Monday, May 14, 2012

When the World Says 'F*%K YOU!'

I was sitting on the couch at the gym before my workout today. As I crouched over my phone answering various texts and emails, a complete stranger checked in at the front desk. I looked up right as he was walking.


I blankly stared at the space the guy was just in. A trainer was sitting next to me and I looked over at her as if to confirm the occurrence.

Baffled, the trainer asked 'did he just drop the 'F' bomb?'

The guy -now making his way down the stairs- replied 'yeah, you heard what I said!'

It's been a while since I've had a 'fuck you' guy in my life. I think everyone has at least one, if not several. These are the people who just exude that baffling aggression. They are at work, on trains, in public spaces. On the subway they scream 'EXCUSE ME!!!' and startle nearby passengers with hostility.

That was my 'fuck you' guy and just like that he was gone, descending down the stairs.

I had several reactions because it was so 1) funny 2) random and 3) completely indicative of my old mode of thinking. In my old mode of thinking that was my perception of the world: everything was an attack. So a good morning was 'FUCK YOU' or a 'is the report ready yet?' was also a 'FUCK YOU.' It was an attack and most forms of interaction with others would make me -on a very subtle level- anxious. My anxiety was coming from raised blood pressure and preparation for some sort of defense. The entire world all day was saying 'FUCK YOU' in a multitude of ways.

But when I'm in that centered space, an actual guy can walk up to me out of the blue and say 'FUCK YOU' and I literally just stared out processing a few things. First I was trying not to laugh b/c it was a delightfully random NYC moment. Second I was processing whether he was talking to me or the trainer. Third, I realized it didn't matter. The next leap was realizing 'well that was an interesting' karmic seed that just passed by, and finally I realized I wasn't angry at all. I wasn't happy, I wasn't perturbed, I wasn't anything. I was just sitting on a couch witnessing something. The trainer seemed more agitated and -I admit- that did draw me a bit back into my emotions. I was now judging the guy, his motives, all the ridiculous and pointless stuff. And then a woman at the locker said 'oh yeah, that guy. He does that all the time.'

I then realized he was also the 'fuck you' guy for several other people. He played an important role in the lives of many people at the gym.

In some ways I felt the magic and uniqueness had been stolen. Apparently this stranger walked around and blurted out 'fuck you' as sort of a greeting, salutation, introduction, and casual observance. The woman by the locker said that he had cussed out her husband for walking by him and many other people.

I shrugged my shoulders and went back to texting. This might sound crazy but -in some weird way- he made the day entirely unique. When I saw him next by the treadmill he was completely oblivious of our previous interaction. It was a unique outburst that stood alone in time. It had no past or future in his mind. He was like a child, completely engrossed in his stretching.

Later on I saw my 'fuck you' guy outside on the street. He was talking to a woman begging for spare change. They were sharing a moment and seemed to be engaged in a deep conversation. I'm guessing he wasn't this woman's 'fuck you' guy.

A complete stranger appears in my life and then makes 3 separate appearances in 2 hours. In the first he is growling 'fuck you.' In the second he's meticulously stretching his calves and neutral in my mind, in the third frame he's compassionately talking to a begging woman outside. After the third appearance I realized I would probably never see him again. He appeared to demonstrate a triptych on liking, disliking, and ambivalence. Now, POOF, he's gone.

How many interactions are like that for me? A lot. I had a friend last year who I became cordial with for logistical purposes. We were friends, then she just stopped talking to me. I went back to Miami for 6 months and when I came back she was downright hostile to my presence. I had said nothing, I wished her the best, I thought we were on good terms. And then it just shifted. After a few months our friendship abruptly ended when our collaboration was no longer necessary. She disappeared at the end of 2011 and I have no doubt I'll never see her again. In our last interaction she appeared neutral again and then she was gone.

A few weeks ago at the gym there was a guy who was screaming on the elliptical machine. He was cheering himself on, pumping his fist, and screaming out sections of the music he was listening to on the machine. He took his shirt off and continued screaming encouragement and raising his fist in triumph. My first reaction was to get slightly annoyed. Then I looked at him again and found it very odd. I began to create a narrative: was he on drugs? He looks like he's on drugs. What drugs could this person be on? Maybe he's a rich kid trying to draw attention to himself. Fictional plotlines began to unfold.

Several people glared at him, huffed, one member even tried talking to him, rationalizing his need to respect other people working out. He told the guy to shut out as he turned the volume up on his headphones. I started jogging around the track and every time I came around to the machine section there he was: shirtless, screaming, and rapidly pumping his legs on the machine to the point where I thought he was going to break the gears.

It suddenly occurred to me that I didn't really care. As long as he wasn't hurting anyone, it didn't matter.  All of sudden he was no longer annoying but odd. Then he became goofy, charming and - as the screaming of classic rock lyrics continued- he was hysterically funny (in my opinion). I began looking forward to my lap around the track when I would get to him to see what he was screaming this time.

I'm processing this and thinking about it as I prepare for some Buddhist holidays. I'm baking and writing on this past day. Maybe if I'm not so quick to react I can see this dance of illusions more often.  I can take refuge and see the emptiness of things. I don't have to box the clouds or swat at the sun. It's not to say that I shouldn't have any emotions or pretend to enjoy irritating people. I do want all the 'fuck you' people out of my life. But for now when the world screams in my face 'FUCK YOU' I can blankly stare back at it and think 'okay. That happened.'

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