Most nights of the week I go for a walk down Lincoln Road on Miami Beach and then I sit at a bar and drink two Blue Moons and write these posts. Lincoln Road is a long strip of shops and restaurants that are all identically shaped on the inside (maybe twelve feet wide and sixty deep) but distinguishable at night by the different shades of neon inside. Workers at these shops and restaurants have to stand outside the storefront and preen and smile at passersby, squinting against the sun. They tend to be young beautiful women and so the strategy is to call out at men with flirty-sounding niceties.
How ARE yooouuu?
Their goal is to lure you in so you’ll pay $60 for hookah or two martinis and so they go heavy on the flattery and sometimes I get offended. They’ll say, Wow! Then they’ll point at my skull. Nice haircut!
Love your glasses!
You don’t like my haircut or my glasses. They are both cheap. But it also seems like reckless endangerment on the business owners’ behalf: putting young women in a situation where they have to flirt with strange men. I used to work at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus and one time at a Starbucks across the street I was putzing on my laptop at the counter when a guy came in and approached said counter and pointed at the barista and shouted, “Crystal you gave me the wrong phone number! Why did you do that?” He’s the kind of stranger that if you describe him well enough to someone who lives or works in Kendall their eyes will widen and they’ll square their shoulders and lift a finger eureka-style and say, “I know that guy!” Curly black hair and a stiff gait with his head cocked to the right like he’s clamping a phone there. His arms hang straight and unmoving as he walks and his hands are always clenching and unclenching. If he ever stands still he has to rock on his heels and slap a hand across the back of his neck and claw at the skin there.
So he barged into this Starbucks and stormed the counter, J’accuse!, and Crystal could only gape and blink at the suddenness. Stammered a bit and ended up saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and then busied herself with something in the kitchen, in the back, while the dude draped himself over a chairback, set his cheek on the countertop, and looked at me sideways like that. Like an animal on a butcher block. “God hates me,” he said. No irony. “I want to die.” There were scabs on his neck that he’d picked into existence and he started telling me about things that had been done to him by women and I sighed. Unplugged my charger. Started rolling it.
Not to judge him but it’s arrogant to believe that God hates you because it implies that God is even thinking about you when She’s likely far more concerned with whales, given their size. Years ago as a ghostwriter’s assistant I wrote a blogpost about “negative self talk.” This is when you make a mistake and then say, “I’m so stupid,” or something along those lines. I found a quote from a psychologist saying, basically, I know you think everyone hates you, but trust me: you aren’t interesting enough to hate.
When my older brother was seventeen years old he had a grilfriend named Megan who one day hopped up on our kitchen counter and swung her legs and said, “If you hate someone, it probably means that in some way you actually love them, because it takes a lot of energy to feel hatred, and if you’re letting someone occupy that much space in your mind, it’s because you really care about them. And that’s love.”
Fifteen years later I realize she was wrong but I still find the argument beautiful.