It was 8:00 a.m. at Starbucks—the time and place that most of my post-Calvin days begin. I was working on writing my next post when I saw him out of the corner of my eye: a blonde guy, late twenties, lanky, scruffy, wearing clothes one size too big. He and his friend were sitting forward in red leather lounge chairs in the corner of the room, watching different customers and discussing them.
The blonde one and I met eyes. I immediately looked back to my computer screen. But of course, I peeked back in the direction of the men. And of course, they were still staring my way.
My conceit started taking over. At first I had thoughts like they’re picking me; I’m the chosen one. But when the blonde stood up and started coming my way, the arrogance truly blossomed:
I’m about to be hit on.
I had been living in Boston for about two months at the time, and it only took one week to realize that the gay-to-straight ratio here is exponentially larger than in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In fact, it is so large that someone with an overinflated ego (like myself) could quickly create a world where people would be comfortable walking up to whatever stranger they wanted and asking them on a date without knowing anything about how they identified their gender and sexuality.
In the five seconds remaining before he reached my table, I finally decided on “Sorry, I’m seeing someone right now” as my go-to response, which was true at the time (making my anxious thoughts about the encounter even more unnecessary).
I don’t remember his opening line, but it was definitely typical:
“Hey, man, how’s it going?”
“Uh…it’s pretty good, man, how are you?”
I paused to glance over at his friend. He was still in his chair, and still looking at us with anticipation.
“Great, man. So are you from around here?”
“No, actually I just moved here from Michigan a month or two ago.”
“That’s awesome! What brings you to Boston?”
“I’m getting my Master’s of Ed, actually.”
“Oh wow! That’s amazing, man. Congrats.”
“Well I haven’t gotten it yet, ha.”
“Hahaha…so, this might seem like a weird question, but—”
—he didn’t end up asking me out. It’s amazing how weak I am against my imagination. In the span of about five minutes, I not only built a reality where it was likely that someone, regardless of their relationship preferences, had the confidence to accost someone else at eight in the morning, but I also so easily sacrificed the reality that provided twenty-two years worth of evidence that contradicted this new, imagined world—all for the sake of a story that started with “Babe, you’ll never believe what happened to me at Starbucks today….”
I don’t want to take a stab at fiction—these days, it’s the majority of what I read outside of this blog—but my favorite part about writing these monthly posts is rediscovering the art of the narrative that I call “true.” Rediscovering that there are undeniable themes in my life; that there are undiscovered connections between every object, setting, experience, and action; and that everything mysteriously works together to teach or remind me something I wouldn’t have thought of without a little reflection.
In this case, I was reminded of irony, and its function was to sustain my comedic cynicism, and remind me that, even nine hundred miles away, I’m never far from home:
“Hahaha…so, this might seem like a weird question, but—do you personally know the unconditional love of Jesus Christ?”
Michael Kelly (’14) graduated from Calvin College with a double major in psychology and writing. Shortly after graduating, he began his graduate level study of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College. When he is not studying learning and teaching, Michael learns and teaches through stories and writing—fiction and nonfiction, comedy and tragedy, and everything else in between.