In a man's life, he will experience a variety of unique, yet no less special, relationships with women. First, his mother, or whoever plays the maternal role in his early years. The woman who protects him, makes him feel safe. Who holds him close when the thunder booms and the winds wail. The woman he compares all other women to for the rest of his days.
As he gets older, a mother has to set her child free unto the world, where he will quickly learn there is no substitute. And while no girl he meets could live up to the standard, the women he loves are no less a part of him. His first love. The first girl he ever thought he got pregnant. The first girl he ever thought, "Yeah, I can do this. Forever."; the first time he proves to himself that he's grown up.
By the time he's #SingleAfter30, though, those Hallmark relationships start becoming further and fewer between. Instead of puppy love day dreams and white picket fence fantasy, he gets a big dose of #SingleAfter30 reality. What? You didn't think that cute cashier ringing you out for your Lonely Meal For One was checking you out, did you? That's judgement in her eyes, pal, not longing. No, by the time a man is #SingleAfter30, he's fortunate if he has one meaningful relationship with a woman. Just one. Because if he has her, he won't need any other. The 2AM Girl.
A man in his twenties keeps a little black book...or maybe that should be updated to a group contact on his smartphone. I don't know, I'm still living in the 90s. I watch Arsenio Hall reruns with my Alpine stereo surround sound, wondering why my Sky brand pager hasn't gone off in 15 years. Anyway, guys in their twenties keep a list of girls who they can call up in the middle of the night for a quick hookup. But she's not that. They have "friends" with blurry boundaries and unavoidable confusion. But she's not that. They know after a long night of debauchery and chasing tail, at least one of those chicks are willing to be the conquest. But she's not that. She's nothing you've ever experienced before. There's no confusion, because there's no questions. There's no asking, no telling. And as long as you follow those two rules, it will be everything you need it to be.
If you've never lived in rural America, you can't imagine the boredom. It forces you to get creative, just to occupy the minute to minute of every day. I grew up in South Carolina, the backwoods as you city folk call it. I remember when I was a kid, my granddad had this old dog. If we are counting in dog years, this mangy old mutt was pushing Dracula. He shouldn't have been around. Completely blind, couldn't hear a Michael Bay movie playing in a nitroglycerin factory, tumors where fur used to be, and he pissed all over the floor every second hour. But I'll be damned if he couldn't smell a squirrel from a mile away. So my grandmother would block off granddad's den while he napped so the dog wouldn't mess all over her house. My sister and I, hellions we were, liked to play a little game. Whenever the neighbor's barn cat had a litter, we would scoop up two or three or however many we could carry, and toss them into the gated den, then watch that old dog go crazy! Barking and growling, feebly trying to find those scattering kittens. Granddad would wake up furious, cuss us out for giving him a heart attack and getting the dog all worked up. Granny loved that prank.
I was sitting in a hotel lounge in Columbia, reminiscing on all the years I spent with her, all the years I now had to face without her. I hated coming home. With Granny gone, I never had to again. Bitter sweet. I spent my whole childhood growing up in their home while my father worked odd hours. She was my rock, my everything. And now she was gone. Dad was taking it the worst, losing his last parent, and my sister carried on like an audition for Hollywood. But I was sure I had it the worst. Drunk in an airport hotel, flight delayed due to snow. In South friggan Carolina. Then again, I didn't have anyone to rush home to anyway.
I hoped to run into her on the plane the next day. We had exchanged numbers, but I couldn't help wanting the company. Instead I settled for crying children, an obese man with sweat stains and intense body odor, and a WASPY 50-something sitting next to me, who kept clutching her bag every time I turned my head in her direction. Matter of fact, I never caught a glimpse of her. First class? Who was this woman, anyway?
Our relationship carried on for years, but to say it was based in misery, or to really call it a relationship at all, is simply misleading. Though we came together by some cosmic cocktail of sadness, Fate, and poor bartending, shared pain is hardly what makes 2AM Girl special. It's more affectionate than passionate, yet no less intimate. She knows you without knowing you. When all the liquor has dried up, all the laughs and hand shakes and pack pats have gone home to bed; when it's 2AM and just you with yourself, you know her arms and her bed are open to you. When the wolves go silent and only the moon howls, you know she's there. She's whoever you need her to be. She's the warmth in the wilderness. She's the soft touch on fresh wounds. She's the lover when nobody else gives a damn. She's the surrogate. She's the one who makes you remember. She's the one who helps you forget, at least for a moment. And when your heart aches for another, one who she could never be, she will let you make love through her. If you knew more than the first thing about her, you would swear she was the one you were in love with. She's the 2AM Girl.
To say we knew next to nothing about each other is an understatement. There was no dating, no Facebooking, no sexting. In fact, our only communication outside of our private embrace was as simple as it can get. A blank text. When the lights go low, no matter what number shows up on the ID, blank text means 2AM.
So I was taken completely off guard the autumn afternoon I received this, "No kids 2nite". Was she suddenly trying to change the whole dynamic? Why mess with a good thing?
"Bachelor party" "(blank)"
A friend from my college fraternity was getting married. I don't keep up with those guys much. Nothing personal, but a life of khaki shorts and marrying pack-women just isn't for me. However, as a fellow Greek brother and sparkling personality, I was asked to emcee the event. The best man had put on quite the show: whiskey water fountain, three different strip shows, and some old Italian bowling game to keep the grandfathers from spoiling the fun. I was going to be involved in the grand finale. Best man had planned a monumental send off for our pal's last night as a bachelor. Three strippers would remove our now black out drunk friend's clothes and whip him with his own belt to the enjoyment of all. Best man was absolutely giddy, but do me a favor, if I ever take the plunge just give me a nice "Atta boy" and leave the humiliation for the eventual divorce.
I took the microphone and stepped in front of the several dozen friends and strangers now foaming at the mouth for more naked ladies, who just want me to shut the hell up. I took out the card with my lines the best man had given me. But One Take Charlie doesn't like to read things over in advance...
"Gentlemen, coming to the stage, he is the FUTURE Mister...2AM Girl?!"
My voice cracked. My heart sank. My knees wobbled. My stomach...well, let's just say I blamed it on the whiskey water fountain. My 2AM Girl was having an affair with her fiance.
After a while, the blank texts stopped coming. We never saw one another again. Every once in a while her picture pops up on my news feed, they moved away a few years ago. But that doesn't stop me. It doesn't stop me from staring at that phone, wondering if I'll ever see a blank text again. Because I'm #SingleAfter30, and 2AM is a lonely time of night.
#SingleAfter30: The L Word!!!