The Meaning of Happiness
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom
The Meaning of Happiness
I was coming back from the bookstore yesterday afternoon when I saw an advertisement for the upcoming Oscars.
Quoting from the movie Jerry Maguire, the sign read, “You had me at ‘Hello’.”
Immediately, I thought that this is exactly what I felt the moment I met Flavia.
She had called me the day before inquiring about the apartment. Up to that point, I had made sure to smile before I answered the phone or responded to an e-mail inquiring about the place. After all, I was selling my self and the place, as much as the person on the other end had to sell themselves to me.
However, when Flavia called I was decidedly at the end of my search, because, over the prior two weeks, I had met over two dozen prospective flatmates. Thus, I sighed instead of smiled when I answered the phone and curtly made an appointment with her to come over the next day.
Most people who had made inquires had sent me an e-mail profiling themselves, as per my request in the original posting. Flavia had just called though and so I prejudicially listened, having already made up my mind that I was just going to go through the motions with this one and she would be my last. Somehow though, her sweet voice and sincere demeanor softened me up, so that by the time she came over I was quite curious and genuinely interested in knowing more.
When I opened the door and saw her for the first time, I immediately took a deep breath and made a conscious effort to comport myself. I found her extremely attractive and almost immediately concluded to myself, “Uh, this could work out…very well.”
At the same time, I knew that there was inherently a problem; for I realized that I would probably have to endure intense pangs of desire and jealousy, if we did, ultimately, share this old apartment together.
Nonetheless, I showed her in and proceeded to give her the tour that I had already given two dozen times before. Apart from being immediately captivated by her beauty, I was also taken by her insistence on taking off her shoes before coming into the apartment. I had made it a stipulation in the ad that I had posted, and although a few folks had offered, I usually let them slide, indicating that I always made exceptions for guests. Flavia was the first though to insist that she abide by my rules.
As was my custom with most of the people I had already seen, after we had trampled about the place, I offered her a drink and asked Flavia if she would like to sit on the couch to chat a bit.
She would later tell me that she was actually, suddenly, slightly nervous at this moment, for apparently the attraction was mutual, and so sitting on the sofa together seemed suddenly quite intimate.
And in a way, it actually was, because, as I professed to her a few weeks later, “The moment we sat and talked, perhaps unbeknownst to you, I melted, right there before you."
Alas, although she had immediately declared that she was very interested in the place, she later called to indicate that she had ultimately decided to rent elsewhere for various reasons.
Of course, my heart sank immediately, and I thought I’d probably never-ever see her again.
However, miraculously, serendipity seemed to be smiling upon us, because Flavia suggested that we have a drink nonetheless, “Sometime.” I immediately grabbed on tight to the lifesaver she had tossed me, and excitedly added, “Yes, drink, lunch, dinner, whatever…”
“Sometime” though seemed far too long after only two days, and so I proceeded to sort through the barrage of e-mails to find her follow-up "thank you and good luck" note with her number posted as a signature at the end.
At the time, I thought that her suggestion might have merely been a polite bow out, but I thwarted my doubt, nonetheless, and told myself, “Fuck it. You’ll never know, if you don’t try.”
I ended up having to leave her a message. A few long hours later she called me back indicating that she had actually tried to send me another e-mail, but that for some odd reason it had bounced back. We figured out that it was because I hadn't turned on the e-mail forwarding function on my website—stupid me. Regardless, I was very happy to hear her voice again. She seemed genuinely happy to hear mine as well.
Ultimately, we set a time to meet for a drink the following week. That week dragged on forever.
When we did finally meet again, we sat at a tall table at the back of the bar. For the next few hours we sat, we talked, we pined. Without a doubt, we were immediately inclined to and attracted toward and wholly desired one another. The wine helped facilitate that truth.
Before the night was over, to my great and pleasant surprise, she leaned over toward me and with a sudden slow squint of her eyes invited me to kiss her. I did, and although I’ve learned “kisses aren’t promises,” I knew right there and then that this kiss was wholly promising.
it’s a strange feeling
how promising it all seems;
the sudden upturn
i thought i knew;
i was so sure of;
that i was certain
might never be again.
now, i’m not so sure
and yet, i am quite certain
of one thing—
it all seems quite
The next night we met for coffee and we talked, once again—incessantly. We ended closing up Starbucks four hours later.
At one point in our conversation she pulled the pin on the floodgates, asking “Lorenzo, what makes you happy?”
I answered, “Words make me happy. Writing—my musings, long letters, verse—these make me happy; Books make me happy—reading and writing books, even just looking at shelves of books makes my happy. Simply spending hours casually wandering through the aisles of The Strand makes me happy. Reading to others and being read to makes me happy. Being inspired to write poetry makes me happy, too.”
“Running makes me happy. Fresh air, exercise, being alone, solitude, these things, I’ve learned, make me genuinely happy.“
Shyly, yet boldly, I declared, “Great sex makes me happy. Making love slowly, over hours, truly makes me happy.”
I continued, “People make me happy—watching people, observing, making observations, making conclusions, and ultimately understanding what makes us all human, makes me happy. Being with people makes me happy—spending time with my boys, and with friends and family makes me happy; good food and good friends, having good food with friends, having long-winded conversations with them; and admittedly a good smoke, with a little help from my friends, once every full moon, makes me really-really happy sometimes too.”
“Making others happy makes me happy—making others smile and laugh and ponder and wonder and be inspired by what I say and do, makes me happy.” At this juncture, I interrupted the list to diverge as I often do, and regaled my story about one of the most important epiphanies of my life about what makes me happy—This Is My God.
Getting back on track, I continued, “Art, creating art, ensuring that my life is the inspiration for my art, if only by seeing and hearing and touching and feeling and capturing all the beauty that surrounds me, through both words and images—this work, definitely makes me happy, ecstatic even.”
I paused for a moment and looked down at my coffee cup, because I suddenly felt a wee bit shy again, and added, “And, I will admit Flavia, love probably makes me happy most of all.”
Becoming conscious of this unusually demure moment, I slipped out of it by elaborating and slyly diminishing what I really meant, “My love for life! that is. My love for my family and friends; for beauty, and for all the things I’ve already mentioned.”
“That is not an exhaustive list,” I explained, “But it pretty much sums up what immediately comes to mind when I am inclined to consider happiness.”
I punctuated my thoughts with a smile and confessed, “Being right here, right now, with you Flavia, makes me happy.”
Eventually, the baristas started mopping the floor, and so we knew that it was time to walk across the street to Grand Central station.
At 10:23, I walked her to track 23. It was hard to let her go.