back to the Black Table

 What a blissfully oblivious glory it is to not be dating anyone. From April 2001 to June 2002, I was in two ďrelationships,Ē one that lasted nine months, another an intense and exhausting five. These women were the only two serious girlfriends Iíd had in about five years, and they represented, in their own ways, attempts by me to stop screwing around, gliding listlessly through life, and become a grownup, with real responsibilities and set, reliable habits.

I am dating neither now. And if youíve seen me recently, you can tell.

Letís take, oh, now for example. Currently, Iím wearing an old black T-shirt Iíve had since the eighth grade, a pair of shorts caked with ink stains, a beaten-up Cardinals hat that hasnít been cleaned since I bought it, circa 1997, and mismatched socks. (Theyíre not even close; one is white, the other a faded brown-black mixture, thanks mostly to the dirt.) I have not showered in three days, and my pathetic patchmark mosaic of facial hair has not met razor in more than a week. I just scarfed down a double cheeseburger from Wendyís, Iíve gone through two packs of cigarettes in the last 18 hours, and once I finish this column, Iím going to grab a six-pack of High Life and watch professional wrestling. I also plan on passing gas, loudly, without worry of recognition or embarrassment. Yep Ö that one was me. Good one, huh?

My room looks like a tornado was raped in there. My poor cat has to navigate around the two-week-old pizza boxes, boxer shorts draped over the lamp, empty cigarette packs in the water dish, and a fan thatís caked with so much dust itís a wonder I havenít developed debilitating asthma in the night.

What is happening to me? Itís simple, really; Iíve discovered the joys of just not caring.

For more than a year, I was living for two people. Does my hair look OK? Will I embarrass her friends if my shirt is wrinkled? If I stay out too late and donít call her, will she worry? Can I not comment how attractive that Shakira woman is? (I mean Ö have you seen this woman? I think if she just got to know me, Shakira would grow to love me, and I would make her Pop-Tarts, and I would rub her feet.) Should I be careful what I write about this week, lest it cause a conversation or debate? Did I miss her parentsí birthday? She's joined a gym and is working out; I guess I better cut down on my beer consumption and maybe do some sit-ups or something. She'll lose respect for me. She probably already has.

I really have no idea what Iím doing in life, ever. So I spent more than a year of my life obsessing about whether one person — and, of course, who the actual person was always mattered less than what they thought of me, naturally — found me worthy, whether I was doing everything right. It was my top (hell, only) priority.

So when the relationships ended, and I was single, on my own, my reaction surprised even me: relief. I am now the only one responsible for my own actions; I never have to worry about taking anyone else down with me. I could let myself go. Why not? Like I want the pressure of a relationship again. I'm enough to worry about and take care of all by myself.

Do you realize how freeing it is to just not want anything to do with girls anymore? When you don't have to impress anybody?

What am I doing now? Not long ago, I had a job interview at 2 p.m. on a Friday. When it was over, I met two friends of mine at their apartment. They had just purchased Madden 2003, the newest version of the popular PlayStation 2 NFL simulation game. We were most excited; the football season is approaching, and we all relished the opportunity to test our geographical loyalties on the virtual gridiron.

I left their apartment 11 a.m. Sunday morning. For the first time. It was like being released from solitary confinement. Just downstairs resides Pioneer bar, one of the more popular new nightspots in New York City. Every weekend night, it is packed with New York City's finest ladies, all dolled up, vamped out, breasts pushed over their ears.

We saw them below when we paused to look out the window. I'll let other people deal with them. My Cardinals are down 7-6 to the Eagles. Fourth quarter. Plus, my ear itches. And there are Doritos on the coffee table.

I have no time or energy for a relationship. I don't think I missing anything. My mind is clear, and it is empty. I will fill it with inanities and useless piffle. That is just fine with me.



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