Dear Person

By Alan Semrow

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By now, you couldn’t deny the fondness I have for you. It’s the little revisitations that pull me back to that very day, when I was living in a period of innocence—unaware of possibility, naïve to what it can do to you. It’s these little revisitations, always messy and always brutal and always so heavenly, that take a notch right out of me and replace it with something else.

We met crossing the street one day. I was standing at the stoplight, surrounded by strangers (I’d just moved to the city two weeks prior and knew almost no one). The signal turned to the little walkman. I started before the crowd of people. And there you were, right there, wearing the baby blue hoodie, with your friend, James, by your side. You said, “Do you know where the parade is?”

I smiled and bit my lower lip. “Well, I’m new here. But, I assume it’s where all the rainbow flags are.”

That was the day it started. The day we wound up spending together. On account of my being oblivious to common themes not to touch on with a prospective someone, I was completely open with you. I told you what had happened before the move, how a part of me had been killed, and I had been left in a yearlong tailspin—alone. I told you how I had to move past the tailspin and this was the only way I figured to do it. I told you a lot of things, and I want you to know all of them were my truth.

The parade ended. We went to some bars. At the volleyball nets, I was your cheerleader. You played the cornhole game with new friends, while James sucked a guy off in the bathroom. Each time you threw a bag in the hole, I clapped my hands and yelled your name—simple and timeless, it rolled off my tongue. You looked my way, shook your head, and grinned. As each moment passed between us, it became clearer and clearer to me how badly I wanted the most of you.

During the drag show, you handed some dollars to the queen performing. I leaned over to James and said, “I would marry him.” I was half-joking and he may or may not have passed that information onto you, but what I do know, is that we could have ended it parked in front of my apartment—one o’clock in the morning on a Sunday. By this point, I had learned the things that I wanted to learn about you—the things that validated what I was feeling for you. I turned to you. And I kissed you and let go. We could have left it right there and said, it’s done, that was perfect, and we’ll remember this. But I waited for your reaction to see if it reflected mine. You said, “Woof! I thought you were going to sorely disappoint me. You are damn hard to read.”

I explained that sometimes it takes time to weigh the situation. You didn’t live here. We could part in the morning and never speak—that’s not what I wanted with you and all the shiny sparks flying around.

The sounds we made. The spot you came. How you toppled over onto my numb body and embraced me tight. I whispered, “I could run a mile right now.” It was always the little things—you, standing from the bed, putting your dark blue underwear back on, walking to the bathroom, with one ass cheek prominently hanging out. I wanted to giggle. I probably did.

The next morning, before you headed back on the long road home, we made out in front of my open window. You lifted me in the air. Once I was grounded, you grabbed my junk and slapped my ass.

I told you that I’d had a really, really nice time—that I wanted to keep in touch. And so, all that summer, we did (“Happy one-week anniversary,” you said. “Happy one-month anniversary,” you said.)—at a time when I was beginning to bloom into the guy I wanted to be, between the trips to Las Vegas and Philadelphia—before we lost each other (imagine me in the bathroom at work, standing there with the door locked, looking in the mirror extra-long to let my red eyes glaze over and return to normal).

You had given me the moniker “kiddo.” We had sent sexy photos. You had told me you wished you were cuddling me. We had tried to make plans. I was leaning into the fire. And you were unsure.

In winter, I found you again. It was after something you said (“It excites me that you’ll still have me.”)—a weekend trip to your city with no real expectations, apart from the fact that I wanted and needed to see you and reconnect—check back in.

Though there were spaces between our conversations—returning back to something that hadn’t really been in months, resuming where two people (now changed) had left off—I could still look at you the same. For a while there, you were the hard one to read.

But ultimately, you gave me the entire weekend and you should know just how much that means to me still. We danced at those clubs. You introduced me to your friends. We ordered a giant pizza and Diet Coke. We had a lot of sex. In the morning, I woke to the cat between us in bed and the scratches down my back. You made me pancakes and extra-caffeinated coffee.

At the mall, I bought you the whoopie pie. You took a bite and said, “You wanna try?”

You smushed the pie into my face. And there, we were back to where we’d left off. And you were giving me mountains of joy. We boarded the rollercoaster and screamed like little girls, next to the children who sat unamused. We spread out on the couch that night, watching that show that has come to have a special place for me, the new candle I’d helped you pick out burning behind us.

In the morning, we ate brunch with James—the morning I was supposed to leave and head back to my tiny life. In the car that I was so glad to be in once again, you pointed at all the places you used live—or used to frequent—the path where you ran. I think that’s when the city was burned into me. This could be home. I could make a life for myself here. I fantasized. I still do.

Before my departure, you ran around the bedroom nervously—throwing in all the things that made up your gym bag. The pink running shoes, the lock, the water bottle, that baby blue hoodie.

You zipped the bag and said, “This is where we leave each other.” Your face told me that a lot was running through your head. But what could we really say?

“I don’t want to,” I said. That’s all I said, but I had so much more.

We kissed. Wait—just one more. I patted the cat. You told me you liked my jacket and then I pointed at the hole in it caused by a poorly disposed of lit cigarette on Christmas Day. And then I was gone, in my car, with tears streaming down my face—Frank Ocean playing in the background:

Keep a place for me, for me.

I knew I’d see you again. I just didn’t know when.

In the aftermath of what I considered to be one of the most significant trips of my life, I was changed. I was really, really changed. I looked at people differently, at my work differently, at my words differently. You cared. And that mattered.

Months later—they hadn’t yet dimmed the lights in the bar, so when I turned my head, you were very visible and walking toward me with discernible hesitance—like a mirage of sorts. My mouth flew open and my head started shaking. And there you were hugging me.

“What the fuck?” I said.

“You should have seen the look on your face just now.”

There’s a reason I wasn’t notified, of course. And I understand. I told you I love you and all those other things—and that matters, but I still have a lot left to tell you. As these re-visitations continue.

They might always. Just pinch me—we did actually do that one thing that one night in November—and I could feel it days later. And I think about it still—all of it.

I write these words to keep them near. And this is the hardest one to write. You’ve found me at a lot of different places in my life—mentally, emotionally. And there are so many other places that I want you to find me at. And you will—because you always at some point do. And I’ll continue wondering. Just wondering—like, maybe. Just maybe. For all the joy you’ve given me after all this time. Just maybe.