Now! Ladies and gentlemen, our greatest attraction of the night. Behold! Rusty The Disappearing Construction Worker! From a distant Burrow he arrives to display his magic: another hero committing another mindless crime.
Watch closely— he shall vanish before your very eyes, leaving nothing behind but a wallet. Ladies and gentlemen, Rusty— the enigma! The Queens boy mystery yet to be solved.
Welcome to The Freak Show
We met nearly one year ago during Fashion Week. On a hiatus from my sordid love affair with Grey and the newest on that dating app Tinder; there I was, feeling wildly free, slightly vulnerable, and definitely open to whatever coming next. I didn’t want to grieve. I felt no need for grieving. Why should I sit around mourning when there was so much life to live and love to feel?
Then came Rusty, right out of the forests of Tinderland. We were matched up and immediately started talking. He was funny, and interesting. I’d never met a guy who was so easy to talk to. We shared all of the same personality traits, enjoyed each other’s sarcastic humor and weren’t at all fazed by the offensive things the other said. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
We had our first date a coffee shop near school. His thick Queens accent was strange to me at first, but we talked like we’d known each other for years.
He was not at all what you would think of when picturing a construction worker. He could have been overweight, missing teeth or had plumbers crack. But, he didn’t. He was tall and chiseled, with the biggest brown eyes I had ever seen. They seemed to see right through me.
He had a cappuccino and I had an ice tea. He was nice. Really nice and funny. I didn’t want to judge him for being a construction worker with only a high school diploma. That didn’t seem to matter. It was unusual for me, but a good kind of unusual. On the Man Scale he was the polar opposite of Grey. Maybe that’s what I liked most.
I felt like Tinderella. As the clock struck midnight, there was my Rusty slipping a glass construction boot onto my extended foot.
“Well, how was it and what’s he like?” asked my cousin Lawrence after I got back to her dorm room.
“Um. Let’s just say if I had grown up in Queens, were a construction worker and a guy, we’d be the same person.”
I’ll admit I was pretty smitten right away. We talked constantly. I couldn’t get him off of my brain. I don’t know if I was feeling this way because I was coming out of a bad break-up and wanted to feel wanted, but I knew I liked this feeling. Grey was completely off the brain.
A week later I decided to have a small get-together at my apartment. I invited Rusty to bring his “boys” and invited Lawrence and a few of her friends so we’d have a nice mix of boys and girls. Parties at my apartment usually consisted of gay men and girls so this was a change.
I immediately gave his friends brownie points for bringing all of the booze. A nice gesture I wouldn’t have expected from a group that was so—erm—rough around the edges.
Once the awkward mismatched crowd had dispersed—it hadn’t occurred to me that fashion girls wouldn’t blend particularly well with blue-collar laborers—Lawrence showing up in a masquerade mask should have been a big tip off—I was left alone in my apartment with Rusty.
And we had a great night. We didn’t go all the way, just talked and did a lot of sloppy kissing. I felt safe with him, which is unusual for me. It was the kind of comfort you can only really feel with someone who you really know. I didn’t overthink it. I didn’t want to get too attached but I could feel myself already wanting to be attached. Logically I knew that this wasn’t the person I was supposed to end up with. The kind of life we’d have wouldn’t be the one I’d always pictured for myself. For those brief hours I didn’t care at all. Nothing mattered, we were just together and it was easy.
After he left I felt amazing. I figured this could be the next thing. This could be a new step in the direction of my adult life.
We talked constantly. Texting all day long while I was at work (nannying for a tiny Chinese baby I was madly in love with). And then, out of nowhere, the texts stopped coming.
Ah, you see! He vanishes ladies and gentleman! A regular Houdini: leaving nothing behind, no trace. Come see for yourself! No strings, just smoke and mirrors. I assure you he has indeed disappeared without a trace.
Not long after Grey and I made amends and I was once again in a relationship I desperately wanted to work but that was doomed to fail for lack of compatibility.
A few weeks ago, fresh from a boozy brunch with PW, I downloaded Tinder for the second time. He and I had a blast playing with it. Rejecting, liking and starting up conversations with strangers.
I don’t know exactly what was going through my champagne-infused brain but I texted Rusty. I was lonely; I suppose and still felt left hanging. It may have been a year but it felt like I hadn’t had any closure. I had no idea what had happened or what I had done wrong to make him fall off of the face of the earth. And, to my egregious surprise. I received a reply.
I was very drunk and said everything I’d wanted to say for a year: how I’d felt blown off, hurt and downright rejected.
You thought the show was over, my dear patrons, you thought we were through, but no! Again he appears like a ghost from lovers past. Again he manifests and here we have him, in the flesh.
He was extremely apologetic and sweet. I’d never been given such a heartfelt apology. I was shocked he was so nice. He said he missed me. That he’d really screwed up. And in a move quite out of character for me, I let him come back into my life.
Suddenly, it was like no time had passed at all. The glass boot that I had shattered on the floor I reconstructed and slipped on, once again. I felt hopeful for the first time since Grey and I had parted ways in the final showdown.
He came to my apartment. We drank beer—which I hate—and talked like we had when we first met. I teased him for being a hoodrat and he told me all about his family. His fierce mother, his “slick” father and the younger brother he didn’t get along with.
I imagine he learned just how to hold a woman in his strapping teenage years, though I don’t really know.
Two puzzle pieces, wrapped in the nakedness of each other’s arms. I released myself from a self-imposed prison. I allowed him to hold me. I allowed myself to savor his knowledge. I let him know all of me in those late hours of the night. I watched him change as we took in the open architecture of my frameless bed. The rough, Queens-born boy embraced a tender, loving innocence oblivious to the world’s frigidness yet starving for the canvas of a woman.
He stood there like Adam, naked at the end of my bed. Silhouetted against yellow walls, the haze kissing his arms with a careless back-and-forth rhythm. Long, hard, misunderstood years defined his limbs and the haze knew it. I thought about a statue I’d seen somewhere in Paris a hundred years ago. He was beautiful.
He left at 2am. I didn’t want to let him go, but I did.
A strange, sick feeling came over me. I could felt him fading away. Alone in my duplex apartment I blankly relived him dressing, then me pulling him back into bed, them him wrapping me in my down blanket, then his kiss goodbye. Then him leaving me.
He left his wallet at the foot of my bed. I never heard from him again. I texted him to ask if he wanted to pick it up. Nothing. I asked if I should mail it to him. Nothing.
He dissolves again, ladies and gentlemen, and for good this time. Do not expect him to return. This enigma is difficult to explain. Was he real? Was he simply a figment of the mind’s wandering imagination? The world may never know.
And with that, I bid you all farewell.