(Me, when I was single, my teddy bear Fred that I've head since I was 4, in my 3 foot tall Chinatown room)
By Maya Contreras (Writer, Playwright, Actor)
Excerpt from 'The Him Book' by Maya Contreras
Moses traversed the desert for forty years before he was within
sight of the Promised Land. Forty years in a desert with a few companions
who were none too happy about sour water, a lack of food, and were
wondering why in the world they chose to follow this guy around. Even
God was annoyed with him, frustrated that Moses couldn't properly
follow instructions on how to procure water from a rock.
Mohammed grew up in poverty and was rumored to be illiterate,
but he was said to have been hard-working, faithful, and trustworthy. He
attracted an older, wise woman by the name of Khadijah, to whom he
was married for the duration of his life. When he was in need of some
quiet time, he retreated to a cave for R&R (Rest and Revelation) and the
angel Gabriel unexpectedly swung by to drop some heavenly knowledge
on him. While Mohammed was a little intimidated by the great
responsibility he would now have, Khadijah, ever the strong and loving
wife, encouraged him to be strong and righteous and accept the
awesome gifts that had been bestowed upon him. After Khadijah died,
however, Mohammed broke Elizabeth Taylor's matrimony record by
marrying no less than nine more times.
Then there was the Buddha or, rather, Siddhartha before he
became the Buddha. A scholar, Kaundinya, predicted Siddhartha would
either be a powerful king or a great religious leader. Before veering
toward the latter path, Siddhartha was a drunken womanizer who
married and impregnated his cousin, then left her quicker than you can
say shazam. He opted for an ascetic life not defined by material needs
and begged for alms in the streets. After deciding this gesture was not
severe enough, he turned to deprivation and self-mortification. The day
he passed out by a river, he called himself out on being way too
emotional. Realizing extremes are just that, he found enlightenment
under a Bodhi Tree.
Currently sans desert, mountain cave, and Bodhi tree, but living in
an overpriced downtown Manhattan apartment, I sat to meditate on my
string of relationships that would have caused the writers of Days of Our
Lives to shudder. My latest entanglement had not been a relationship so
much as it was a nihilistic patty-cake game for one.
I was also exhausted with the nomadic life I had been leading. I
had lived in seven different cities and three dozen assorted apartments
before the age of thirty, but I’d never had a place to call home. In each of
those cities I left old wounds, opened new ones, and burned more
bridges than the Civil War. I knew it was time to cut a new path for
myself. Nobody's perfect, not even the prophets, who found
enlightenment through their various mistakes. I had made mistakes. I was
bound to make more, but now I wondered if, as an ordinary human
being, I might have a chance at a slice of enlightenment. I was ready to
find out. But first I would have to look back, to fortify myself for the
Note: Names have been changed to protect me from hearing,
“Et tu Maya?
(Me holding my stomach with straight black hair with some of my old friends on Lower East Side)
I had ended my long-term relationship with Matthew just the year
before. There were a series of knots to untie and new wounds to tend to
that were still painful for me.
Moving out of the home we shared together.
Matthew got the furniture and his own apartment in
Brooklyn; I stayed in the city with a roommate.
Who gets our beloved cat?
Our friends Ralph and Karen did when neither of our new
landlords allowed pets.
Do we get new cell phone numbers?
No, we have had them for five years. We still share a cell
phone plan and bill.
We lose each other.
Our future is not together as we had once seen it.
The new division that would now exist amongst our friends
and our family, along with months of explaining what went
wrong: ‘Our relationship had grown stagnant’; ‘We were
too young to stay in such a complacent relationship.’
And so on, and so forth.
Untying the knots gave me a simultaneous sense of freedom and
deep loneliness. I had to relearn what it was like to be single. Oddly
enough, my first week without Matthew brought me to the realization
that I hated grocery shopping. As a single woman, I found I would always
spend way too much money at the grocery store with no real food to
show for it once I got home. I had forgotten how to pair things that made
sense. I would buy ten cans of beans but no rice, lettuce but no other
vegetables to make a salad, and pasta with no sauce. Matthew was a
chef, and therefore both an excellent grocery shopper and cook.
My sleep patterns had become irregular. I no longer slept as
deeply because I always felt Matthew protected me in my sleep. I had
forgotten how to sleep without Matthew, and so I began trying to sleep
in the middle of the bed.
I still really missed him and the comfort he brought me. When I
was sick and at my most vulnerable, I would still call Matthew and ask for
his help. Even in our separation, Matthew felt a sense of loyalty to me.
“I brought you some vegetable soup, ibuprofen, lemons, whiskey,
honey, and some Theraflu,” said Matthew when he showed up at my
front door. He had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
He had taken a train in from Brooklyn to bring me my cure-all
“I’ll make you a hot toddy, but then I gotta go. I’ve got band
practice,” Matthew said as he walked into my apartment.
