10 April 2010

Nine Months: A Season of Change

Three days ago, on Wednesday, it had been nine months since my surgery.  I am thinking now about when I was nine months from my surgery, back in October of 2008.  Funny, how that seems so long ago.  What's even weirder is that somehow I know I haven't changed much, if at all, except in my body.  But it seems that much, if not everything, is changing around me.

In one sense, that's literally true:  I'm living in a different place now.  It's not at all far from where I had been living, but it feels very different.  The block on which I had been living was definitely more blue-collar--although, ironically enough, the Noguchi Museum was on one end of it and Socrates Sculpture Park was less than another block away.  And the light was very different:  The combination of small brick and slate houses and apartment buildings along with the factories and workshops--some active--on the adjacent streets that parallel the river gave the light a quality that could seem as spacious as those lofts but as defined as the spaces between the sharp edges of the steel exteriors of some of the buildings that contained those lofts.  On a rainy or misty day, the light--an almost steely gray--could soften the edges of those buildings and make the horns of tugboats seem like serene echoes of the currents those boats plied while imposing a silence, like that of a Sunday during wartime, over the streets.  

Here, on the other hand, the light is more of a constant stream, like the traffic along the street on which I live during rush hour.  And if the street on which I lived had order, this one has more organization:  It's lined with townhouses, with apartment buildings near each end.  Around the corner is Broadway, along which I shop for food and household items, order and pick up Chinese, Mexican, Middle Eastern or Japanese meals, get my nails done and have my shoes cleaned and repaired.  Two blocks down Broadway is the subway; along Broadway is a bus that connects this street with the one on which I used to live as well as with two other subway lines and a few other neighborhoods.   Every morning, one can see the streams of teenagers headed in one direction--toward Long Island City High School, which is just a block and a half from the Socrates Sculputre Park.  And one will see another stream of people, mostly young, but some of whom are around my age, headed in the other direction--toward the subways and their jobs.  Most of them aren't dressed for blue-collar jobs:  Some are in suits, or at least white or light shirts or blouses, dark bottoms and dressy shoes, while others are in the sorts of outfits one associates with "creative" young people.  

In some odd way, this street and the ones nearby remind me a bit of the Paris neighborhood in which I lived.  I think it has something to do with the scale of the buildings and streets, and of the kinds of people I see coming and going.

But there has been more than a change in scenery during the past few months.  I've also noticed that people are relating to me--for better and worse--in ways that I hadn't expected.  As an example, James and I spent a good bit of time walking through the Village and Chelsea a couple of nights ago.  Our urban soujourn was interrupted every couple of blocks with spontaneous hugs.  He and I met several years ago.  I have always liked him, but I can honestly say that I've really gotten to know him just recently.  What I am seeing in him is--I hate to use this term, as it's been rendered so banal--an intensely spiritual but completely non-religious person.  In other words, he's turning out to be the sort of person with whom I can have a real conversation about things that matter.

When I first met him, he was just starting to transition into life as a man after living for more than thirty years as the partner of a woman who died almost two years ago.  He says he was one of a dying breed:  a "stone butch."  I must admit, I admire stone butches, although I cannot imagine myself as the lover of one, much less as one myself.  

I guess being a man now disqualifies him from being a stone butch.  But there's another reason why the label may no longer fit:  I think he wanted whatever my hug could offer him.  I certainly didn't mind that:  Being the good stone butch, he certainly gave me pleasure when he embraced me.  I just hope he enjoyed it as much as I did, if that's what he wants.

Yesterday, when I went to see Dr. Tran, a new employee at Callen Lorde rode the elevator with me.  I didn't even know her name, but she embraced me as the cab arrived at Dr. Tran's office.  Should I ask what that was about?  

After my appointment, I rode down to Bicycle Habitat.  There, I placed an order for a wheel that Hal will build for me.  As I usually do, I spent some time there catching up with Josh, Sheldon, Pancho and the other employees there.  On my way out, I exchanged "good-night"s with them and Charlie, the owner.  As I was leaving, he picked himself up and hugged me.  

I've known him for about twenty-five years.  That's the first time he's done that.  While he's always been friendly to me, he never seemed to be particularly affectionate, at least not in physical ways.  So the unselfconscious suppleness of his embrace surprised me a little bit.  Well, now I know of at least one thing his wife likes about him!

And then, just a little while ago, I went to Hannah and Her Sisters for a manicure as well as my first pedicure of the season.  Tonight, Annie, who doesn't speak much English, did my manicure as Karen did my pedicure. While filing the nails on my left hand, Annie propped her head against my shoulder.  And, as she worked, I noticed that she was holding on to my hand a bit longer than she usually does.  Later, as I sat with my toes and fingers in the nail dryers, she rubbed her hands on my forearms and, again, propped her head on my shoulders.  And, finally, as I got up to leave, she hugged me.

She said something to Hannah, which she translated:  "You are a really sweet person."

Hmm... Spring really is in the air, isn't it?  It certainly is a time of change!