The first time that someone sent me books in the mail I didn’t know what to do with myself! Books have been an important part of my relationship with that person from the very beginning.It shouldn’t have been a surprise. It was. That was typical of our relationship too. Here’s how it all started:
I was living in DC. I had moved there from New York just a year or so or so prior. I was still regularly commuting between the two cities by bus. Whenever there was an arts or cultural event that I wanted to see I would hop on the bus up to New York to go to the event. Sometimes I didn’t even stay the night. The trip where I met this friend was like that. I wanted to go to an opening at a gallery in Chelsea. It was Howard‘s homecoming weekend so traffic in DC was a hot mess. The bus was late getting in and late leaving. By the time it dropped me off at 27th St the opening was all but over. Droves of people were on their way out the door. The art was still there.
Let’s be honest though I don’t go to openings to see the art. Not anymore. When I first began going to art events I thought that the purpose of openings was to view the work. I was continually frustrated by how difficult it was to actually see the art with so many people around. There would be people standing in front of every piece with their backs turned to it, wine in hand, oblivious to the fact that they were obstructing everyone else’s view of the work. Continually asking people to move was exhausting. People responded to the request very differently. Some folks apologized and promptly moved out of the way. But then other people immediately drifted into the newly available gathering space. Some folks when asked to move looked at me as if I had asked them to fly me to the moon. They did not move and continued their conversations. A few experiences like this taught me the openings are actually an excuse to see each other, not the art. There is a summer cookout of the art world minus the good food. Now that I understood the purpose of the opening I use them as a place to check in with mentors and show my face to have it known that I was still around. I couldn’t really do that if everyone had left or was leaving.
I went into the gallery anyway to see if maybe a few folks that I had wanted to see would still be there. They were for a few moments. Then they all headed to the after party. I joined the stream of people headed that way. Hopped in a cab headed to I didn’t know where with some other folks I didn’t know who were going. The after party was hosted in an old strip club that still had its poles and cat walks and stages for go-go dancers with light at floors that made me think of shows like soul train that I had never watched but had him down memories of. The DJ was doing the damned thing. Most folks were already buzzed from gallery wine. The bar was open and people were not afraid to move their bodies. I was hungry – there was a bar but no food. I was tired from the bus ride. It didn’t matter. The energy was infectious. It carried me away. I danced and danced and danced. That good sweat, soak through all your clothes kind of dancing that happens when the DJ is attuned to the flow of the dance floor and has the skill to whip people into an almost religious fervor. We were possessed. Out on the floor I found a dance partner. Someone else who wasn’t drinking and who was interested in using their body to have a contactless conversation. We stuck with it and with each other feeding off of one another’s energy, playing with the light up floor for hours. Until my body said ENOUGH! You Must FEED US—NOW! It would’ve been impolite and abrupt to exit such an intimate sustained exchange like the one I had been having with my dance partner without acknowledging it. I leaned in to the person‘s ear, the closest I had been to them all night. I thanked them for the dance and said I had to go get something to eat. They were hungry too. Makes sense. This party had started at eight or 9 PM. It was now 4 AM. We had literally danced through the night. They followed me out into the startling quiet of morning in the meat passing district.
“What do you want to eat,“ they asked.
“Anything that I can’t eat,“ I said. “I’m a pescatarian vegan: no dairy, no meat, no meat products. “
“Yes, but what do you WANT to eat,“ they pressed.
“Well, I would really like some good north African food. Like a hearty tagine. It’s 4 AM though. I will take whatever I can get at this hour. I have to catch a bus at 7 AM. “
“This is New York. You can get everything here.“ The motions to their moped which was parked right out front. “Hop on. I know a place in the East Village that will be open. “
I got on the bike, we zoomed to the other side of the island. When we arrived at our destination the restaurant was indeed open. It was a North African fusion spot. I could eat almost everything on the menu. I wanted to eat at all too. After I ordered my new friend, who had only ordered a tea, asked me about my favorite books--IT WAS TOO MUCH. The dancing at a distance. The insistence on taking me to food that I wanted to eat. The following through to deliver me to exactly what I had asked for. Now this question. About books. At 4 AM! Who the fuck was this person?
If you know me or have been following along you know that this chance encounter had already involved many of my favorite things. If this person has been trying to seduce me at this point they would’ve been able to have their way. They weren’t though. That made it even better. The vibe was platonic. I had found a new platonic life partner or they had found me. We sipped our tea, I ate, we talked about books.
The sun was rising at our backs as we zoomed to the west side so that I could catch my bus. Over the next few months we continue to explore our budding relationship by phone and text.
Then one day they asked for my address. I gave it. Soon after the book started coming. I fell in love all over again. Each book was one I have never heard of. Each book was perfectly matched to my particular interest and taste. None of them were mainstream books or ones that you would find in a bookstore. These were deep cuts, something that you learned about it from someone who made it their job to know about such things. Or that you stumbled upon while digging through crates.
I only interact with this person in sporadic spurts. We both tend towards long episodes of travel abroad. We both are not to be tethered to our tech. From the beginning those brief concentrated interactions have been the hallmark of our relationship. The primary way that we interact. And those encounters I have learned more about how I want to be loved than I have an all but a few other relationships.
Send me books so I know it’s real. I am inviting you to support my joy by sending me books. Thanks to all of your recommendations I have a list of books that I want.Swipe through to see it or check the link on my blog post. DM me for my address.
*For my birthday this year I’m asking you to celebrate with me by supporting my joy, my work and my communities. Each day I’ll be sharing one simple thing that you can do to support me in each of these areas. Visit my blog at the link in my bio @adornedbyo to read past posts.