Dear Reminder

By Alan Semrow


Three months ago, I told myself I was done with these, that there wouldn’t be any reason to write another—because I was closing the books on a period of time in my life and looking ahead. I said, “You, Mr. You, you are the last one I will write about in real-time.”

I take it back now. I’m not convinced there will ever come a time where I can completely let go of the notion of sitting at a coffee shop, looking around at all the students and professionals doing their work, having their conversations, on their first dates, and writing to the men who have traipsed into my life for whatever reason—and made an impact of sorts.

The story is never finished—until it absolutely is finished.

It’s like me to meet people like you. The whole thing started on a whim. I took two days off, extending my weekend. And I decided at 4 am on a Tuesday that I deserved to make a trip. One-night-only to the city that lies below. I’d be staying at a place Jack and I stayed at back in January for a Lana Del Rey concert. I liked the vibe, the close proximity to the things I cared most to see and experience—the gay neighborhood. So many possibilities.

Traveling puts me in a place of vulnerability and openness. People drive like assholes in the city. And they honk at you if you don’t move quick enough. It’s a practice in patience for me. A solo trip allows time to start looking at things just a little bit differently. Because it is so different here.

The weekend ahead, it was a big one for our city and our community. Pride—it was never as big as any of the others. But someone from my past would be coming to town with the person he’d been dating and, surely, I’d run into him on the second anniversary of our first meeting. Always lovely. Always brutal. Always leaving me in a tizzy of sorts.

I drove down to the city to experience something greater—before placing myself in a situation where I couldn’t ever win. Where I’d need to make an abrupt decision to simply let it go. For now, at least.

I got in around 2 pm. I was too early for check in, so they held my bags at the front desk and I made my way to the gay neighborhood. I’d heard about the taco place, so I stopped in for a few. It was fairly empty and the bartender treated me differently than the bartenders back home.

Sure, there was a lack of friendliness here. People didn’t look other people in the eyes as often. No one was necessarily trying to impress. Everyone was in a hurry—but why?

I had my tacos and my Corona. And the bill was like $25, which is incredible to me. I walked some more and then I walked back and got the key to my hotel room. The view this time was different. I overlooked a brick wall, right across the way—I overlooked the fire escape.

This is me time. This is necessary. Calm yourself.

Over the last two years, I’ve come across men like you in the cities where I’ve found myself. Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, here—right here. And I’ve left holding on. I’ve tried to understand why I do this—perhaps, the hope is that the other person feels the same way. That we met up and did what we did and left the situation slightly changed. The molecules, moved. Some of us are meant to love and fall hard.

But I’ve also come to realize that it doesn’t matter how the other person feels, because you might never know. All I can do is come up with this: it meant something to me.

I ventured back out and hit up a bar that me and an ex-boyfriend once went to when I was much younger and much more inexperienced at the game. At the time, I thought my world was in place, but my world had hardly even started. And what I knew then was in the process of being destroyed.

I left after two beers. I walked some more, Frank Ocean singing ringing in my ears. I could see myself here—staying here, making a whole other kind of life. People never leave the city, that’s what Stella told me. Here, I could see how I could stay forever. It would probably take a meltdown on my part—all the moving energy, the sounds, the cashflow. But I could do it. And I’m at a point in my life where it would make sense.

I stopped and got a bowl of poke—the place was empty. The city hadn’t even started to think of going out yet. But I was ready to retreat to hotel and see where the night could go from here.

That’s when you appeared. It happened fast. We were messaging, out of nowhere. You were saying that you weren’t doing much. And I said the same. I said that I have a bottle of wine here and that you should just come over and we can see what happens.

That’s what you did. You arrived within ten minutes, wearing that Dr. Pepper shirt and holding the bottle of red wine with the spin-off cap.

That was it—the look on your face had me right there. I could trust you. We walked up to my room, with the Wrigley Field-themed backdrop. You opened your bottle of wine and we poured it into two paper cups. And then we just sat down and talked for an hour. You had the most darling southern accent I’ve ever heard in my life. You told me that you really love it here—that you’re glad you made the move.

You said, “You just have the cutest laugh.”

You don’t understand that it was everything I needed. As much as I was afraid for what might come during the weekend ahead, back in my city, running into ghosts and not knowing what to say or how to react, this was putting me at peace.

We finished our paper cups. We finished another round of our paper cups. You asked me to turn on the air conditioner, then told me about your new job, that you were thinking of getting a car, but didn’t really mind the forty-minute bus ride. You told me that you have two eggs every morning, followed by peanut butter toast in the afternoon. Chicken and rice at night. You said, “It’s pretty economical.”

And then it all stopped, but the molecules kept floating. It was time for us to take it to the next level. You said, “You’re so cute.” And then we were all over each other—clothes flying everywhere. Your sounds. My sounds. A fit so perfect—lighting, thunder. It wasn’t rushed, but it was intense. And I loved every second of it. How right it felt wrap my arms tightly around your naked body.

Here are we are. And you have to leave soon, because you have to wake at five in the morning for your daily work-out routine.

You told me to try the donut place downstairs tomorrow—that I wouldn’t regret it. And I promised that I would check it out (I ultimately did). You asked if it would be rude of you to carry what was left of the wine back home and I said, “Absolutely not.” I walked you down to the street. We hugged and I kissed you on the cheek.

You said, “I’ll see you later.”

Something in me knows this could happen again. A lot of me longs for it to. You reminded me of a few things—things that were overdue for a reminder. I needed to slow down. I needed to take care of myself. I needed to not think so hard, to let the situation play out as it was meant to. And I needed to pay close attention to the things happening around me—otherwise, I’d miss out on the beauty. You should know what it all meant. I want you to.