You figure it out

It’s not halfway through the morning and I feel frustrated and dissatisfied.

I was in the city relatively early for a breakfast meeting. Seems like I’m on the train or tram a lot lately at peak hour travelling to or fro with the working commuters with dazed looks on their faces listening to their music shoulder to shoulder with someone doing exactly the same. Doubtless I appeared one of them back in the day, but now it’s novelty for me and I look with a more analytical gaze, as if I have wondered into the Smithsonian and set eyes upon a particular genus of man on display. I listen to my own music and think I’m glad to be out of it.

I was due to meet a character I’ve been trying to meet up with sundry times before. Each time we’ve missed each other for one reason or another, meetings running over time, mix ups with time, unexpected things popping up. Unfortunately it was the same story today. I sat in a cool cafe with a latte and a bowl of porridge waiting for my acquaintance to show. I wasn’t hopeful. I’d had the message as I walked in that he didn’t know if he could make it, and calling him only sent me to his voicemail. I read the paper, I chatted, and made notes in my black book about one the projects I wanted to get up. My demeanor was pleasant, friendly, but inside I was in a turmoil.

Being in my role you need to be patient. I guess that’s true in most walks in life, but perversely it’s truer the more independent you become. I don’t belong in a system anymore and there’s no safety net beneath me should I fall. I can’t afford a misstep. And so that means I’ll very politely accept his apologies and attempt to re-schedule for another time hoping that this time it will actually happen.

I’m not good at supplication, but I’m forever being placed in positions of being the supplicant – I want to do work for people who have to agree for me to do it. This leads to internal conflict and disharmony, and occasionally a sour taste in the mouth. I can manage many of the platitudes and can muster a reasonably agreeable facade, but it shits me to death. I feel bound, like in an old fashioned movie where the villain coils rope around the hero with an evil cackle. This isn’t the movies though and I can’t just magically slip my ties and come to the rescue. No sirree. I wriggle and tease, I resist and protest, for fucks sake people you can’t do this to H. And yet H gets tied up and has to cop it sweet. Yes, yes, yes, I think, quietly seething whilst figuring out what I must do next. Fact of life this and have to deal with it – though a proxy would be nice. Fact is that until you’re top dog everyone has to submit sometime.

Adding to my frustration is the latest romantic pickle I’ve got myself into. Seriously, if word ever got out about my ‘love’ life they could make a reasonably entertaining movie of it, with overtones of Woody Allen.

My problem is that I’m easy to know, but virtually impossible to get into. I work on the general principle that I’m open to pretty well everything. I’ll never say no just about, but I’m just as unlikely to say yes. In this way I find myself sliding into situations I’m not really sure about, but intrigued enough to let them happen. I’m all about the experience after all, and some experiences are mighty – but ultimately most of them peter out before they get to where the other party wants to go because in the meantime I’ve taken a road elsewhere. Frustrating for all concerned when I think about it, but it’s never really as conscious or deliberate as that. I like being engaged, I like doing things, it’s just that when push comes to that final shove I can’t commit to what others want because I don’t feel it as they do.

Anyway, the venue I’d chosen for this mornings meet was a new-ish and tres cool cafe in one of the city laneways. Few weeks back I’d met a girl at a function who worked there as a waitress. I’d known her before from somewhere but never had much to do with her. She remembered me fine though, and ever agreeable to a pretty face and a willing nature I was happy to re-acquaint myself. Since then I’ve bumped into her at a couple of other things and each time she has urged me to come by her cafe. I’ve felt some interest there which has made me typically ambivalent – flattered in some measure, fearful in another, and ultimately intrigued by the whole fucking thing. And so I turned up.

