Why, Oh Why, Can’t I?

At the number 1 stop I board and arrive at, there’s a man who plays the guitar. He’s a little thing — probably no taller than me — and he wears a hat, even in this terribly unbearable heat. But he isn’t homeless or at least, he doesn’t appear to be struggling. From the tone of his voice and the sincerity that it rings through the tunnel, you wouldn’t call him anything but happy. He’s been there in the mornings when I’m catching the train to work, and in the early hours of the weekends when I drag myself out of bed to log a few miles at the gym.

Now that he recognizes me, he always nods while granting me a glimpse at some of the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen, along with a smile to match it. I’ve given him a few dollars here and there, and I’m tempted to buy the CDs he has on display (now after writing this, I have to!) – but mostly, I just stand and watch. And of course, I listen.

He doesn’t have great variety in his musical selection – in fact, in the year-plus I’ve lived in this apartment, I’ve only heard him sing two songs. I don’t mind because they just happen to be some of my favorite melodies: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” Most of the time, I have to remind myself not to sing along because I know the lyrics to both, and even though I’ve heard his variations of these classic tunes countless times, I still stop whatever I’m reading, doing or listening to – and give him my undivided attention. (Along with some sweet grins, too.)

Last night, while attempting to survive the smoldering underground station on the way to the gym, I glanced across the platform and saw him warming up on the downtown track. He nodded at a few fans and sat down to begin “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Though he was three lanes away from me, I could hear him perfectly and within a few seconds, he noticed me standing and waved at me. I waved back, leaned against one of the columns and he watched me listen until the uptown train broke his view.

When the air conditioning of the cart soothed me, I thought about the words I’ve overlooked so many times, no matter how much joy they bring when they ring in my ears: somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. Somewhere over the rainbow, the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.

I’m lucky enough to say at a young age that I’ve achieved so many goals, so many things I’ve always wanted…are mine. While I’ll always say hard work and determination get you far – it’s your heart and your humbleness that keeps you there. I feel so fortunate that I wanted to be a writer and editor in New York – and I am. I wanted to explore the place I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, and now it’s my daily stomping ground. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin and accept myself for whoever I am at whatever point in my life I happen to be at — and for the first time (in maybe ever) – I feel that way.

But then… there’s this little thing called love.

Sure, I’m not that gotta-have-a-boyfriend girl I was when I moved here. I’m not that person who wrote that very first blog on these pages. I’m not even the broken-hearted woman I was just a few months ago. I’ve found a peace – and dare I say it, a happiness – with being single. I’ve danced with strangers and kissed them because it felt right then – even if I wouldn’t see them again. I’ve walked to the gym baring just a sports bra and yoga pants, being proud of my size-6 curves instead of trying to hide or diet them. I’ve said “yes” at a late night invitation to an open mic with my roommates, not because I thought I’d find some magical encounter, but because I wanted to support people I care about. I’m not defining myself by the men who have hurt me or the ones I’ve liked, only to find they weren’t as into me as I’ve wished they were. I’m not really worrying too awful much about meeting someone shiny-and-new, either (though I have an inkling Mr. July will eventually show his handsome face this summer — but more on that later).

And yet, even though it’s not a priority, even if it doesn’t bother me, even if it’s much, much (much!) easier for me to fly solo — the simple truth is that dating is hard. Maybe it’s not as much dating – as it is daring to keep dreaming.

Or rather, daring to keep hoping. For something that there’s really, truly, sadly, no guarantee that it’ll come true.

Especially when there are instances or experiences that seem like they prove it: when a guy you completely forgot about pops into your life and asks you to drinks, but then turns out to be a dud who can’t even plan an hour ahead of time. Or when you spot a guy on the subway looking at his girlfriend (or wife) with such love in his eyes that you realize no one has ever looked at you quite like that, with quite that look. Or when your friends start pairing up and spill the beans that they’ve found the one they want to spend their life with, and you have a hard time committing to Saturday night plans. Or when you’re sitting next to one of your strongest, loveliest of friends and you can see the same disappointment on her face that you often find on your own, and you know that probably for the both of you, it won’t be the last time you stomach such an emotion.

