Sea of Familiar Strangers


The past weekend was spent carousing through the city.

Early afternoon, I drop off a piece for display at a local art gallery. Then we visit the museum of art, which houses several stories. We appreciate the art thoroughly, oohing and aahing–I’ve always been one for realism and landscapes. Afterwards, we eat street tacos at the city park, the warm sun on our backs, and skate through another art museum.

By 7 PM, I’m ready to call it quits, go home, curl up in bed. But he wants to watch a comedy show in the grungier alternative district, packed with bars and clubs and stores. I grudgingly oblige. We crawl through the busy street in the car, unable to find parking. People shuffle around in large crowds, partygoers, girls dressed provocatively, guys swaggering. It’s a strange scene. I feel like I’ve seen these people in college, only they’re ten years older. They’re ten years older. It’s strange to see familiar faces with unfamiliar wrinkles, bags, bloodshot eyes. And they tower over me, over us.

Every shop we drift into is like another world. One is girly, filled with sweet smelling soaps. Another is dark, filled with the stuff of 50 Shades. Another is undeniably cool, filled with skateboarders who whiz around on the indoor ramp. One of the skaters, with a forehead scar and glasses, with a close buzzcut and blue polo, looks quintessentially nerdy. He glides on the ramp, effortlessly, smoothly, embodies a skaterly confidence. I imagine a narrative for him. He’s been bullied in elementary school, feels like he doesn’t fit in. He discovers the skateboard at 13, decides that he loves it. He’s committed to it. He falls and stumbles, but it’s his thing. It gives him coolness. 

We leave the shop for a burger joint, where a girl in giant floaty green pants laughs loudly with her date. They’re at the bar. There are red and pink lights and neon signs. It’s crowded. It’s loud. This place is poppin’. We sit down at a small booth. I stare at the couple next to us, eyeing them intensely. Is this their third date? Is this their fifth date? Why do they laugh so hard? Stare deeply into each other’s eyes? Is the other person really that interesting to the other?

“We’re such a frouple. A friend couple.” I declare later that night. At the moment, though-

“Stop staring!” he hisses. And I let out a belly rumbling hearty hearty chuckle, realizing how absurd I must look, staring intently at them. Then I stare some more. My questions have gone unanswered. I later conclude that they must be relatively new in the relationship. They pay too much attention to each other to be too comfortable, but they’re clearly interested in the other, and have rapport.

The burgers are delicious but small. They’re filling enough, but not filling. So at the comedy house, he munches on chips and salsa. I like one of the acts–two guys with a lot of chemistry and social rapport. The first act is cringe-y. I assume it’s the comedy club students, who are new and not super funny, and maybe a little awkward. I wonder what brings them to improv. The last group is funny, but a little spread out. Two of the actors seem to have chemistry with each other. I think these stage acts rely a lot on actors who get each other‘s humor, and then banter off that to the crowd. Sheldon and Leonard get along well. But Sheldon and, say, Adam Sandler would not.

“Is this what young professionals do on the weekend? Go out and party? Go clubbing?”

Good question. Is this really what people do at night? They really go out in this city? To party, to club? It’s 9:30 PM, and I’ve been ready to go home for the past two hours. The chocolate beer and comedy have woken me up, but barely. After wandering around, we make our way back to the parking lot. We turn to see the cars passing by–a woman is rushedly patting blush onto her face. For these people, these older versions of college kids, the night is just getting started. They’re a little oldish, but oh, the night is young.


5 thoughts on “Sea of Familiar Strangers

  1. As a young professional, I was out til 3 am last night because we stumbled upon a cool billards/ping pong/dart board bar (rare in China) while we were looking for karaoke, so tonight I have a Korean face mask and West Side Story. It’s 9 pm now. The night is young, baby.

    Liked by 1 person

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