Farewell

I was going to end the blog in June after my wedding, but as the date gets closer, I am starting to realize that this wedding thing might actually take up more of my time than I thought. So I’ve decided to say goodbye on a high note and not be one of those bloggers that just fades away with fewer and fewer posts.

It goes without saying that this has been an incredible journey. Almost two years ago I made a decision to take control of my life by doing something simple: talking to strangers. It turned out not to be so simple after all and I never could have imagined ago the impact that my decision would have on my life.

It’s not just the obvious boon of meeting and marrying Michelle. Or the relationships with countless others, both profound and mundane, that I’ve nurtured over the course of the Project. The result I’m most proud of is the change in me.

I used to overthink things and the dialog in my head about what the other person would say if I started a conversation would be too much to overcome. Does this person just want to be alone? What if they don’t like me? What if I embarrass myself?

Now, it’s not that I don’t care, I do, it’s just that I know most people like people. And those who don’t, the people who say “Fuck off,” well, I’m better able to brush it off. Because I’ve racked up some wins, I can better ignore the defeats.

Talking to people has become second nature. I really am that guy in the elevator now who says, “How’s everybody doing?” (Okay, maybe not really like the Sparklets guy, but I have spoken to a lot of people in elevators.) I just like the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen when you interact with another person. It still makes my heart race when I approach someone, but now it’s exciting, not terrifying.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’ve become the person I never even knew I could be. Sure, maybe I’m unemployed, but that doesn’t seem to matter right now. I’m about to go on this journey with Michelle and it just feels awesome.

I know I’ve said most of this stuff before. After two years, I’ve said pretty much everything I can think of. But one thing I don’t think I’ve said enough is how much I appreciate the support and emails and comments from the people who’ve been following this Project. For every comment you see, I get a few private emails from people telling me about their lives. About how they’re shy or just in a situation where it’s tough to meet people. I respond to every one of them and I tell them if I can do it, so can you. Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking to hear about younger kids–teenagers or college students–telling me about how hard it is. But trust me, the hardest part is taking that first step.

I don’t want to be all self-congratulatory, patting myself on the back for my own successes or for being all “inspirational” to other people. But I have learned a lot and I think it’s worth sharing. It all boils down to this: people were not meant to be alone. We need human interaction. It’s what makes life worth living. And unfortunately, sometimes that takes effort. Sometimes it takes a shitload of effort. But it’s never not worth it.

Elevator Girl

It was like a movie. I was leaving for the night, the elevator doors opened, and there she was. It was so perfect that even Michelle had to laugh. I got in.

I was about to say something. I was about to launch into another big speech. But she stopped me with a look. A look that said, “It’s okay.”

Then she kissed me.

The doors opened on another floor and someone else got in, interrupting the kiss. But Michelle grabbed my hand and held it tight the whole rest of the way down to the lobby. She was squeezing it so hard, I looked over at her, and she looked scared.

We got the the lobby and the other guy got out.

I turned to Michelle and said, “I love you.”

Michelle said, “I love you, too.”

P.S. Michelle said I could post this.

Michelle Speaks (to Me)

Michelle called last night. We talked for an hour. Still haven’t seen her in person since Thanksgiving, but I’ll take what I can get.

Here’s the crux of the problem. This relationship is not a trivial matter and we both know it. I made it clear from the very beginning that my feelings are very deep for Michelle. Turns out, she feels the same way. But since this is so “high stakes,” Michelle says she just needs to be sure. She says she couldn’t handle something this big not working out. The thing with Thanksgiving wasn’t so much about being mad or embarrassed. It was about trust and if she’s going to go out on a limb with me emotionally, she has to know I’m not going to hurt her.

I told her I would never hurt her. “But that’s exactly what someone would say if they were about to hurt me,” Michelle replied.

I laughed. Got me there.

So I said the only thing I could think of. I said, “There’s no guarantees. Sometimes you just have to take a risk. And I think the rewards of this working out are so big that the risk is justified.”

She thought about it. I said, “When can I see you?” She said she still needed to sort things out. To give her some time. I said okay.

To Michelle

Dear Michelle,

I hope you are reading this because it’s my only way of communicating with you since you won’t return my calls or emails.

First of all, I want to apologize. I should have told you about the blog. I guess I thought if you read it you would be mad or creeped out.  Turns out, I was right. Plus, I think I was afraid that if you knew you’d make me stop. But I really like writing about this project and I didn’t want to put that in competition with how much I like you.

If you want me to, I will delete the blog. I know it’s a terrible invasion of your privacy but I honestly think it’s helps a lot of people out there. I get comments and private emails all the time from people who are shy or just in a lonely situation and I think my trials and tribulations (side note: does anyone actually say “tribulations” by itself?) have helped paved the path in some small way for people to be happier. That’s important to me. Still, it doesn’t justify revealing personal information about you without your consent, so I will respect your wishes and delete anything you want.

