But between the beating my ass was taking from wiggling around on some cheap NYC Parks Department issued chair, and the fact that the temperature was in the nineties, I couldn't get into a comfort zone. "You're bored?" the Colombian asked, slightly irritated that I wasn't enjoying the performance. "No. Not at all," I answered, irritated that she was irritated. If not for me, she wouldn't even have been there. I was the one that found out about the performance after a good thirty seconds of online research. How could she be so ungrateful? I started to feel like maybe I wanted to be there alone. While dating NYC's unwashed masses, I'd forgotten about the other thing people do when they're in actual relationships - get on each other's nerves.
I looked around at some of the people in the audience who were there by themselves, wondering if they were happier being alone. To my right sat a woman in her late forties who spent ten minutes before the show telling me how the government was responsible for the economic collapse. "Sure," I told her. "Because they deregulated Wall Street." "NO!" she shouted. "Because they send subliminal messages through magazines." Her solitude was clearly involuntary. I searched for another example of happy isolation , and caught a glimpse of a shirtless, tattoo-ridden man in his fifties, sitting alone, with his face in his hands, his head shaking as if he was in mourning. Ah, but these people are nothing like me, I thought. I'll never wind up like them. I could be alone and be perfectly normal and happy. And then I saw the old man above.*
There he sat, as uninterested in the performance as I was with no one sitting next to him. I pictured him being there because it was cooler than sitting in his non-air conditioned $300 a month rent controlled apartment. A man who had no wife or significant other, who went everywhere alone, carrying a newspaper and every pen he owns in the front pocket of a blue blazer. With a few exceptions, we were dressed a lot alike. I was in shorts, a t-shirt and sneakers, and I wondered if this man decided long ago that he'd just rather be alone. For a brief moment I envied his ability to openly display his boredom, and I thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I turned into him in thirty years. But then I realized that I could never pull off the knee socks look, so I put my arm around the Colombian and told her how happy I was to be there with her.
(My apologies for the poor formatting. Apparently, blogger doesn't react well to pictures of old men in camo shorts).