I don’t really know what’s going on, and wonder what she thinks is going on. She stood by my table and talked to me with a big smile on her face as I asked what she’s been up to. She was all surprised and thrilled to see me there, so much so that I wondered if by turning up I had confirmed something I didn’t wish to confirm. I might be a big, worldly bloke, but I can get in a tizz to. When I left she said something about how she was sure we would see each other soon as if it was something written in the stars, or somehow pre-ordained, organised behind my back. I think I had a bewildered look on my face as I left.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea. She’s a nice person, a bubbly and feminine personality who has much to offer, and for all I know may not be offering it – I’m a man after all, and our receiving stations can be all over the place. I just feel a little reserved with her for certain reasons I won’t go into here, and am inclined when someone shows interest to head the other way in a hurry. I know, have to overcome that. In any case, there’s my entrepreneur.

Just to digress for a moment I had a lovely lunch with the entrepreneur last week. She has a lot of energy and enterprise, exhaustively so. We hit it off good, but despite my ardour for her I’ll take it slow. See her tonight I think, and am considering dinner next week at Duck, Duck, Goose, Goose with her, a place I want to check out.

Back to today. I left the cafe having failed to meet and feeling slightly overwhelmed by everything. I stalked the city streets turning those feelings into typical H fodder. I felt aggressive, blunt and driven. I boarded a tram to go home in Collins Street (just about due to create a Tramming category I think), and found a seat in the back. The tram was thick with suits taking the short trip to their snazzy offices at the top end. I cast an eye at them, knowing them, seeing myself in some way in a previous persona.

This persona is different, and is worth noting for posterity. Today was typical for me travelling to the city in the dead of winter, the me I feel pretty much more than most. On my feet I word a pair of brown suede, high-topped lace shoes which count amongst my favourite possessions. I wore a pair of Diesel jeans that have been artfully made to look worn in by some clever contraption that also adds a hundred dollars to the price tag, worn with a belt (always a belt). My shirt was one of my more conservative – dark grey with a thin grey pinstripe running through it, worn untucked. Over that I had slipped on a groovy grey vest that has the look of top shelf felt, a recent acquisition that has become quite a favourite. Over the top of everything I wore the thick black woollen jacket I bought by mail order from the states, boxy, but warmly padded. A hemp bracelet on my right wrist, a Swiss divers watch on my left (one of about 5 watches I swap through), and a rustic ring on a worn leather thong around my neck. Completing the look is groovy facial hair, a pair of rectangular horn rimmed glasses like Buddy Holly would have worn, which somehow sets off my masculine features, and a tumble of lush, wavy reddish-blonde hair in artful disarray. Overall this is the laid-back, tidy, masculine, but bohemian look I feel most comfy with. I love my suits, but I’ve moved on.

That was me then, heading home and peering out the window feeling none of the wry sang froid of my last tram trip home the other night. Shit happens. Just as I got home my phone beeped, a message from another girl I had caught up with last week. She thanked me, said it was fun, then apologised for having been so horny. Seriously. I stared at the phone and shook my head. What next?

This is not me. This is not my brand. Have to get things right way around again, and be the person I aspire to be.

Later: had lunch and coffee with Vinnie again and we talked about all the usual things. As we were leaving the cafe he asked if he should text the girl he was keen on to see whether she was coming back to Melbourne from a trip overseas. “Don’t you know?” I asked him. He shrugged his big shoulders. “Normally I just do it or don’t do it,” he said, “I don’t think about it.” “Well that’s the sign mate that you like her when you start to second guess yourself,” I answered. It was very unlike the cool and very composed Vinnie I had come to know. He shrugged his shoulders again. “Maybe” he said, happy to think it I believe. I told him he should text her, and that I hoped he gives it a go. I think he will.

We parted and I thought on this. I know what he’s going through. I remember the delicious uncertainty of not knowing what to do, the sense of anticipation on hold pending a more definite sign. That’s what I want. That engagement. I want some skin in the game. I thought about a moratorium on my activities as the first drops of rain began to spit down, but that’s just the other extreme. I think I have to just simply remember what I really want, and who I really am, and everything else will sort itself out. If Vinnie can lose his head over a girl, then so can I.