It isn’t easy – but they (those annoyingly adorable coupled folks) tell us it’s worth it. That it all happens for a reason (yeah, yeah), and that one day it’ll just happen… if you have patience. You smile and roll your eyes (either figuratively or later in the presence of your single friends) – and you keep on going. You keep on dating. You keep getting to know people. You try new things. You move on. You keep learning.

You keep daring that same dream. You keep hoping for it…because maybe it really is out there.

Maybe its over city scapes or the Garden Gate. Over warm countrysides or waiting in the evening’s tide. Maybe it’s over in the next cart or just anticipating when it’ll start. Or maybe it’s just across the room or in places new, places you knew. Or it could just be inside of you. And that dream you dared to dream, awaits, for someone like you.

Because if bluebirds can fly, if strangers can find each other, if so many before me can fall in love with the right man, why, oh why, can’t I? Why, oh why, can’t you?


Oh, Pretty Lady

Pretty lady, you’re so lovely tonight. You’re twirling and whirling around in my head, and though I can’t reach out to feel your effortless magic, I bask in your beautiful shine. Pretty lady, you encompass all of my wild dreams and you are so much more and so different from who I pictured you’d be. Pretty lady, I tried to envision your stare so many times, I swore I tasted your kiss on the rims of wine glasses I toasted with cheap substations of you. They never measured up, they could never compare. Pretty lady, I’ve been wondering when you would show up in those tall heels with those long legs and that look. With your look — the most enticing one I’ve ever known. I’m so glad I had the courage to talk to you.

Pretty lady, you were worth the chance.

Pretty lady I love the way you dance. In my mind, on that floor, in these streets. I love your words and the way you use them, both as daggers and as dreams, sharing and inspiring with each careful, calculated, caring phrase. Pretty lady, I long to caress that simple curve on your hip that leads to places I constantly crave. To places I need to explore, places I need to savor, places I aim to know as well as my own. What’s behind those eyes of yours? Those intense depths of matter — piercing right through me, tearing into all the pieces I thought were shattered. Turns out they were never quite broken after all. Pretty lady, your games aren’t games but tantalizing, exciting, alluring puzzles that make you into the imperfect masterpiece you were created to be. Created for me to
cherish. Pretty lady, you challenge me with one glance, with a single sentence, with the way you hold your fork, with how you show what you feel without saying a word.  Pretty lady, where did you come from and why did you decide to lay here with me, right now on this lazy afternoon watching the planes take off over the skyline? Have you been in this city all along?

Pretty lady, you were worth the wait.

Pretty lady, I hope you will say yes. I hope I get out everything I need to say, everything I feel and all that I want for you. For me. For us. For those babies I can’t wait to meet. I hope I can tell you how you’ve changed my life since that day we met at that dark bar on that summer evening, when you were wearing the dress. That dress I couldn’t wait to get off of you. Pretty lady, don’t start crying until I ask you, don’t touch my face how you do  — in that way you do — or I will not be able to resist you. Pretty lady, let me be the man to give you those things you thought were impossible, let me prove to you that yes, there are men. There are men like me who love women like you.

Pretty lady, you were so worth the highest price.

Pretty lady, you wear white so right. You were made for that dress and if I don’t stop sweating, your hands are going to fall right out of my grasp. Pretty lady, just keep looking at me, just take one step in front of the other. Just keep moving. Breathe my darling girl. Don’t you know I love the way you walk? I can’t believe there are only moments before I can call you my wife. Pretty lady, you have never looked more stunning — even if the cake is all wrong and the colors are a little off, and your uncle showed up embarrassingly intoxicated. I don’t see anyone but you on this day, at this time, when you say those two words I want to hear. My baby, you’re so lovely. You’re so full of life.

Pretty lady, I’m so in love with you.

Pretty lady, dream this little dream with me — the one where we make it after all. It’s the one you wrote on ruled paper with pencil, just in case it could never be true. Pretty lady, let’s go to places we’ve never been and meet people who live differently than us. I want to watch you experience something, some land, some life for the first time — I want to see the surprise and the encouraging intrigue light your eyes. Pretty lady, let’s make memories we will tell our kids and take photos their kids will show their friends about their crazy grandparents who dared to change the world. Who loved each other against all statistics and figures. Who chose love when it was easy, and more importantly, when it was not.

Oh, pretty lady, you will be worth whatever I have to do to find you. So don’t give up on me, my love, and I won’t give up on you.

Just Look Up

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.