I’ll start with one that’s fresh on my mind. And kinda bittersweet, which makes it unlike the other stories I have to tell.
He played after me at an open mic night last week. He was wearing a fedora and a tucked-in shirt, and he started off his set by running his mouth about Ferguson, etc, and teaching the crowd the chorus of his first song because he wanted us to sing along. And, uh, if you know me AT ALL, you would expect me to be 100% disgusted by all of this. But I wasn’t? Somehow all those things conspired to make him seem absolutely adorable. He also mentioned that he’s moving to California really soon - I guess that’s happening in two days now. He played a really special cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” that I won’t forget for a long time. That voice.
We met after his set and sat down together, he asked to buy me a drink next door after the open mic was over, I agreed, so we did that.
Once we started talking, I learned that he’s moving to LA for work but coming back to NY in the winter, and also that he’s over-the-top romantic.
He’s a film director, so he can get away with saying things like “if this was a movie, this is the part where I would kiss you,” and then doing that. Across a table so that we both had to lean in, and after a long, deep look into each other’s eyes.
This is the point where I should let you know that he introduced himself as “William.” After kissing me, he confessed that his real name is “Sam,” then showed me his ID to convince me. Yeah, yeah, it sounds sketchy, but, y’know, artists… the “Sam” part checked out, but there was one other thing: I first thought it said was he was born in 1981, which is fine, maybe a bit on the young side for my tastes as of late (ha ha), but yeah, fine. Then I did a double take when I realized it actually said 1991. [N.B. if I could capitalize 1991, I would.] 1991! Ok. Mental math. Mental math re-do. Once more. Yep, that still makes him 22. Inside: a stifling of giggles and a new feeling of empowerment, plus a dash of shame.
I’m realizing now how difficult it’s going to be to keep track of feelings. I can say things like, yeah, he’s the guy that gave me a fake name and is way too young, but it’s hard to explain the other stuff. Like the desperation in his hands and how, when he was holding me, I felt like if I closed my eyes, I’d open them to find us together but all alone on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Or no, wait - that’s not quite it. Hmm. More like he himself would be that raft, and I’d better let go or end up out there too. He seemed to need so much but have so much to give, too. And that voice! Those lips! Dangerous territory, to be sure.
Ok, I’ll focus now. Back to business. We ended up sitting on a bench in Red Hook until almost 5AM. A cop drove by to ask if the instruments on the street belonged to us, and William/Sam yelled back that they were, adding “we’re musicians, and we’re in love!” which resulted in an official NYPD thumbs-up and chuckle. He sang a few songs in my ear, including “Barbara Allen,” from which he chose his stage name (William), and more Leonard Cohen, and one that he wrote. I felt so lucky then, with that voice so soft and so close.
He came home with me to make sure I made it safely, but he didn’t come in. We stood on my stoop until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. He kept telling me how beautiful I am (saying that I look like a glamorous 40’s film noir star… hey, I’ll take that!) and various things that he likes about me. He wrote down his phone number for me, and I wrote down my phone number for him, but I was almost totally sure I’d never see him or hear from him again. He was too magical to exist outside of that night! Out of time and out of place. As my roommate put it, sometimes you can have a soulmate just for a night. That’s news to me, but I like the idea. Did I mention his voice? I wanted to stay close to him but not for too long. Much too bright.
As he rambled off with his guitar in tow at the end of the night (err, morning), he tipped his hat to me and once again, sang the beginning of that song. From the front door, I watched him walk all the way around the corner, because I didn’t want to miss seeing that rickety ol’ raft drift back into the big salty ocean-of-a-realworld. He didn’t look back, but then again, I guess I didn’t want him to.