He came up to me, sitting in the corner of my local bar, as I was holding back tears related to a betrayal I’d rather not get into right now.
“Is that yours?” this man with wild blonde hair asked me making a splayed gesture to nothing specific with his hands.
“Yeah,” I said tentatively, grabbing my beer from the counter in from of me.
“No no, is that your vase?”
I looked at the vase on the table in front of me. It had all kinds of ancient inscriptions on it, with drawings of two women playing catch, and one sitting on a floating rock looking off into the distance at nothing.
I laughed, as he went on to explain to me what the paintings on the vase meant. It was the only thing preventing me from spiraling into my worn internal rhetoric about how I’m not good enough.
Defensively, but politely on the surface, I fired questions at him about the who what when where why how. Something about him immediately struck me as free in a way that I’ve been annoyed with people for not being.
He kept dancing in his chair to the music in a completely unselfconscious way. I wound up asking him where he was from, which is something I try to avoid doing because I like to guess and usually the fact reveals itself without my asking, but in this case I just had to know.
“I’m from a small island,” he said, “off the coast of Rhode Island.”
I’ve never been to that state, and the only things I remember learning about it are that is the smallest state and the state with the largest per capita crystal meth habit. I studied him more closely to see if he was on crystal meth, but found no signs. Instead, he just kept pulsing to the music and talking with me. He asked if I wanted another drink, and when I opted for water, he returned with two cups and said “here, I’ll let you pick which one so you know I didn’t drug it.”
To be quite honest, at that point roofies would have been welcome. I sipped my water one sip at a time, hoping there were drugs in it that would slip me into a state of oblivion that I could recognize in a mild form with enough time to walk home. There were none, and my new friend kept beguiling me with conversation.
I learned he had been traveling around doing charity work, and that he hadn’t lived in the US for some time. He was passing his way in Bushwick on his way to Thailand to volunteer. He was one of those indigenous ex-pats, it seemed. I was skeptical I was being conned.
At one point, Carly Rae Jepson came on. Let’s just be clear: The song is played out, officially. The bartenders at my local bar payed it unabashedly, without looking up, because they know this was the one place that would fly, where it was finally ironic. I groaned and rolled my eyes, but my new friend pumped his fists.
“Have you ever heard this song?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, “but it’s kind of catchy!”
At that point I was sure I was either dealing with a full-on con artist or someone of the likes I’ve never met before.
“You’re like a Galapagos tortoise,” I blurted out. He was. He was like a creature who’d been raised completely oblivious to the evils of the world and was now dumped right in the middle of the biggest cesspool of the US and picked me to sit next to at a bar.
“No, I … ” — he went on to start to explain how he’s in touch with society in a number of ways, but then quickly and ultimately concluded: “I am like a Galapagos tortoise.”
He invited me to go somewhere to smoke weed with him. I declined, but invited him to my squid party. Because essentially, at its core, the party is for we creatures in the world who are singular, glorious, and oft misunderstood.
I hugged him goodbye, and asked if he thought that was actually my vase. He shook his head no. I was glad.