Mike, Danny, and Santiago
Mike has high testosterone levels. You can tell by his broad shoulders, presence, pro-social behavior, professional competitiveness and ambition, appealingly deep voice, and moderate hair loss. Danny and Santiago have a bit more hormone-neutral presence, and our friendships are more like the animals in Homeward Bound that find each other in a random place and realize they need each other.
Danny and I are like two bitchy ladies-who-lunch who criticize each other ruthlessly, but stay friends, work out together, gossip, kvetch, and watch old-timey movies. [editorial note: edited out information about Danny's career for his privacy, but Danny is in the tech industry and has been featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 etc.]. Even his interior design aesthetic says “millennial techie”- optimistic quotes (“Make Things”), screenprinted in web-friendly fonts- a poster he “saw one time in Cali while taking a piss- like I was holding my dick and I was ‘high on marijuana’ and it just like, spoke to me- - ”, neutral tone mod-esque MDF furniture, and a bouncy enthusiasm for talking about social progress, sensitivity, feelings, indie music, and the greater good. He’s from a middle-class family in New Jersey, and went to [small community college]. His sister works in supply-chain management. Danny recently rented his family a beach house on the Jersey shore for them to spend a week together, and his eyes glow when he talks about it. He finds a great sense of fulfillment in feeling that he’s providing for others. He likes to volunteer to walk dogs. He offered to buy his mother an apartment, saying with a bashful grin, “She’s my momz”, his neon kicks brushing along the pavement.
Santiago has an inner nobility and kindness, tinged with a sort of Rimbaud-esque wild poeticism. Maybe these traits come from his parents; his father was a marathoner with a sense of devotion to his family, and by all accounts was an encouraging and motivating father to Santi. His mother is a bohemian, with children from different men and a keenness to support political candidates who might redistribute Chilean wealth. (“Of course she wants that, Santi laughs, because it would be beneficial to her.”) He loves his country, and is disappointed when a wine shop doesn’t have Chilean wine. He looks for an extended length of time, and expresses disdain that they don’t carry it, gesturing toward the myriad miniature flags from other countries that adorn the shelves. We will have to file a formal complaint, I say, to ameliorate the cultural snub. He is sensitive and enjoys talking for hours, sometimes staying up very late and forgetting to eat anything but the bowl of salted bar nuts. The conversation is a Joycian odyssey, shimmering through the night and leaving little substantive in its wake but the emotional tints that the language gave to life. He is affectionate and connecting with people.
Mike is a presence. His energy occupies space in a very dominant way. If you are thirsty, he will immediately insist that he provide you with a water bottle. We were once at a dinner party, and a friend was in a joking monologue about how freaky dill is. Like, what is with that herb. It’s just not chill. I would never touch it.
Not even one jaunty little spring? I joke.
I hope there’s no dill in this meal, another woman mentions.
I would freak out! she says.
Someone jokes that maybe the herbs on the window sill are dill. As our friend feigns horror, Mike jokes, Don’t worry. If there was dill here, I would throw it out the window for you.
He’s joking, but there is a kernel of truth, about Mike's kind of extravagant approach to masculine protectiveness and dominance. His voice comes from an octave that you rarely hear in a voice.
It’s weird how much Mike affects my whole way of being, physically and psychologically. Seeing him makes me feel alive, even-keeled, cared-for. These things take significant precedent over all the emotional vibes I have with Santiago or Danny, even if I have to take an Uber home from Mike’s apartment at 2 in the morning because he needs space. I like the sound of his voice. I like the way he makes me feel.
Mike was the lead in his high school play, an adaptation of Some Like It Hot. He says ,“See? I do some artistic things.” The VHS tape of this artistic endeavor still exists, reportedly somewhere in Mike’s apartment. Mike played Jack Lemmon’s character (he looks very similar to Jack Lemmon), and notes that he was “a total diva actor,” very high maintenance on set, “really playing it up,” as a sort of conceptual, method-actorly addition to his on-stage duties. He notes that he and his co-star, the other male drag actor playing Tony Curtis’ role, had a rocky relationship and even got in a fight right before the play. “Like I was in a choke hold with this guy and then we went out and stage and did the play.”
Mike’s from a small town in Connecticut and loves deep-fried seafood, and oysters. I say, I’m not a fan of oysters, but I like watching people eat them. He grins. I’d be happy to do that for you.
Mike went to Princeton on full scholarship and became a molecular biologist, although he's a trader now. He talks about his inner farmer sometimes- I don’t think people are meant to have this many responsibilities. (As in, to have to do tasks for so many hours per day to maintain one’s circumstances of living). I note that I have more of a hunter-nomad spirit, and ask what he would farm, if his inner farmer were going to become manifest. Mentioning his background in molecular biology, he thinks that he would farm genetically modified foods. Like making new types of foods. Frankenfoods. I’m not even joking. Like giant tomatoes.
We speak in a very straightforward way and respect each other’s experiences and feelings. Danny will sometimes easily say these hilariously bitchy, emotionally intertwined things and then immediately apologize for it briskly and keep talking like it didn’t matter, Mike maintains a healthful psychological distance, speaks about straightforward topics like movies, work, travel asking respectful questions, and he takes a genuine interest in my life without being psychological probing. He is not very open, and our conversations often feel like having a semi-formal conversation with a stranger. Santi is loving and genuinely curious, but not intense or verbally spastic the way Danny is, and he has autonomy. Santi feels the vibe and keeps it beautiful. Talking to Danny is like being in non-stop mutual talk-therapy meets career-counseling, with lots of positive platitudes and advice for how to be a better “human”. (“Human” is also a millennial techie word, completely quotidian and commonly used among that particular subculture, but also carrying a sort of self-distancing verbal surrealism and pathos).
It is a blessing to be graced by the company of such wonderful fellow New Yorkers. All names are fake.