Sometimes at night, I would stare out the bedroom window of my
new apartment and look at the moon. There was a violinist who lived on
the floor above me and practiced Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.4 over
and over again. It gave me a sense of hope, but it also made me wonder if
I had made a huge mistake in letting Matthew go. He was a companion
and a friend. Was I selfish to want more? I didn’t know, but I had to find
I couldn’t imagine my life without Matthew, but I wanted to
remember who I was, as an independent single woman in New York, and
see what else was out there in the city overflowing with eligible
Men tend to get a bad rap in New York, with their predictable
Peter Pan Syndrome, flying from one woman to the next and never
feeling they have to grow up. However, in reality they are just as beaten
down and nerve-racked as the city’s women. I would watch as the men at
bars checked out women, or me, or one of my beautiful girlfriends, and I
could just see the internal thought process: “I would talk to her, but I just
can’t be bothered. She’s probably fucked up, or she’ll think I’m fucked up.
I’ll just order another PBR, then go home and play my Nintendo Wii or
look at porn.”
I’d lived in seven different cities in my life, but I had never seen
such beautiful women work so hard to keep a man’s attention as they do
in New York City. It was utterly confounding.
It was no wonder, then, that in my year of being single I had
become a victim of New York men’s Attention Deficit Disorder. Even
though I had no intention of adding men’s names to my list of lovers the
way Santa Clause adds names to his naughty or nice list, it seemed I had
very little choice.
All of the men I had dated in New York were so different from one
another. Among them was the beautiful and lyrical investment banker
Joseph from France, who told me my body was “like art” as he slowly
traced his fingers over my breasts and stomach. Then there was the
handsome but impatient Turkish fashion designer named Peyman who
handcuffed me in public on our second date, saying he would only unlock
the cuffs if I closed my eyes and let him kiss me from head to toe as I sat
on my bar stool. Then came the sensitive and adoring male model
Christopher from Germany who I refused to sleep with—but that didn’t
stop him from pulling up my skirt in a cab and giving me such great head I
almost passed out before I reached my destination.
And how could I forget the exasperating experience with the
energetic and talented Russian Violist Kirill who wouldn’t stop doing
Borat impressions at dinner long after the movie was popular. As I sat at
a low lit Moroccan restaurant in Soho drinking vodka neat after vodka
neat, and listening to this world class Julliard trained violist suggesting
“we could have sexy time! It would be NICE!” I was suddenly nauseated,
and it wasn’t the food.
Sadly, I slept with him anyway.
(Me with some of my French friends that I lived with in Chinatown in 2008)
I snuck out of his bed at 5 a.m. to get ready for work. I realized
when I got home that I had left my contact lenses in his bathroom. I knew
I wasn’t going back to get them, and I definitely had no interest in seeing
him again. As I jumped in the shower, I realized there wasn’t enough hot
water and lavender body wash in the world that could wash off the
shame of the previous night. My contact lenses weren’t the only thing I
left at his house; I believe my dignity was somewhere around there too.
But this is the reality of dating in New York. Disposable dating is
the name of the game.
It seemed the Statue of Liberty wasn’t the only woman in New
York who was opening her harbor to the foreigners of the world.
Not a weekend went by when I wasn’t kissing someone new or
exchanging phone numbers with another potential suitor. It got to the
point where I would walk into a nightclub, look at a man who I desired,
and he would follow me to a dark corner where we would kiss for hours. I
felt a connection to none of them. I wasn’t interested in one-night
stands, only in deep kissing and new hands on my body. I wanted to find
a real connection, but it alluded me, and so I settled for inconsequential
conversation and kissing that ranged from passionate to clumsy and
All of these men revealed far too much of themselves—or at least
the picture of themselves they were trying to paint. After hours of
making out, they would tell me all about their problems with an ex-
girlfriend. They would divulge why they were worried their dreams would
never come true, or, worse, how this was the first time they had cheated
on their girlfriend.
I was their confessional and I began to wonder if any man in New
York was capable of a normal conversation. I took on the role of the man,
stating, “I hope you don’t mind, but I have to get up really early in the
morning,” and asking them politely to leave.
I had forgotten that being single took up so much energy. It began
to feel like a second job, one that I was ready to quit.
(Me at Milk Gallery admiring Easy-E)
Maya Contreras is a playwright/writer/actor living in Jersey City with her husband, fellow writer, Bobby Crace. She likes dancing in her living room, making short videos on Instagram, drinking tequila with her friends, and writing at her favorite coffeeshop -Mod Cup. She also hosts a talk show over food @tableforetwo
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