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Thursday, 18 September 2008.

40 Years in 40 Days [ view the entire set ]
An examination and remembrance of a life at 40.

For the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday, I intend to use my 365 Days project to document and remember my life and lay bare what defines me. 40 years, 40 qualities, 40 days.

Year 26: 1993-1994

In 1993, I moved into the city after having lived in Evanston for seven years. I took over the lease on an apartment belonging to my friend, Charles. When Charles lived there, it was party central, and I think I thought that would somehow transfer to me. With the apartment would come the parties. This proved to be untrue. The parties followed Charles, and my apartment was just a rat-infested shit-hole. But, still, it was mine, and it was in the city.

I needed money badly, having gotten myself into debt and defaulted on my student loans, so I sold a bunch of stuff on the local Usenet groups. One of the people who contacted me was someone I’d been in marching band with as a freshman at NU (he was a senior), and from whom I’d later taken an introductory programming course in the School of Continuing Education. During the programming course, I’d developed a bit of an idle crush on Tom, but I never did anything about it, and when the course was over, I forgot all about it. When he contacted me to buy my stuff, I took advantage of the opportunity and asked him out.

I took Tom to see Pat McCurdy, a regular Monday night act at Lounge Ax in Lincoln Park. After we’d been there for a few minutes, a former fraternity brother of Tom’s walked in with some of his coworkers. We all sat together and had a great time, starting a tradition that would continue for years. Each Monday night this same group would gather at Lounge Ax, drink a few beers, over-tip the waitresses, and then head across the street to the Taco Burrito Palace #2 for a late night snack.

Tom and I dated for about six months, but it never really went anywhere. My dad got remarried in October of that year, and by the time Tom and I drove up to Wisconsin for the wedding, it was already apparent that we were never really going to be any more than friends with benefits… which was fine for what it was. Neither of us were really looking for more than that.

In the mean time, I’d developed a severe crush on one of the people we’d been hanging out with at Lounge Ax. His name was Dave, and he wore a black wool overcoat over a black leather motorcycle jacket. It was a look I’d never seen before, and it was both intimidating and intriguing. He had spiky black hair and a cherubic face with a goatee and small sideburns, and his big, brown eyes had the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen on a man. I fell, and fell hard. I watched him as he sang and talked with our mutual acquaintances, and I dreamed about him when I fell asleep at night. I created opportunities to talk to him, listening to his conversations and waiting for something… anything… that I could use as a bridge to my entrance into the conversation. After months of seemingly unrequited fascination, he finally suggested that we should "hang out sometime." We made plans to meet up with another friend of ours at a bar the following weekend.

When the appointed day came, our friend backed out. I was thrilled and terrified. I’d get Dave to myself, but I worried that we’d find ourselves unable to talk to each other outside the context of a larger social group. I need not have worried. We got along like gangbusters. We sat at the bar, laughing and talking for hours. A small music ‘zine called "Steve Albini Thinks We Suck" had us falling off our stools, because we’d misread it as "Steve Albini: Things We Suck." There was a certain giddiness about our interaction, and it didn’t take much to spur us to laughter.

Our apartments were in opposite directions from the bar, so when it was time to leave, we had an immediate decision to make. The walk to his apartment was quite a bit longer than the walk to mine, and I wanted to squeeze every possible drop out of the evening, so I told him I’d walk him home. He wasn’t phased by this bucking of tradition, and so off we went, continuing our banter from the bar. When we got to his apartment, he invited me in, and then he invited me to stay. I felt as if my heart had stopped beating, and I could barely breathe enough to whisper yes.

I could not have walked any lighter then if I had literally walked on clouds. It was the happiest I’d ever been. Within a few weeks, I was living at his apartment, and keeping a small studio apartment around the corner for the overflow of my stuff. We were crazy about each other. We held hands everywhere we went, and spent our evenings curled up together on the couch watching movies. At night we would lie in bed and talk about ridiculous and funny things, conversations sometimes punctuated by tickle fights and blanket hogging.

It was a time when everything was right in my world. Everything fell into place, and joy enveloped me.

Who am I?

I am a cynical romantic.

It’s true that I am a bit of a cynic. People will inevitably let you down. It’s a law of nature. We are imperfect beings, and so we bumble along, making mistakes and letting other people down. But, I also believe that people are basically good, and basically motivated by a desire to love and be loved. And so hope never dies, and from this hope springs a romanticism that my rational self is almost embarrassed to claim. I believe in love, and its power to transform. I have hurled myself headfirst into its grasp many times, and though I have been burned many times, I still do it, because I can not (and would not, if I could) shake it. It’s not magic. Love doesn’t magically make bad things go away. But, it does radically shift your focus, and it does lighten the burden we all carry around with us every day, sometimes just enough to let us walk a step farther than we were able to before. And there is no greater and more delirious high than to feel your knees begin to buckle when the one you love looks across the room at you and smiles.

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Texture Credit

"Harvest Clouds" by kiwêhowin.

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