I’m really sorry about this. But not just because I’ve embarrassed you, or made you look silly in front of your family. What’s really eating me up is that I’m afraid I’ve irreparably damaged your impression of me. Yes, I admired you from afar for a while. But then I spoke to you. Yes, I said I wanted to marry you (one day). But that’s just because I’ve never met someone I felt more compatible with. You are not just beautiful. You’re smart and funny and you get me and I feel like I’m the person I always wanted to be when I’m with you.

So please, if you’re reading this, give me a chance to fix things.

–F

Thanksgiving, final entry

I am so fucked. I am back in L.A. without Michelle because Michelle broke up with me. This whole thing is such a big complicated fucking mess, I don’t even know where to begin. But I’ll try to explain what happened.

Everything was going great. I was getting in good with her parents. We went out Wednesday night and I hit it off with her old friends. We even fooled around in the car before we went back to her parents’ house.

The next day was Thanksgiving. Greg and Quinn showed up around noon. I was helping Michelle’s mom get the food ready. When I met Quinn she seemed normal and nice. But when Greg showed up, he gave me a dirty look and was basically a dick to me from the minute he met me. (Greg is Michelle’s youngest sibling–he’s 22.)

I thought he was acting so weird that I asked Michelle what his deal was and she just said he’s moody. Fine, okay. Not everyone has to like me.

We sat down for dinner at four. The family was catching up with each other. Then the conversation turned to me and I told Quinn and Greg a little about myself. Then in the middle of the dinner, Greg says, “I feel like I already know you.”

I said, “Why’s that?”

He said, “Because I’ve been reading your blog.”

I turned white.

Michelle said, “What blog?”

Look. It’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret from Michelle. I told her about the project. How I’ve been trying to better myself by talking to strangers. She’s seen me do it a million times. I just never mentioned that I write about it in this blog.

Greg pounced, “You’ve never read his blog? It’s all about you.”

Michelle looked at me with this awful look of betrayal.

Her Dad asked, “What’s this blog about?”

I tried to explain that it wasn’t about Michelle. It was about talking to strangers. But she’s a big part of my life and naturally she’s in it sometimes.

Her mom said to Michelle, “You didn’t know about this?”

At this point Michelle excused herself and went upstairs. I excused myself, too. Then we got into a fight. She said I should have told her. She asked what kinds of things I wrote about her. I said it was nothing bad. That yes, I should have mentioned it but it was no big deal. She said she feels like an idiot in front of her family showing off her new boyfriend only to find out she doesn’t even know he’s writing a secret blog about her behind her back. I said I was sorry. She said she needed to be alone for a while.

I was stuck. No way I was going back downstairs to hang out with the family. So I told them I was going to go for a walk and that I’d be back in a little while.

I walked around the neighborhood for an hour, feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach. During that time, I found out when I got back, Michelle read the blog. The entire thing.

When I got back, she said she needed some time to think about this. I said that I would go back to L.A. She said fine. I said, “We can get past this, can’t we?”

She said, “I don’t know.”

I felt like there was a ray of hope.

Then she said, “I don’t know if I can trust you again. I think we should spend some time apart.”

I said okay. I packed my stuff, said goodbye to her family, and went back home.

Rain

It’s raining in L.A. today so that can only mean one thing: traffic.

Normal, ordinary rain is equivalent to a blizzard here. There are accidents on every freeway, massive flooding (there are no storm drain in L.A.), and huge delays. It took me 50 minutes to get to work and it’s only a couple of miles away.

The only good thing that comes out of this much rain is that people in L.A. love to talk about it. In the elevator, the normally quiet group of office workers was going on and on about the pile-up on the 405.

I said, “I don’t get it. What is so hard about driving in the rain? Why does it have to be Carmageddon every time a few drops hit the ground?”

One woman said, “Because no one knows how to drive in L.A.”

A guy said, “But no one is from here. Don’t they remember how to drive in the rain from back when they lived in New York.”

I corrected him, “No one drives in New York.”

Then another woman said something really smart. She said, “There are 1.6 million cars on the Los Angeles freeways every day. Most days there aren’t any major accidents at all. That’s the miracle. When you add even the smallest variable to change those conditions and multiple that by the sheer number of vehicles, it approaches almost certainty that major collisions will occur.”

Everyone stopped and thought about what she said. Seemed to make sense.

I was especially proud because that woman was Michelle.

Flat Tire Fixer

Michelle slit my throat while I was sleeping last night and now I am blogging from the afterlife.

Actually, things are going fine. We had lunch every day this week and we’re going out Friday.

But on to more important news: Despite my seeming closure on my quest to win over Elevator Girl, I continue to talk to strangers. In fact, I had a nice talk with the guy who pulled a nail out of my flat tire yesterday.

