Dear Maple Leaf

By Alan Semrow

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Nearing 9 pm, it started with knock, knock, knock. You’d told me you needed to be in bed by 10. And I convinced you that we’d make it 10:30—at the latest—and that it’ll all be worth it.

I walked into the hotel behind this woman, probably around my age. She gave me a slight look, as if maybe I’d just followed her all the way out here—to this Hilton on a simple, cold Tuesday night. I think it only took one stiff glance back for her to realize I was a total homo and totally harmless.

She got off at the second floor and I shot to the fourth and, knock, knock, knock.

None of this was absolutely necessary. It was a weeknight. I’d had a long weekend. I was tired and everything else was going pretty alright. But you seemed nice—like a gentle kind of nice. And I thought you were cute—like totally and utterly my type. And we also had limited time—you were only here for work and, seeing as where it was you were visiting from, there was a high chance you’d never return to my city—and I’d never see you again.

Knock, knock, knock.

It took you awhile, which panicked me.

And then I heard that gravelly, whiskey-soaked voice. “Yeah?”

My stomach dropped and I grabbed the phone from my pocket. Was it really happening? Had you totally made me believe that you were someone you weren’t? Was this my first catfish?

I messaged you. “What number, again?”

You told me. I looked at the door. Yes, 419. I googled the location of the hotel.

“Yeah?” the gravelly voice said. “You need something?”

Oh fuck.

“Uh… Uh… I think… I think this is the wrong door. I’m so sorry.”

Google told me I was currently at exactly the incorrect Hilton on the west side. That there were two Hiltons and I’d driven to the wrong one.

Fuck. I muttered a big quiet Fuck and barreled back down the hallway to the elevator. I messaged you, “I am so stupid. I’m at the wrong hotel. I will be there in 15 minutes.”

The elevator hit the second floor. The woman from before entered. She looked up. I laughed. She laughed. “Hello, again,” I said. “I’m at the wrong hotel. And maybe I deserve this.”

On the dark, dark drive to you, I want you to be aware of the sense of remorse and duress I was under. I didn’t let the music play. I didn’t eat from the bag of raspberry gummies. I didn’t smoke a cigarette. I focused and cursed the devil, then I cursed myself—all while coming to terms with the fact that this was so very typical of me, that this was so very clearly something I would have done—in a mad dash to find you that evening. And I knew I’d have a good laugh about it later.

Alas, second chances. I tried again. Knock, knock, knock. You opened the door and we fell into a giggle fit. I told you about the gravelly voice, I told you that this is something I would do—I was the guy who was bound to make an embarrassment of himself, before presenting the person he wanted you to see.

You had the Olympics on. You explained that your country had been doing really well. And I joked that America had been doing well the entire time (I honestly had no idea if that was true and I also made that clear). You threw in a few jabs about my country, our broadcasters, the music played to celebrate the occasion. And then I asked you where Alanis Morrissette and Sarah McLachlan were. It was random and it was funny and it was honest and it was sweet. After making it known that sometimes I am a fool (because it’s better to be foolish than to take yourself too seriously), maybe I didn’t feel the need to hide much at all—to give you some half-assed version of me? And I got the sense that authenticity was pretty innate in you—you didn’t hide. You weren’t from here.

I stayed cognizant of time, because I knew you were staying cognizant of it, too. So, eventually, of course, we fell into it. We kissed a lot. And then we really fell into it, before coming back to earth and laying with each other on the bed, catching our breaths. You said, “Why are you shaking?”

“I guess it just happens sometimes,” I replied.

Mostly, I was about to fall off the bed and was holding onto you—because I wanted to and also, because of how our bodies were tangled together, I needed a grip. I didn’t want to tell you how amazingly uncomfortable I was in my current position, because I didn’t want to move from where we were right there in that moment.

I do wish I’d gotten to see you once more before you flew back—to see a little more of that innocent snark. To maybe see the things that made you tick. But did anything? I got the sense that nothing did, that you lived your life optimistically, wishing people well, no matter their treatment of you. It’s admirable, really. And so was how gentle and understanding you were to me that night.