like birds who fly south because it's too cold here.  It is very cold where I am, but I just put a coat on and persevere.

I'm rambling, and not sure where this is going; other than to say that there is a world outside of where the mainstream world exists.  There are people outside of the grid who have issues to deal with that only exist in our heads, and that is our problem.

When Laura and I parted ways, she said, "Wouldn't it be funny if we wound up sitting next to each other?" We both laughed a little, because the reality would be so different from the fantasy. I did not see her again.

In that grand Hollywood movie, two people from different walks of life would randomly meet, and their paths would cross at some odd place.  They would find that their random encounter would lead to a torrid romance that nobody would have expected when the movie started.

The problem with real life is that it isn't a movie.

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