Despite almost-five days together in New York—
three televised Mets’ games (two of which I napped through while laying on your chest), multiple trips for bagels and New York pizza, purchasing I (Heart) New York t-shirts (me) and sandalwood soap (you) in Chinatown after eating at your favorite pulled-noodle place, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, having sex no less than seven (eight?) times, an Ethan Coen play starring F. Murray Abraham, Godard’s Contempt at the Film Forum, a Mike Doughty show down the street from my rented condo, and a rooftop view-tour of your Brooklyn neighborhood
—we’d spoken on the phone for less than five minutes, and that was just for logistics, the day I arrived. We would have talked again—you had even asked if we could, soon—when you would have said you wanted to give it a try and see if it could work… but before that could happen I sent an email saying I’d met someone else.
Later, you said our meeting was improbable, that you thought we could forge an equally improbable relationship of sorts, despite the 792 miles between us, and had you said these things before I flew to my Chicago and left you in your Brooklyn, perhaps I would have been less susceptible to something less abstract, less imaginary than a cute indie music journalist who lived in a city that wasn’t mine. In the beginning – when we met in Albuquerque – the idea of a long-distance thing with a New York boy was intriguing, romantic, the stuff of wild romance and love affairs and torrid mid-life experiences, the sort of fantastic thing I’d hoped for myself when I was fourteen, or eighteen, or six months before. And perhaps it was something for which I still I hoped when I arrived in the west Village on a Friday morning, or hours later when you showed up on my doorstep with flowers and a kiss, or on Sunday morning when you went out for bagels and coffee and the Times, or my last day, when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and I took our picture: me, smiling and happy; you, eyes closed. I was too self-conscious to ask you to take another. When I returned home, I put the photo booth pictures we’d taken in Park Slope on my refrigerator, on top of all the other ones, still holding onto the idea that a New York boy—you, actually—could be the answer to any questions I could have asked.
Also later, when I told you about the person I’d met in the least revealing terms possible, and I said I needed to see it through, you said “I feel fucking awful” and told me you wanted to know me more, sleep on my sheets, but that maybe you’d been more or less imaginary to me, making it easy for someone here to replace and usurp someone not-here. It’s more accurate to say I didn’t believe you could ever be mine to be had, which in practice ended up being the same thing. Mixed signals, mixed messages, mixed metaphors… whatever it is that happened—and I can’t untangle it, not yet—it was a mess, and it hurt me, too. It did.
I can’t know—now, anyhow—whether I made the right choice, did the right thing, weighed my options proportionately or correctly. I can’t even tell whether I was weighing You against Him or New York against Chicago; it’s not that easy, though I wish it were. I told the boy here in Chicago about you, thinking it was the right thing to do, the least I could do, something I could manage to eke out for the man who said he can’t be my friend without wanting me. And for reasons I don’t want to think about too terribly much, when I was in Texas I spent an hour skimming back issues of Paste looking for your byline, and I could see you and feel you and taste you in every word you wrote.
Maybe you’ll be the one I pushed away, the one I let escape, the one I urged to forget me, decisions unsure and unclear and ripe for regret, the one question that will never have an answer. For now, though, I’ve still got to see this one through. And I’m still sorry. I wish you could know that.