A night as "free-range" cattle - or - Searching for a unified theory on courtship.

October 23rd, 2015, 6pm

He disappeared. A text message left unanswered for a week constitutes an act of disappearance in the current dating vernacular. I think about all the times I’ve disappeared. Not just from texts but emails and calls, intentionally hiding from both friends and lovers. I should feel guilty, but I don’t. We can always find a way to justify our actions but what they do to us always seems to signify more, a crime and not a shrug. In reality, it is nothing. That much I know. It’s nothing. When he resurfaced, he doesn’t offer to make plans, there’s only more vague attempts at faint desires, before you hit the road again, before things get too crazy with the holidays, how late do you stay up until these days?

He’s there one minute via text and not the next. It’s impossible to have a conversation. It’s impossible to discover anything this way, much less build…something, anything. A random link, a cryptic hello and a where are you doesn’t have enough voltage to turn the ignition or start a fire. Girlfriends ask, where did you meet? “I found him on my casting couch.” I’ve developed a knack for pithy one-liners and fun sound bites. No one has time for more. More nuance, more depth, more anything. Who has the time? No one wants a paragraph so I keep it at 140 characters. I also don’t name the puppy. This way — I don’t accidentally let my feelings show.

Scrolling through my home feed, like, like, like; Jonathon is in Rwanda teaching, Julie is always so lovely and full of wisdom, Marc is going on about another environmental cause, soon there will be nothing left to eat because it all hurts the planet in somehow, Nancy is going back into the jungle, I really need to get down there and do some work with her, there is a photo of him from work last night. This him, this look, I don’t know this one… there are so many I’ve yet to learn, and most likely I will never get to know. The him in that photo is a stranger… Was he ever not a stranger?

All I saw was a tall skinny guy on a phone screen when I said, yes, sure he can come in. The day was too full to really pay attention. I saw a tall guy that seemed handsome enough and adding another name to the casting is nothing. Let him come in. Some first moments you remember with great clarity. This is not one of those moments. He walked in, scrambled all signals and I remember nothing except the feeling of him holding my hand a little too long. Standing in front of me was six foot five golden lion strutting in the sun. I lost track of what I was thinking and the other model standing front of me. Throughout his fitting, I was so distracted I had no idea what the clothes looked like on him. The only thought I had was, “We will need longer inseams should we cast him.”

That particular shoot day was hard, one of the hardest in a long career. No matter how stressful, frustrating or infuriating everything else is I could usually leave it behind. I pride myself in being able to dial it in and make it work, make it good. Shoot days are the best days — the moment before I hit the shutter and know that I’ve got it just right — that is what I live for. I couldn’t find my A-game that day. It was late afternoon by the time I could forget the invisible fight at work and show up for real. The struggle was evident. He hands me the flask he brought as a prop, conveniently filled with scotch. It was only 10 am, we were in a cab heading for our first location. I took a long sip. I was not my best self that day, but I didn’t care if he thought less of me or unprofessional. The war was all consuming.

My phone pings. Darcy is changing her mind about the concert in Central Park this weekend. Ugh. Maybe I won’t go. Maybe I will give the tickets to these guys and just hide. This war is wearing me out and I need an easy moment, an easy day. I toss the possibility out there: a concert ticket, Pearl Jam as the headliner, does anyone want to go? I remain vague if there’s one ticket or two. I couldn’t help but bait the hook and see how he will respond — even if I’m not sure.

Of course, we end up at the concert together. He fought hard for it. He promised to feed me a cornucopia of delights should I choose him instead of my assistant. Would you believe me if I told you I didn’t think too hard about it? Would you believe me if I told you I almost give him both tickets and opt out?

I hate dating. I hate the courtship ritual and the ambiguity of who is supposed to do what next and the never-ending anticipation of what will happen if I… A silly dance with an unspecified set of steps no one seems to have the instructions for and a constantly changing tempo. I do know I reached for his hand first that day in the park. Was it under the context of not getting lost as we execute our mission? I’m not sure. 60,000 humans in Central Park gated into pens like cattle. From where we stood, the stage was the size of a quarter and our favorite band a spec of dust. We couldn’t be caged in. We wanted to roam free and be free so we hopped the gate and ran. About half way through this spontaneous jailbreak, he makes it across a barricade before I could and disappeared. It took me a minute to spot him once I’m over the fence. He was on the edge of the crowd waiting with an outstretched hand. I put my hand in his and we kept running towards the light. Pushing, squeezing, hopping. We ran until Eddie Vedder and the stage was life-size and bigger. Of course the last song was “Keep Rocking the Free World.” I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me, but I recognize that freedom loving rebellious hippy soul within. We are all made of the same things. On the last note of the last song, we touched the stage. It was exhilarating.

During those 45 minutes with my favorite band on stage and us running forward towards the limelight as “free range” cattle —- I remembered my essence, free and luminous. I had a partner in crime for 45 minutes. I forgot about work and let go.

Would you believe me if I tell you when I invited him home, I meant what I said? I just want to have some dinner, another drink, lie in bed and talk about nothing? Would you believe me if I told you all I wanted was to lay my head down on someone and just be? That I wanted those long lost day when we were young, when listening to music, talking about nothing was perfect. Before we got so good at taking our clothes off and mastered the imperfect transaction of a single night? It’s okay if you don’t believe me.

I meant what I said when he kiss me, “I don’t need another one night stand.” “I’m in town for a while, we can hang out,” he replied. I should’ve protested. I should’ve pushed him away. But…But…his kisses were so sweet and I wanted him despite reason, despite knowing better. It would be an exaggeration to say we made love that night. Is it even possible? But we didn’t fuck either, as one tends to do with strangers. It was something in between. We went somewhere in between. He was present. I was present. It was communion. Time transcended its linear form and we were in a sweetness that had no end and no needs.

I had forgotten about this. I forgot about this place.

For days afterward, as I worked on the catalog, edit through the photos with him from the shoot, I would blush randomly. Flashbacks of hands and lips and whispers and…

It has been a month since. My war is near the end (fingers crossed). I’m back in front of the blank screen and soon the road. There’s yet to be a second night, only sporadic texts sent with the best intentions. He’s busy. I’m busy. We are all suffering that common malaise of this new century. Yeah, yeah. Does it matter? We ran wild as “free range cattle” in Central Park amongst 60,000 people and our favorite band. He reminded me of communion —- a beautiful lesson in not fucking —- cause we’ve had enough of that already. A moment and a lesson. Maybe that’s enough. Or maybe I need to learn to ask for more.

The picture I saw of him today is not a him I know. It’s not the him that made me lose focus the day of casting or the one I found through the viewfinder, or the one that waited for me in the crowd with his hand outstretched. The photograph made me sad because I might never learn his thousand faces. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows names the frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone as adronitis and the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that only inhabits one place at a time as onism. The ridged nature of the time-space continuum seems to be the root cause of these obscure sorrows. Perhaps the answer lies in deepening my understanding of quantum physics instead of trying to find a unified theory on courtship ritual, or wish I asked for more.

Peter, Mike and Christine said thanks.

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Charlie Grosso

Photographer - Writer. Adventure Traveller. Brand Consultant. Art Gallery Director. Possible Spy. Always on the road, living under an alias. Seeking co-conspirators. http://charliegrosso.com

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