Finding the key

I walked through the lobby of the Mission Theater. I was leaving, probably not for the last time, but for the last time watching Firefly at the Mission… or at least the last TV episode. One more night, a week from now, to watch the capstone, “Serenity”.

My first night here, I felt alone and lonely. Tonight, I felt the warmth of new friendships, but still lonely. Would I see these new friends after this was all done? I know I would try, and I know from experience that trying isn’t always enough.

I heard low music and I looked at the boy in black lounging on the stairs. “Are you humming the theme song?” I asked.

He looked surprised, like he hadn’t realized it. “I am!”

I laughed, and opened the doors into the street. More fans, people with whom I shared one good thing, standing, talking. The non-iPhone girl, was she here? I didn’t see her, until I looked across the street, and saw her running away, with a friend. I knew I should have seized the moment when I had it.

Is that all we get? Moments in time, brief sparks of happiness, or potential happiness, and if we can’t grab hold they slip away. It feels like it, walking back to my car, having said my goodbyes to my new friends, “until next week”.

I keep looking for the key, the one thing, the secret that’s going to unlock the universe and lay bare and naked all the mysteries I’ve been observer to for over four decades. What’s the secret? Is it to take every opportunity? How likely is that? Most times I don’t even know it’s an opportunity until after the fact, after it’s gone.

I drive my rented car home, and when I see the neon lights and the blue-and-white striped building, I pull into the parking lot, narrowly missing being hit by a stretch Hummer limo pulling away. I walk in, and it’s dead. The strippers are lounging on the bars, talking to the customers. There’s not enough money for booty-shaking. I spot Sharai, chewing gum, talking to some kid. Even though I can feel my body still processing the beer I shared at the Mission, I order another one, get a pile of one dollar bills, as if I’m going to stay even longer.

I can tell I’m not going to stay long, though.

The scruffy chubby guys are flirting with the beautiful nearly-naked women. The waitresses are joking with the bouncers. I approach the bar where Sharai sits, bored, both of us bored and looking for something new.

I toss some money. She comes by to trade her attention and looks for my cash. I joke about being sad for the end of Firefly, but the joke is that I really am sad. She nods, not really caring. But it’s not her job to care. I’m the one that’s passionate about finding something sharp to pierce the membrane of lassitude and bring something new to my life.

Sometimes, when the door closes, it just closes and you’re left standing there. No new door opens. No windows give a new view.

Sharai ends her set and leaves to sit with another girl who’d been there before me. Loyalty like that should be rewarded. I bid her no ill will but I still feel sad and lonely. I don’t have the energy to push my way in and join them.

I look around the club and see very little energy among my fellow travelers. A lazy dance on the stage, same old moves. A tired pull of the beer tap. A customer barely receiving a perfunctory lap dance. Bouncers at the door, nearly asleep.

I set my beer down, half-finished, and walk out to my car. Nothing new here. It feels like another ending. I don’t have the means to make it all fun right now, might as well end my day.

Maybe my search for the key is doomed to failure because there is no key. There’s no one thing that’s going to make every situation work. I have energy when I do something different, and maybe something that works one time isn’t going to work again the next time, because each situation is more different than it is the same, and differences are the key. Novelty is the key. Chaos is the key. Anarchy, zigging when most folk zag. Do something different.

Is leaving different? It feels like I’m always leaving but that might just be in my head. It can’t always be ending because I’m still here. I haven’t finished yet.

I walk in the dark apartment.

I’m the only living boy in Sellwood tonight.

I don’t even turn on the light. I know where everything is. I can see the soft fade-in and -out of the white light of my laptop.

I push the “any” key and the screen lights up. I check my email. Yay, a post from Christi. And… what’s this?

An email? A response? I sent a reply to a Craigslist ad days ago, and gave up hope of hearing back. I’m tired of sending out replies, like sending out resumes that never become interviews. And she replied.

My subject line was “I don’t know how to stand out in the crowd”

Her response was “I don’t know – but you did.” She wants to call. She wants to talk to me.

How is it that life can feel so sad and empty one moment, and then, with just the tiniest change, feed me the smallest morsel of attention, and it’s all worth it? I’ve been here before, having gotten an response, and I know from experience that responses hardly ever turn into face-to-face meetings, and those meetings hardly ever turn into dates, and let’s not even talk about how rare friendships or relationships are from these humble beginnings.

I’ve been here before, but this moment, this one brief second of potential, feels… good. I’m going to savor it and try not to invest too much in its blossoming.

Sometimes the key is just in holding on for one more second. I haven’t finished… yet.

Not tonight.