Had a date at the Mall of America this evening after work. I’ve been talking to this guy for a while. He’s a pilot who works out of the Caribbean and happened to be in Minneapolis for a few hours between connecting flights. He was visiting family in the Fargo area and now is headed home.
I came home after work and managed to find a spot relatively close to my apartment. If I drove home after the date, chances are I’d be parking at least six blocks away due to Minneapolis’ inane, ongoing, “just in case” snow emergency. Parking is only allowed on the east and south sides of streets until April 1. This means that trying to find a spot after 6pm is like musical chairs, if the penalty when the music stops was being transported instantly to Siberia.
After changing out of work clothes, I headed out to get cash and coffee to break a $20 for bus fare. However, I missed the 23H by just minutes. My phone was already on about an 8% charge, but I was able to learn that a 4L was leaving at 7:04PM just eight blocks away. Luckily, the bus was about five minutes late so I made it in time. However, that meant I missed the connecting bus that would’ve got me to MOA sooner, but I had enough phone battery left to find a new connection to get me there.
Just as my bus got to the Mall, we got stuck at a checkpoint going in to the Transit Station. I’m not sure what was going on, and even the bus driver was confused. There was something going on with a taxi several cars ahead that backed everything up.
Fortunately, my date wasn’t too plussed. I managed to get to our meeting spot in one piece, and we had a pleasant dinner together. We talked about his flight career, our families, our hopes and dreams, and a bit about religion. We ended up talking until about 10:21PM, at which point we decided it was time to head out.
He was heading to the airport and was going to take the light rail back to be ready to make his flight in a couple of hours. We said our goodbyes in the transit station at the Mall – handshake, not a hug. Definitely in the friendzone.
The thing is, by the time we got there, it was about 10:30PM. Turns out a bus had left about five minutes earlier that would’ve got me home by way of the 4L. And my cell phone was dead.
After wandering around for a bit, I managed to find an outlet by some payphones in the Mall. It felt ironic, crouching on the floor beside those ancient, corded, handheld receivers while my relatively fancy smartphone charged. I finally managed to get enough charge to get an Internet connection, and discovered that the next bus wouldn’t be leaving until 11:17PM.
So I had some time.
In that interval, dark clouds began to descend, like Dementors, closing in. A metaphorical rain cloud formed, drenching me with its metaphorical downpour. In these moments, it seems like absolutely everything is wrong with my life. My phone dies because my battery is crap. I leave my gloves on the floor of my car, right in a spot where a bottle of motor oil leaked. I miss buses by mere minutes. I get stomach aches that keep me awake all night because of my allergies. The cute guy I’m crushing on has a boyfriend, or turns out to be a total jerk. Everyone I’ve dated or lived with, however briefly, is now either dating or married to someone they’re great with. And I’m perpetually alone, stranded at a metaphorical transit stop with no idea how to get home.
I know, mentally, that this is the depression talking – that my life could be so much worse than it is. Yet why do I go through life feeling a though I’ve missed that one crucial day in class that helped everyone else pass the big test with flying colors, while I barely manage a “C”?
On my last connecting bus home, I did witness an interesting exchange. There was a woman in her mid-40s, with blonde hair and wearing a black leather jacket and dark glasses – the very image of a Gen X rocker. Sure enough, there was a guitar case on the seat beside her. When I got on, she was saying that she didn’t like going out to a bar unless she was playing at it.
Then the girl across from her (they seemed to have been in conversation for some time) mentioned that she cleans for a living (she “puts her all into it”), and needs some kind of therapy to help her “develop a personality” because she has trouble talking to people. She started talking about her collage art and how it was helping her get over her fear of death. The rocker lady was packing up, becoming more uncomfortable with this conversation. Fortunately for us all her stop arrived, and she got off, took her bike, and gave a “peace” sign to the driver.
I wondered on the long walk home if I’ll ever be able to drop the practiced “keep away” look that I cultivated as a deeply closeted gay man in conservative Christianland. I wonder if I was unconsciously doing it on my date tonight, or with any of the other guys I’ve dated in the year since breaking up with Jason. I wonder how often I’ve missed opportunities to connect with someone, a friend or potential romantic partner, who couldn’t see past the thorny barriers I throw up to keep people out.
Walking home tonight, I passed apartment and second-story bedroom windows, flickering ghostly blue and white. We once huddled together in front of fires to keep warm. Now we huddle in front of televisions, alone.