Dear Steak

By Alan Semrow


With you, it came down to the small things. The sunny afternoon you met me on that crowded patio for a beer. We kept it going for some time into the night. And you were relentless in your pursuit. We wound up in your car. We wound up back at my place. You held me close against your naked body and we fell to sleep. I whispered that I had to be up really early. Which was true.

I was new to the city and it turned out being a busy summer. I didn’t know anyone, but there was no stopping me in making sure that changed. One of the first ones ended up being you, which didn’t mean I was in any place to give you the attention that I wish I’d given you upfront. Distance—a trip to Vegas, a trip to Philly—it made things manifest. But, by that point, I think you might have already been gone?

Yes, the little things. Every morning, I pass the restaurant we walked to on the second date. There, I drank wine and ate lamb. I think you had chicken, in some sort of carrot puree. You told me about the the time you had spent out west, that you intended to go back soon. I imagined a young you, traipsing along those streets, looking for something.

That night, when we were having sex, you turned brilliant. You said:

Get up. I want to take you against your door.

So, that’s what we did. The walls of my apartment building, paper thin. It was the middle of the week and we were taking things to that level, ooh-ing and ahh-ing, sweating and panting, against the wood door, our sounds echoing out into the hallway. Anyone who might have walked by, they would have heard. Anyone who had been on the same floor even, they would have heard.

It’s the little things that I hold onto. At the time, I was desperately naïve and had a lot to learn. As I see it now, if I had known those things when I met you, we would have worked a little more cleanly.

Every time, at your place, we went through those certain motions. Neither of us could ever decide on dinner. We’d debate and debate. We’d watch good movies, we’d watch terrible movies. On the couch, you’d hold me like someone you’ve known for a very long time. You’d hold me the same way someone that I used to know used to hold me. Then, we’d fall into fucking at all angles, in secret little hideaways of your house. The ring of the doorbell. The barking of the dog. Me, running to the hallway. You, wrapping Badger a blanket around your nakedness to accept the order.

I’d let the dog out. You’d fix the broken garage door. I’d yell your name when the glass of the porch door unlatched and fell on me, making that loud boom. You’d say, “You’re amazing,” as my body trembled with the heat of yours, before coming.

I’d tell you, “I like you.” And then in the morning, I’d get ready for work and leave a little black sock tucked away in the corner of your room, just knowing that the next time I saw you, you’d present it to me freshly washed.

I can still smell what your house smelled like. That wax scent you burned. You kept it all so tidy.

But, it’s true, we had to start having conversations. I came over one night, really late, after you’d gotten done with a long work shift. You poured me a glass of wine and looked in my eyes and said, “I just wanted to check in and see where you were at with things.”

I guess, we spent some time coming back to each other after that, but there was mounting pressure on both of us to make up our minds, to feel something, to really feel the need to need something. We kept at it, through summer, into fall, into winter—where we officially ended whatever we had started. Now, I can see that all of it made me nervous—the attempts to meet each other where we were at.

On a Friday night, I kicked your ass at bowling and you weren’t happy about it. In that room full of people, we listed things about ourselves that the other might not know or realize. I learned about your family. You learned my favorite book, my favorite song—that I use my computer mouse upside down. In the car, we sang along to “Philadelphia Freedom.” We were dead and gone, and it would take me a long time to reconcile with the fact.

With you, it came down to the small things. I passed out cold on your couch one night and woke in the morning to you making me a cup of coffee and putting on PBS programming. You, almost getting towed out of that spot that you were always so adamant about parking in, but that you really shouldn’t have parked in. That one night, I got so drunk I lost my cool at the gay bar.

I’ve passed a point of looking at my mistakes with you. Now, all those things, they only sit in there like little shiny stars that I allow to glow every so often. We got real with each other and I think that’s saying something. And if we could do it all again, you probably know my answer. I’ve seen you since—it’s me walking up to say hello. We hug. I touch your face. And I say, “You’ve grown it out.” Butterflies flutter through my stomach—the thought of your breath against my skin, of the time we spent together.