I arrived in the city that doesn't sleep at an hour when everyone else is getting ready to sleep with a migraine. I lugged my suitcase up the marble staircase of my aunt's building on 29th street and collapsed on her futon. Tears were streaming from my eyes - but I wasn't crying. She gave me three Motrin and some water and I fell asleep.
A couple of days later she organized a small gathering at her even smaller apartment. Just a few people she knew who she thought I'd find interesting to talk to. I don't remember everyone who was there. I remember other members of my family stopping by and not fitting in. They were dressed up, having just seen a performance of "The Lion King" on Broadway. They had kids. We were drinking white wine and eating catered finger foods. Pastry stuffed with potato and spinach and cheese. They left the kids with us - though they were obviously uncomfortable about it - and later we made slightly buzzed phone calls to Israel.
An actor/friend of my aunts - who was my age - had just returned from a trip to Spain and smuggled in with him a bottle of brilliant green Absinthe. We didn't drink it. It was too scary. He'd read a short play I'd written and we ended up having our own discussion about writing. It was the first time I'd really talked to anyone about myself as a writer. He got it. The work, the emotion, the point.
Later, I stood at my aunt's bedroom window while he went to get me another glass of wine... [Quick point: I know the words 'bedroom', 'wine' & 'he' might sound sensational. But the bedroom was the living room and there was no 'sensational'.] I looked out into the street, into the apartment building across from the one I was in and there he was...
Ugly Naked Guy.
He was laying on what I think was a brown leather couch...naked. Reading a book. I remember laughing out loud and then wondering what book he was reading and if it was any good.
It was perfect because everything in life is a matter of perception. People watch television and go to movies and they do it because they want to escape reality and they tell you that it isn't real. Things on TV or in movies just don't happen, they'll say. But what I remember thinking as I stood there and tried not to stare at Ugly Naked Guy was that somebody saw their own Ugly Naked Guy and they put him on 'Friends'.
People write those television shows and movies and they're writing real feelings and real emotions and real obstacles. There are real Chandlers, real McDreamys, real McSteamys. People really do fall in love with their brother's girlfriend or form habits like breakfast outside of Tiffanys. There is something real behind it all, I thought. And if it comes from something real - it's real enough for me.
Dig a little deeper at anything - you'll find the real - but be prepared: it could be ugly. Or at least, have cellulite and back hair.