I often joke that I don’t understand how New Yorkers are always in a huge hurry just to be late. We hustle on the sidewalks, darting in and out of pockets of slow-as-molasses tourists. We impatiently pace the street corners, itching to cross the traffic-jammed intersection against the light. The subways are especially frustrating if you are in a hurry. I remember an old episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine was stranded on a crowded, stalled subway. She stood in silence with a smug grimace plastered on her face and her inner monologue screamed, with a torrid, horrific passion, “WHY AREN’T WE MOVING?!”
There isn’t a New Yorker alive who hasn’t felt this agonizing frustration. On a steamy July night, I sat on an immobile downtown express A train, late for my own birthday party. The train had stopped in the middle of that long stop-free stretch between 125th Street and 59th Street and hadn’t moved in about five minutes, which, if you’ve ever sat on a stalled subway, you’ll know, feels like a painstaking eternity.
The train eventually moved, slowly chugging along for a few minutes only to come to another screeching halt. This stop-and-go went on for a while, until we rolled into the 42nd Street station. I literally ran to the bar that was hosting my birthday celebration. I was an hour late.
Arriving fashionably late is acceptable behavior, especially for the gays, but an hour late? That’s just shady. So shady in fact that my date for the evening had already left.
“What? Antoine left?” I asked another friend who had been patiently awaiting my arrival.
“He tried to call you but you didn’t answer.”
“Well, yeah, I was stuck on an A train. I didn’t have service.”
“Oh,” said my friend, offering an understanding shrug.
I couldn’t believe my birthday date had bailed on me! It wasn’t like Antoine and I had just met. We had gone on quite a few dates- most of them were run-of-the-mill and uneventful. Still, he made me laugh, was adorably handsome and a great kisser. Being with Antoine felt…safe.
Our first date was a candlelit dinner at Whym, near Columbus Circle. We tossed back a few martinis and casually nibbled on filet mignon as we chatted about how apprehensive we are to be in a relationship. “I tend to sabotage things because I get scared,” he confessed.
“Me too!” I said. I thought perhaps voicing these confessions would somehow propel us together. Boy, was I wrong.
After dinner, we ended up at Pacha, which was filled with bridge-and-tunnel riff-raff from Jersey. The drinks were weak and expensive. The music was monotonous and annoying. The crowd was straight and rhythmless. After an hour, I excused myself. “This just isn’t my thing,” I said to Antoine.
His disappointment was obvious. “I wish I knew you wanted to go. I just popped a tab of ecstasy.”
“Oh,” I said, attempting an easy-going approach. “It’s okay. You stay. Have fun. Dance your ass off! I’m taking my old ass home and to bed. Call me tomorrow?”
He nodded while dancing in place, his roll already kicking in. He then grabbed my hand to pull me into a hug. I left feeling uneasy about Antoine taking ecstasy and not telling me. Once we got to Pacha, it was as if we weren’t even on a date. I was bummed on the train ride back to Washington Heights and was pretty certain that I’d never hear from him again.
So, imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner of my block and found Antoine sitting on a bench in front of my building. “What are you doing here?” I squealed, excited.
“I came to see you,” he said, smiling.
“How did you get here?”
“I felt bad- that was no way to end a date,” he replied, standing and taking my hand. “So I ran out, grabbed a cab and high-tailed it up here.”
This, of course, made me smile. “Do you want to come in?”
“Yeah, but I am kinda high on that X.”
“It’s fine,” I said, leading him in. “We’ll have a private dance party.”
And after that, Antoine and I started seeing each other on the regular. We brunched, shopped and cuddled in front of his widescreen television. We had a lot in common. We both loved dogs, vodka, and Tortured Soul, a Brooklyn-based house music band.
Tortured Soul had been a favorite of mine for years. I first saw them perform at the Apache Cafe when I lived in Atlanta. When I found out that they were performing on one of those cheesy sunset booze cruises that meanders around Manhattan, I immediately bought tickets for Antoine and me.
It turned out that Antoine wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Tortured Soul. As we stood on the boat’s starboard side, gulping down vodka and cranberries and admiring the city’s skyline, I heard my name being called. “Tyler!” I squinted, peering into the crowd, to see who was calling my name. “Tyler!”
And just as my tipsy mind recognized the voice, my eyes honed in on the source. There, squeezed into bright green short shorts, a pink halter top and chunky disco heels, was Boss Lady, and she was nestled in the lap of an older, silver haired black man.