At around 1:30 in the morning, she spat on the window of a Whole Foods on 4th avenue. “That overpriced organic bullshit!” she shouted, and we cheered her on. I relished the small rebellion, the idea that I was part of the cool crowd, the fun crowd, the going-places-can’t-be-stopped crowd. I bragged of my own spitting abilities but when the time came for me to show off the results were unimpressive. A scattered mess, my phlegm on the sidewalk.
“Gross,” we all said. And it was true.
I took a moment to reflect on why it was so important for me to prove I could spit “like a dude.” Maybe I’ve always looked soft, or acted soft, even felt soft, but I’ve never wanted to be soft. As a child I would combat the softness by:
-Refusing to wear figure skates.
-Demanding my parents register me for hockey despite there being no girls team in town. (If I had to play with the boys then so be it.)
-Riding my mountain bike over jumps I was not good enough to tackle, cutting my knees deeply, letting the blood run, bragging about my scars.
-Building a “time machine” out of an old boat propellor in my “workshop.”
-Becoming obsessed with my father’s sledge hammer, using it to smash apart rocks in the back yard. Was I looking for jewels, or an outlet for my 10-year-old rage?
When we got to his apartment, I was impressed by his shelving unit, his electric guitar, his stacks of books and wall art. Not many guys with art on their walls. To me, the art suggested something akin to self-actualization. He knew what he liked and I liked it.
Settling onto the couch, we attempted gossip but soon realized we didn’t have it in us to talk smack, not tonight. And so we spoke of our mothers instead, our love for them, our admiration, our misunderstandings during adolescence. What little shits we were back then, we agreed.
“I am who I am because of my mother,” she said.
“I am so lucky it makes me feel guilty,” he said.
“I am in awe of my mother,” I said. “Her strength.”
Saying goodbye at the door, we took turns holding hands with one another, bowing our heads together so that our foreheads touched, as if to transfer thoughts.
We agreed: there was nothing better.