I was on my way back home from Samuel's birthday party and decided I was gonna take the train back since a) it wasn't even midnight, b) I had promised myself I was gonna be more resourceful and mindful regarding money issues, especially if it was someone else's (my parents) and c) I was on a mission to feel/see it all, and a ride from the A to the L to the 6 had definitely much more to offer than a cab.
As I walked down the West Village streets I felt the perfect New York City fall breeze caressing my cheeks and took a moment to acknowledge and congratulate myself for the efforts of stepping out of my comfort zone throughout the night. Those efforts included initiating and engaging in conversations with strangers at the party forcing myself to not lose interest after exchanging two sentences. Going to the bathroom only twice to pee instead of locking myself in there to talk to the mirror reviewing my life choices. And most important of all respecting the fact that the only hot guy at the party was taken. So I took a deep breath and proceeded to pad my own back (I read somewhere that you're supposed to get some sort of positive stimulation even if its comes from your own hand).
I was also amazed by the fact that Samuel and his dutch boyfriend Franz, who's got the face of a Ralph Lauren model and the voice of Goofy were, three and a half years later, still together. Even though they are gay. And met online.
As I was getting closer to the West 4th subway station I noticed a huge painting someone left on a corner of the street against a brick wall. It was a huge multicolored rat being mutilated by an even bigger mousetrap. A girl stood next to the painting to appreciate it as well. "It's a big rat," I clarified, as if it wasn't obvious enough. She looked at me emotionlessly without taking her ear phones off and walked away.
My ride on the A train went smoothly as I overheard strangers conversations while debating in my head if happiness was really a choice after all.
I stepped into the L train and as I was sitting down I noticed there was vomit on the floor all around me. A black woman sitting in front of me gave me a why the fuck are you still sitting there? look that I just managed to answer with half a smile without moving my body an inch. Honestly, the vomit didn't bother me. I couldn't even smell it due to my allergies and, if anything, it made me a little nostalgic of my late night L train rides to my old place in Williamsburg.
A guy came running in right before the doors closed and was about to take the empty spot next to me until he noticed the vomit. "Sorry," he said, as if he was apologizing for not taking the seat next to me. I looked up at him shrugging my shoulders. He stared at me for a few seconds before he said my name.
"Oh it wasn't me," I replied before I realized he seemed to know me.
"This is Raphael. Raphael Wiese."
I recognized him before he finished saying his name, but it took me a while to process how much he had changed.
Raphael Wiese and I went to the same all-boy catholic school. He was a couple years older than me and was on his final year of school when I still had two more years to go.
He was like a celebrity. He was the lead actor in every production in school. He was always involved in some kind of cultural movement and his abstract poetry was religiously posted on the weekly bulletin board. He was the antithesis of the popular bully jocks in school, that's why everybody loved him. He was sort of our dark haired Kurt Cobain. Or, at least mine. He was genuine, charismatic, rebellious, and stupidly handsome.
How did he recognize me? I had no idea. We never said a word to each other. According to me he never knew I even existed.
He ignored the vomit and sat next to me. We awkwardly proceeded to "catch-up" on our lives as if we actually had some sort of relationship. He told me he was in the city for the weekend because of some artsy event he was writing about in a new magazine app he had started with a few friends back home. I was nodding my head as If I way paying attention to what he was saying, but I couldn't help the memories running through my head. Memories of my fourteen-year-old self creating a fake Hotmail messenger account just to add him and chat with him anonymously, pretending I was someone he possibly knew in school.
We would chat for hours every night. Discuss art, injustice, priest pedophilia in school, and life in our closed minded country. Lunch breaks at the cafeteria were an extreme adrenaline rush for me as I felt my heart beating out of my chest whenever he was around me, and would avoid making eye contact at any cost whenever he would look my way.
I spent a whole year thinking about him day and night. I would see his face in the classroom chalk board and imagine my walks back home holding hands with him. Our cybernetic friendship grew stronger as time went on and he insisted it was time for us to finally talk face-to-face. I was about to come clean till I saw him making out with a girl after the opening night of the latest play he was in. I went straight home and sent him a message that read "you shined bright tonight," and deleted my account right after. Apparently he had started dating the girl from the all-girl catholic school across from ours who was invited to play the female part in the production. What annoyed me the most in the whole situation was her name: Zsa Zsa. I still wonder if that was her real name or if she picked it out of a children's book and chose it as her stage name.
They became inseparable on and off stage and you could spot them holding hands and french kissing at every event.
Due to this sighting and the inevitable effect of time my infatuation slowly wore off, moved-on and grew stronger towards someone else. Thomas Fowler, the tallest basketball player in school. Fuck theater kids. They're weird anyway.
All these images were running wild through my head as we were sitting next to each other, our bodies touching and our faces at a distance most New Yorkers would consider a violation of personal space. There he was looking nothing like the protagonist of my high school wet dreams. There was almost nothing remaining of that. He was completely out of shape, swollen even. His hands were tiny and looked elderly. More than looking like an artist he looked like a bum. It's really ironic how you can idolize and obsess over someone to then find yourself ten years later counting the dandruff falling from his hair onto his right ear. Life is funny like that.
The train made its stop on Union Square where I had to make my last transfer to the 6 going uptown. "This is me," I said. There was a little hesitation on both parts on whether we should hug goodbye or skip it. We both opted for a simple hand shake and as I was getting up to leave he congratulated me for "making a name for myself" after leaving school. I would've never guessed that's how he knew who I was. I spent years trying to erase all the memories and toxic relationships linked to that TV show; at times I actually do forget it happened. So I assume everyone back home forgotten it too.
As I was making my way out of the train I felt the tightness of the shrunken black skinny jeans I was wearing and felt a little self conscious. I turned around to see if he was looking my way and he was. I waived him goodbye as the doors closed and saw him disappear into the darkness of the subway tunnel.