Tightarse Tuesday, Melbourne

Last night I headed into the city for the semi-regular catch-up with the boys to see a movie. As always we met at Melbourne Central, had a beer over a quick catch-up, then proceeded into the cinema. As my mates are married men the only movies we see are boy movies. This is their night out, the leave-pass granted by their missus to catch up with their mates and for a little while regress a little into that state of borderline male immaturity. Boy movies are it for that mindset, fast moving action, sci-fi speculations and raucous comedies are the go – besides, they’re the movies their wives no interest in seeing. All yours boys.

Last nights flic was Hangover 2. I saw the first with a girl funnily enough and enjoyed it more than I expected. And so when this was released we agreed that this was the perfect boy’s night out fare.

In actual fact the movie was just ok. As they say, not nearly as good as the first. The premise is fine, the locale great, but the writing let it down. Alan, the Zach Galif , character was nowhere near as funny in this one, and in fact was annoying more often than not. If I had been there I’d have busted his nose early and figured he had it coming. It has some great moments etc, but somehow the movie is less than the sum of its parts.

Afterwards we headed out to get a bite, as is traditional also. With me was Cheeseboy, as goofy as ever, and Penguin, just as immaculately presented as ever. We ended up at Cookie, a long time favourite for all and sundry, and surprisingly busy for a wintry Tuesday night in Melbourne.

We found a spare table in the crowded and buzzing restaurant section of the bar, and perused the Thai menu that has never changed in all the time I’ve been going there. We added a wine to the order and we were good to go.

We talked, we drank wine, we shared meals, laughing often and in the way of close friends taking the mickey often. Serving us was a reasonably attractive blonde with a down to earth nature who seemed to have psychic powers. We hit it off in that natural way that sometimes happens without you really thinking much more of it than that. It set me thinking though because its been happening a lot to me lately and I’ve started to wonder why.

The other week I went to a bar and one of the barmaids – a young thing – couldn’t take her eyes from me. When I went to order something, another drink, something to nibble on, she would jump to serve me to the exclusion of others. That same night I got talking to an Eastern European girl with an interesting accent and well shaped background which went so swimmingly that if I hadn’t been dragged away then something nice would have been inevitable. And that’s on top of the casual encounters which have become a regular aspect of my life in the last 6 months particularly. And others more serious.

There wasn’t any particular frisson between me and the blonde waitress; I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a connection, though that’s a closer approximation. I would call it an understanding I think, initiated on her side which I then noticed and responded to.

I thought later on this as I was heading home. I looked out the tram window contemplating these things and trying to make sense of them as if they were puzzles to be understood. There are different elements of it. There’s the physical obviously, which often is independent of looks. There’s a physical fit, an aura if you like, one body recognising and being drawn to another. I’m taller than most which garners interest, and I have a look which if not handsome, then is interesting. Attitude plays a huge part I think. It’s in the eyes and the set of the jaw, how you hold yourself, even in the walk as one woman once told me. The tale of the man – or woman – is often revealed in these small insights which add up to something more. These are real enough, but I didn’t yet understand how they applied to me individually. What attitude do I portray? What message does my physical self emit?

Last night was a good laboratory for this. There I was out with a couple of blokes around my age (younger both actually), one of whom at least is better looking than me, but I got the attention. And then I figured it.

Both guys are married. They go home to wife and children, to a life whose boundaries are roughly constrained by that reality. They still take an interest in the world, still like to go out, play up, and so on, but in effect much of their life is now internalised because their perspective is inwards, quite logically, to their family, to sharing with them, providing for them and looking to the future with them. Focus changes, as do priorities, when you have loved ones in your care.

