Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Get on the Bus

You're standing in line at the station in Chicago waiting to board your bus to Los Angeles, and low an behold, just across from you, waiting to board the bus to New York is the most wonderfully attractive person you've ever laid eyes on. As your eyes dart about trying not to stare while trying to look, he turns his head, your eyes meet and he smiles at you. She doesn't look away, but instead, stares steadily into your eyes, smiling. You feel your heart beating faster and faster, the blood racing towards your brain as you try desperately to kick start it. Something inside you is screaming, "Do something!", but you don't know what.

You abruptly turn to the elderly woman standing behind you, asking her to watch your suitcase and letting her know that you'll be right back. You step out of line and walk up to this beaming beacon of beauty and say, "Hi, my name's…"

Sometime later, how long you don't know, you turn around gesturing towards the bus as you explain that you're heading to LA play a part in a film only to see your lone suitcase. Undeterred, you ask, "So, where are you going?"

Minutes later, you're standing next him with your ticket to New York, thinking to yourself, "How amazing! How wonderful! How exciting! How romantic!" Your blood is coursing, your hormones dancing, your left brain is somewhere on the way to LA. You feel intensely alive.

LA can wait. You get on the bus.

Months later, you're living in a brownstone in Brooklyn and waiting tables at a local cafe. You don't have the connections in New York that you did in LA, but hey, you're in love! The magic, the chemistry, the hormones are all still there. She's thriving in her new job on Wall Street. He's really great at what he does and the people at his company love him. In fact, her colleagues love her so much that they're around all the time, at night after work, on the weekends, for coffee in the morning. They talk a lot about finance and investment, stuff you don't understand or that's just plain boring. Every once in a while, you drop a great obscure line from a favorite film that seems to perfectly capture the moment; the conversation stops, everyone looking as though you just passed gas at subway decibel levels, waiting for the explanation or the punch line. You start explaining, "You know… Al Pacino… umm… you know… in… ah, never mind."

OK, you and his friends don't have a lot in common, but that's OK. The chemistry is in tact.

You exhaust your histories, finding yourself repeating stories of the time when you were seven and your dad… or how scared you were the first time you performed in front of a large audience. You switch to current topics, the book you're reading on new acting techniques or the newest foreign film playing down the street. She watches you listening quietly without comment. Without someone else actively contributing, the topic has no cruise control. You take your foot off the gas pedal and it rolls to a stop. She excitedly brings up the latest ruling from the SEC and how it's going to make things a bit more challenging at her firm, but she's figured a way around it. You listen not really understanding anything that she's saying, but it doesn't seem to matter.

Months pass and you start think about that role of a lifetime waiting for you in LA. You start dropping feelers… "Hey, winter's coming soon. Wouldn't it be great to be someplace warmer?" or "I saw on the news that the Finance and Securities industry is booming in southern California. Lot's of opportunity for someone as talented and skilled as you." But, your feelers don't yield the results you're looking for eliciting responses like, "Oh, don't be silly, New York is the only place to be if you want to be in finance."

One day, she walks into the apartment saying, "Hey, I just got a huge bonus. I think it's time for us to get out of Brooklyn and buy a place in Tribeca. I called a realtor who showed me some great lofts and I made an offer!"

Over the months, you've actually made some friends in Brooklyn, people you hang out with while he's working late at night. Even though you haven't been able to find any acting gigs, you've grown to love the bohemian nature of your little neighborhood. But who's going to turn down a loft in Tribeca.

You get on the bus.

The new loft is incredible, more than you ever would have imagined or hoped for. Being closer to Wall Street means that you'll be able to see each other more. You'll be able to grab lunch together. Sometimes you do. And when you do, it's great! You talk about movies, you talk about the furniture you ordered and what color you're going to paint the bedroom. And then one day, she says that it's time for one of you to get pregnant. Seeing as you just bought the loft and someone's got to pay for it, the pregnancy duty falls to you.

You get on the bus.

Over the last week, Iris and I have been talking with friends who are in magical, chemistry-driven relationships that have required them to change buses and destinations. It's been amazing to see how the things that were most important to them one day have all taken a back seat. They seem to be aware of it, but dismiss it as momentary.

The other night Jonathan and I were hanging out with an old friend who spoke longingly about "the one he let get away", the woman of his dreams whom he'd turned down when she issued the ultimatum, "are you in or are you out?"

Jonathan said, "I remember her. She wanted a life that you would have completely hated! In fact, you already hated pretty much all the trappings of the relationship."

Our friend responded, "Yeah, but the relationship was magical! There was such intense chemistry! It's indescribable."

If that bus rolled by again, he'd be on it.

Chemistry is but one of the reasons we get on buses headed to destinations other than the ones we would have chosen. Sometimes it's fulfilling the dreams of our parents. Sometimes it's a sense of obligation. Sometimes is just having no clue and climbing on the first bus to round the corner.

Perhaps it's just having lots of friends who are turning fifty (or thereabouts), perhaps it's because I'm someone who's managed to change buses, but lately people have been approaching me wondering whether or not it's time to get off the bus and head back towards their original destinations. For most of them, it's merely flirtation. In the end, sunk-costs will keep them on the buses they've been riding for years. I've even talked with friends who are absolutely miserable on the buses they're riding, and yet, they seem resigned to die on those buses saying things like, "I'm already fifty-two. How much longer do I have any way."

In many instances, a few simple questions reveal that each partner is riding a bus that they believe to be chosen by the other. Neither wants to be on the bus and yet, both are riding along silently resigned to their fates.

What bus are you riding? What bus is he or she riding?

Happy Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. I've just been turned down after the second date by a guy with the words "Spending time makes me very happy, but I don't get the feeling in the stomach telling me that this is it".

    I realised that I'm on the "I wanna be happy, first - and enjoy the people around me, second - and find out if he could be for me, third" - bus.

    And next time I go for a date, I'll show up with the attitude: "He's the one and only - tonight - tomorrow I'll check if that's still the case".


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