It’s actually pretty cool how they pull the nail out and put some kind of black tar stick in there instead. Then, he spits on it to see if there’s any air escaping.

I asked him, “Where’d you learn how to do that?”

He said, “Spit?”

I laughed and he said his father taught him how to fix cars when he was just a boy in Mexico. He moved to L.A. thirty years ago, is a U.S. citizen, has two boys in college, and works two jobs to pay for it.

Just in case you thought you worked hard.

Elevator Girl

I slept with Michelle.

After a week of ignoring my calls, she emailed me on Friday saying she couldn’t face me after what happened.

I told her we needed to talk about it. She reluctantly agreed but said she couldn’t meet me that night because she’s going out with Dan. She said she’d come by Saturday night instead. “Just to talk,” I reminded her.

She was supposed to come over my apartment at 8:00. She didn’t show and I was starting to get worried. I mean, who knows with her? Maybe Sports Agent Dan found out where she was going and took an axe to her. I texted her and she finally responded at like 9:30 with just “b there soon.”

She showed up at 11:15. She wasn’t drunk, so I was relieved about that. But the first thing she said to me was, “Do you have any wine?” It was clear it was to soothe nerves from earlier in the evening, not to prepare for later that night, so I gave her some wine.

She took a big drink and said, “I called off the engagement.”

Hearing those words suddenly flipped a switch in my head. My moral constraints had been keeping her advances at bay because she was with him. But as soon as she said those words, it was like when that bad guy got fired from OCP and Robocop was then free to kill him. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy given the circumstances but that’s what popped into my head.

We talked for a while about what Dan did wrong. How they fought all the time. How she broke it off on Friday night but then he tried to change her mind earlier in the evening Saturday. (That’s why she was late.)

Then we talked for a while about The Talk to Strangers Project. I basically explained the whole thing to her. How that, a year ago, I was lonely and isolated. I told her how I’ve met all these incredible people and gotten confidence to take control of my life.

She said it sounded like an amazing idea.

Then I looked at her and said, “I did it all to meet you.”

We kissed. Then… well, you know.

We spent the whole day together yesterday. We didn’t really talk about what it all means or where it’s going. I think neither of us wanted to define it or analyze things. I know I for one was afraid it might just go away. So we kind of avoided the subject.

I dropped her off and we kissed again.

I think this is the beginning of something huge, but I’m too afraid to think that thought, because I might jinx it.

The Help

Friday night was really… interesting. First of all, Michelle picked “The Help” to go see. They should have handed out Ziploc bags to the six men in the theater to store their balls.

There is no way any guy in the world would ever see that movie without the promise or hope of sex from their female companion. I was the exception, as I expected nothing from Michelle except maybe a little pre-wedding jitters and boring girl-talk about her fiance.

That’s not what happened. We saw the movie. It wasn’t that bad. I asked, “So should I drop you off?” She said, “Let’s get a drink.” I thought, “Oh, no, here it comes.”

We went to The Tavern in Brentwood for $15 drinks and Michelle finally explained why she wanted to see me.

“Dan and I are having troubles.”

I stopped her right there. I’d been preparing for this conversation all that day and so I knew what I was going to say. “Look, I’m not your girlfriend. I think it’s really shitty for you to dump this crap on me. I like you and I want to be your friend, but I’m not going to help you patch things up with some other guy.”

She seemed kind of shocked. She took a drink. Then she said, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

After that, things got a lot better. We agreed not to talk about relationships and we just talked. About normal stuff. About the movie. It was almost like it was back when I first met her. When she’s not acting all weird or drunk, Michelle is really great. She has a great sense of humor and she’s smart, too.

I took her back to her apartment complex and pulled over to the curb waiting for her to get out. I said, “Good night. This was fun.”

Then she kissed me.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know this isn’t the first time she’s done that. But I was still surprised. I didn’t fight it (duh) but after a good thirty seconds, I said, “Michelle, what are you doing?”

She said, “I don’t know.” She started crying. She said, “Things are really messed up right now.”

I said, “Go home. Go to sleep. Let’s talk about it tomorrow.” And she left.

I called her on Saturday and on Sunday but she didn’t return my calls.

How do I get into these situations?

Going Out with Elevator Girl?

Michelle just sent me an email inviting me to a movie. This is totally weird. I asked her if I should bring a date. Was Dan going to be there? She said, no, just the two of us.

Well, I’m fine with seeing a movie

but I can tell you right now, there’s one thing I’m not going to do, is listen to her cry on my shoulder about her fiance. I mean, I have no idea if she actually is having problems with him or not. But why else does she want to see me without him? I’m willing to be friends with her, but I’m not going to be some poor sap who listens to a girl he likes complain about some other guy she’s sleeping with.