That’s not me. I don’t have those concerns, I’m still very much an active part of the world. I walk into a room and engage with it, I size up what’s happening, who’s doing what, where the party is, and who the interesting participants are – and it shows. It shows I think – even subliminally – much in the same way as those now ‘internalised’ are seen as opposite. I see the things happening because I’m looking for them, my perspective is external, and that gets picked up on. By contrast my friends, even the good looking ones, seem more distant because they have fallen out of the habit of looking. They have what they want at home. Now a glass of wine and a good meal will do it. The rest is decoration, ambience, sound and movement that contributes to the scene much as a soundtrack does in a movie.

That’s my theory. I’m open, awake, receptive, and for some that combined with whatever individual qualities they see in me is enough for interest to be expressed, and an engagement to commence.

It meant nothing last night, as it generally means little. It’s not the time, there’s not the real opportunity, there isn’t really that driving desire to get it done. It’s pleasant yes, and enticing to consider, but then you move on, back to your friends, the conversation, to the days and weeks ahead and the opportunities that may be closed out. In And in my case for all this there is doubt – at me really. I know some think I’m some Lothario, but I’m not. I’m not that smooth, mostly not anyway. And I get surprised all the time wondering what others see in me. And in the case of someone like last night, even if I was interested I’d have paused given the difference in our ages. I’ve been around enough to know it doesn’t for much in the end, but it’s still enough for me to hesitate.

So instead we boys carried on our playful conversations. In light of the movie we had just seen we discussed my bucks party, where it would be held, who to invite, and so on. Amongst us we decided that Thailand was a good option, or if not then Amsterdam with a wedding to follow in Tuscany. In the spirit of the moment I announced to the cloud, wondering aloud what the yet to be discovered missus would think of it. Soon enough the cloud responded.

It was about 10 when we parted. The boys went one way, I went the other. The road was wet, but the rain had stopped. Though it was cool it was not as cold as it had been earlier. The streets seemed relatively busy with people going one place or another, the odd busker playing to no-one and here and there less fortunate gathering in groups or seeking shelter and the odd spare coin. I was glad to have left my friends and to be by myself again, though I never bothered to wonder why. I walked towards Collins Street thinking I would catch a tram home. On the way I checked myself: was I feeling frisky? No, I wasn’t.

In Collins Street I discovered the tram was 15 minutes off and so I went on to Flinders Street. Here the tram was 5 minutes away. I spent the time listening to my iPod and peering at some cloth caps in the window of a nearby haberdasher. Waiting for the tram was an Asian girl in tight jeans and long tan boots with a plastic bag of take-away food in her hand. I realised somewhere between Bourke and Flinders street I had regained my customary friskiness. Do married people feel this way? I wondered to myself.

I sat in the tram and watched the scenery go by. It was fun. I listened to the story of a sexy girl and high art and watched people getting on the tram and getting off. I thought about home and the feeling of returning there bright and interested. It was a good feeling and I remembered it was what I felt most nights returning home after a pleasant evening out. The joy of going out is as much in the returning home as it is in sharing the time out with friends. I was happy with this thought and wanted to cuddle up close to it as if it was all mine. That made me think to as I reflected on that. Many times I have returned home and wished there was someone waiting for me there. Often I’d have been thrilled to have that alluring other sitting opposite me as we went wordlessly home. I didn’t feel that this time. I felt glad I was by myself, as if an essential ingredient of who I am is to be solitary and reflective, and to be otherwise is to dilute the experience. Perhaps it is. It seemed strange all the same and I pondered philosophically how sometimes to share something with someone close to you is like doubling it; and at other times, less frequently perhaps, less romantically certainly, it is like halving it.

I walked from the tram stop to my home. The grass was squelchy underfoot on the oval near home. I listened to my iPod and anticipated the moment I would walk in the door and Rigby leaping upon me in never-ending gratitude. It seemed a pity there was not some sport to tune into on my return (forgetting Wimbledon was on) since I felt on. No matter. The streets were quiet and dark, the road wet and the leaves dripping with spent rain. Am I a hard case I wondered. Maybe, but it didn’t seem to matter.