Dear Only Child

By Alan Semrow

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I’ll say that I do think we misunderstood each other, somewhere along the way, on that evening—a Friday, which I’d typically spend with friends, blowing off steam from another work week in the books. But you were new to town, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see what we could be.

From the look on your face, walking up to my apartment building, it all felt very promising—we both looked like our pictures. You were smiling and we hugged and made our way up toward the Capitol, making small talk. You said, “What’s this place like? Someone told me it was cool.”

You were pointing at the hotel with the floor to ceiling windows. It had opened about a year prior. They have a rooftop deck with two or three full bars. And plenty of wine. I said, “You wanna go in?”

“Yeah. Let’s do it.”

We stepped into the elevator and made our way up there. We walked out onto the balcony. And I saw a friend, Greg. I rubbed a hand on his shoulder and then we found ourselves an open spot.

You’d moved close to town less than a week ago. Where you decided to reside still baffles me—about forty minutes from downtown—cheaper, closer to work. And I felt for you in that regard, because there’s so much of this city that you really should see, and that location might keep you from a lot of potential things. But I wasn’t here to accept that burden. I was here to see what you were really like.

And so, you were a fan of Beyoncé. That was made clear very quickly. I concurred that Lemonade was an important album, that it had meant a lot to me at the time of its release. But that’s pretty much all I could say to that. To the topic of Beyoncé, at least.

We had two glasses of wine and then I said, “Should we maybe try something else?”

“Yeah.” You nodded. “Let’s get out of here.”

On our walk over to the next bar, you said that you’ve met a few people so far. That I’m the third. And I thought, well, great. We entered the packed room. You looked around and then at me and said, “We can’t be here right now.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you later.”

That was fine with me—the place was way too loud and way too packed for us to get solid service. It was almost like it all wanted to give me an anxiety attack.

On our way out, we ran into Dustin and his friend, Laura. He stopped me and we hugged. I introduced you to them, which I was glad to do. Then we skipped our way out of the bar.

You huffed. “There’s a guy in there. The last guy I would want to see. He like went crazy on me when I was first looking for apartments here. Sent me some weird messages.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “You really gotta be careful in the underworld.”

We found ourselves at the Mexican cantina. We ordered the special house margaritas. You spoke of your childhood and I spoke of mine. You were the only child of your parents. But your dad had produced three with his current wife. And your mom had produced three others. And then, out of nowhere, you asked, “How much plastic surgery have you had?”

I stopped right there. And I wondered where that even came from. It didn’t require an answer, so I hardly gave one. I said, “Serious?”

You rolled your eyes and laughed. “I’m playing with you. I’m really sarcastic. Don’t take it personally.” Time passed and we got back on track and then you said one more thing, “How does it feel to be number three on the list of people I’ve met so far?”

And I looked you right in the eyes and said, “Well, I won’t be number three after you fuck me tonight.”

It floored you and I was glad it did. I watched as your face turned red and both hands flew up to your face. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

“Well, you should learn how to talk nicer to people.”

You nodded and took a drink from the watered-down margarita. “Maybe that’s the thing—you’re just too nice.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “That might actually be the case.” And it was a validation of sorts—it clarified for me that, on most cases, I’m not the monster in the dynamic. I’m the one along for the ride, the nurturer. The one who is trying to be open and let this thing blossom into what it should or could be.

It was maybe at this point when we both sat with the misunderstanding. I recognize now that you probably didn’t mean much harm in the stupid ass questions you were asking. That it was a guard we are all guilty of putting up, to keep ourselves from feeling too vulnerable, too open.

I, too, was once the “new kid in town.” I did things that now make me cringe when I think of them.

We agreed to leave the cantina from there. The walk back was mild. I grabbed your hand as we crossed the street. And, still, we could laugh and be playful, with the understanding that this might be the last time. Even though, for a hot second there, I thought this was either the first or the last time.

You said you had to piss. So, we entered my apartment. You did your thing. And I did mine right after you. I opened the bathroom door and there you were on the bed. With a dramatic running start, I leapt onto the bed like a flying squirrel.

This is going to happen now.

We kissed like we meant it—and, I’ll tell you, after all is said and done, I did mean it. I did mean it when I moaned the word, “baby.” I did mean it as I nibbled on your ear and huffed harder and harder as you did the same, fucking me in a fit of passion and rage.

It was distinct the sounds you made and I listened close, able to identify exactly when you were going to let it go. I called it. You came. And we kissed a few times more. The guard was now officially down. And, so, what could we realistically do with it? It wasn’t shame. But it wasn’t fondness either. We’d simply done what our bodies and our minds were telling us to do. And I was happy about it.

And from here, all we could do was leave it at that—two people with something in them unspoken. I wanted you to spend the night. But you couldn’t. You left and, to me, it was clear we’d never happen again. I sat with it for a while—smoking out on my porch in the wee dark hours. Were you really just a complete and utter asshole? No, I’m convinced not. I’m convinced we had more to learn.

We won’t, though, and that’s okay, too.