By the time we got to the bar we’d agreed upon, it was only twenty minutes to last call.
It was that kind of a week: Full of beer and bars and bouncing around, every plan falling to the wayside moments after its conception. Happy hour at a voting party turned into karaoke at a gay bar. A comedy show turned into a discussion about the deep racial divide in modern America with one of my city’s best feminist bloggers. A quiet night in turned into an art show, then one beer turned into closing down a bar and drinking over video games well into the early morning hours. And last night, an evening of board games with old friends turned into bar hopping in my neighborhood yet again, where we arrived at the bar where we’d planned to meet with only moments to spare.
Improv comedy’s first rule is to always say “Yes, and,” and that’s been the recurring theme lately, even when “No” seems smarter, more prudent. This year was supposed to be the Year of Taking Fucks, a term coined by a friend late last year after I told him a story of a woman I’d met on OkCupid checking the site on her phone while sitting next to me at a bar on our second date, which she had asked for. I told my friend how I was stunned by this woman, by how she had managed to give even less fucks than I usually do, and he responded that she had given so few, she had actually taken them, a la the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny tray.
This year’s arc has been arguably the strangest of any of recent vintage, and that goal of mine got lost in the shuffle, only for me to remember it and realize that I’d done a better job than I’d expected. For as much time as I’ve spent inside my own head, I’ve spent plenty outside of my home, available at my friends’ beck and call for debate or debauchery at a moment’s notice. It’s proved a pleasant distraction from the world falling apart even more so than normal.
Friday afternoon, I got a call from my mom. She had a single question: Do I play Minecraft?
She’s visiting Florida right now, lending a hand as my cousin’s pre-teen son goes through treatment for osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. We found out about the diagnosis when we were together in Boston a couple months ago, that this boy who should be studying for his bar mitzvah would instead be battling for his life. And she told me, on the phone, how his first question to her when she walked in the hospital room that day was whether I played a particular video game. This boy I barely know, reaching across the country for some sort of connection.
I told her I didn’t, and she said she’d put him on the phone so we could see if we had any other games in common. But his voice on the line was too weak for words, and came out as a moan instead, and my aunt’s voice soon replaced his to tell me that his medication was making him woozy.
It’s been that kind of year. The Year of Zero Fucks, in which two old friends died, a third was sentenced for murder, my sister got divorced, my cousin’s son got cancer, and my father’s long-ago death suddenly returned to the news. And it’s still only October.
Earlier this evening, I stood on a deck overlooking Alki, the Sound splayed out before me. Behind me, a party’s patrons were digging into the various mac-and-cheese dishes they’d all brought. Subversive as always, my contribution was instead macarons and cheesecake, which made me three new would-be friends as I unpacked it.
On the deck, beer in hand, I wasn’t quite alone, but was as close as I could get to it. David Bowie’s “Starman” had been stuck in my head for two days straight, and listening to it towards the end of the drive hadn’t been enough to scrub my brain of the old earworm. As I stared out at the gray water and clouds, a thin, dark line of land demarcating the horizon, I thought of the “Starman” montage in The Martian, and of a bit later in the story, where the narrator muses how everywhere he goes on his journey towards rescue, he’s the first man there.
Inside, feet away, men, women, and a handful of babies ate their food and talked about whatever came to mind. Outside, I stood back from the drizzle and hummed to myself as I peeked between power lines into the distance.
I’ve always been on my own planet.