After a Friday night date with a guy that went from HowAboutWe to How About Not, I could not have been more excited to go out with a man who rarely disappoints me: my handsome British gay husband, J. He’s charming in a way that’s modest and when in doubt, he challenges me to be bolder than I really am. And he always reassures me that I really need to show off my, um, assets.
Freshly primped from frozen yogurts, mimosas and cheap pedicures with a gal friend, I headed downtown to try a Tibetan restaurant with J. We sat by candlelight with nervous chatter circling us as we caught up on the basics: work, love and play. His boyfriend was traveling, I am (happily) boyfriend-less; he just started a new job that’s rewarding, yet overwhelming, I’m almost to my one-year anniversary at the best place to work (like, ever); and we decided we’re both up for an adventure – as long as it doesn’t cost anything. After all, calories and savings shouldn’t matter from April to August, right?
We bargained down a pitcher of red sangria that while it showed up hot, was actually decent and refreshing. In between sips and conversation, J got that mischievous look on his face. It’s the one I instantly recognize, letting me know he’s brewing trouble in his flirty mind, prepared to pounce on an idea he’ll talk me into, eventually. I grinned at the curve of his lip, as he quietly teased: It’s July tomorrow.
Oh, July, I smiled in return. The magical month that my mother and J predicted something big would happen. Something that would change my life and my attitude, something that comes in the form of tall and sturdy, handsome and loving. For whatever reason – as predicted by the stars and the Brits – apparently, this is the month when I’m going to meet someone. Maybe the someone, or maybe just a man to push me away from being a cynic and toward being the romantic optimist I’ve always been. Obviously, I’m not opposed to such a chance encounter, as most single girls in every city aren’t – but I’m also not actively – or desperately – searching for it.
Oh J! Maybe something will happen, but I’m putting no pressure on myself, I replied as I took another bite out of a dish that I still, have no idea consisted of. There may be cute straight boys at the bar we’re going to next, he kindly reminded me. I rolled my eyes in return, careful to miss his stare, knowing he’d see right through my nonchalant attitude and notice the doe-eyed dreamer that is careful not to play in the New York streets. At least not while anyone I know is watching, anyway.
After opting for a traditional dessert even though I was heading for the beach the next day, J and I caught a cab to the Lower East Side for martinis and mayhem with his old roommates. The bar was dark and disheartening, full of ladies decked out for a night of intrigue, but finding the well was dry once they arrived. J kept me company, and I casually flirted with the bartender, enjoying an ounce of attention before calling it a night for my early ocean wakeup call.
I waited for J to finish the cigarette I don’t approve of before finding a yellow chariot to whisk me away to the Upper West Side. Sometimes, even if it’s not too late to take the subway, it’s simply too hot and muggy to stand idly anywhere on pavement that only attracts more heat. As I watched J strike up conversation with a friend from years ago, I casually glanced at my phone, in my purse (to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything), at my wedges… until something inside of me said: Look up.
And so I did – only to find the biggest, brightest full moon I’ve seen since living in North Carolina. I quickly interrupted J and motioned to the sky. His mouth dropped too, his speech fell silent and we tried to capture the beauty of it — but our iPhones only produced a blurry, colorful image, that if you squint in the right way, kind of looks like a separated rainbow.
J lost interest and headed inside, as I slowly raised my hand, still gawking at the beautiful sphere resting in the sky. A cabbie arrived, friendly and missing a few teeth, and asked Where to tonight, Ms? I gave him my Amsterdam cross streets and settled in for the fifteen-minute ride uptown, expecting him to cut to the West Side highway where he would avoid traffic and drunken pedistrians attempting to cross the street, often unsuccessfully and not during the allotted 10-second time frame.
But he didn’t. He took the East Side: giving me a view of the moon, the whole ride home.
I sat backwards (sorry, mom!) in the car, watching the moon disappear and reappear in between buildings as we sped toward my Manhattan home. I tried to keep my eye on it, even when we went through brief tunnels and when the towers were so tall that it had to climb the sky to reach the top. I left my Blackberry and my iPhone in my bag, I didn’t go through a mental checklist of everything I had coming up, I didn’t dwell on the past or think too heavily about what’s coming up next.
Instead, I just looked up.
The next day, my dear friend M and I fought the waves as the tide rolled in late afternoon, enjoying the simple reminders of being a kid during the hottest days of summer. Just as the lifeguard forced everyone out of the ocean because the water was getting angry, M said, Wow, look up, Linds! Look how pretty that is. I followed her direction to see a pink and blue patterned sunset starting to roll into view, so warm and so inviting, that I longed to reach up to feel it engulf me. Only wearing an itty-bitty bikini, I couldn’t capture the memory anywhere I could save (or Instgram) it, but I closed my eyes to remember that moment. To remember looking up.
And tonight, waiting for the downtown 1 train at sunset following a much-needed run at the gym, I peered above the track across from me and saw my pal the moon, again. Along with it’s soft, alluring friend, the multi-colored sky, and I smiled, thinking that in the first two days of July – the month I’ve been hearing about — I’ve been attracted and compelled to look up. More so than I have in months.
So, I decided that just for a month, I’ll try to make it a habit.
Instead of caressing my phone or paging a book on the morning commute, I’ll look up at the faces I often ignore. Instead of popping in headphones as soon as I have a moment to myself outside of the office, or calling up my family, I’ll look up to feel the energy of the city and it’s inhabitants around me. Instead of being enticed to spend a night in by myself, catching up on the Netflix I don’t really need to watch, I’ll look to my friends, the ones who are wildly taking opportunities as spontaneously as they come. Instead of glancing away from the man who sometimes notices me in Starbucks on the corner of 15th and 9th, I’ll meet his eyes. Instead of focusing on the hurdles and troubles of dating in the city that doesn’t sleep unless you sleep with it, I’ll look to see the good in every experience, even the dates that don’t turn into mates. Instead of trying to examine the past for much more than it was ever worth, I’ll look at all the things that are surely before me.
Because I’ll never know what’s right in front of me until I… just look up.