Dear Tour Guide

By Alan Semrow

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Do you think the headboard felt it? I send my thoughts.

The night before, you’d messaged me late. I’d just gotten in after delay after delay after delay. Considering the two-hour time difference, it was safe to say I was beat and had to decline your offer to come over and sweep me up for a little while.

For me, a new city presents a wide opening to extend or explore parts of myself that I typically wouldn’t back home—the parts that might not move on as high a frequency. This trip allowed me to bring those things out—I wanted to be more open, to explain, to pay attention, be real, and be patient—at least for three days. With confidence, I can tell you that’s what you got from me.

I told you I had an interview in the morning, but afterwards, when you got out of work, if you wanted to stop by and spend some time on each other, I’d be more than happy about it.

The next morning, I was taxied back from the interview. It had gone well—I liked the people, I liked the atmosphere, everyone seemed to like me. I was reminded that there’s so much more out there in the world and you always have the option to seek it and find it and hold onto it for however long you’d like.

But I also had a life back home that, over the course of a year and a half or so, really became a life. I met people and I did good things and stupid things—a lot that I was proud of, regardless. They were things that, together, contributed to what I see as a very full period of time on my life’s calendar. They were also the things that held me back from making a dramatic move. I thought about hugging the people I’d come to love on my way out, sobbing into their shoulders. I thought about boxing my things up in my studio apartment and placing them into a van that I would drive all those miles in. I thought about locking the door on a place that had become home—if only these walls could speak. It all presented an interesting idea to play with, but was I ready for it? To face the same initial struggles I had when I moved here. Not yet.

That afternoon, I walked to a sandwich shop, up in the gay district. I spent time at a café and read a book that I was obsessed with. I think I might have even wound up at a bar at some point, but mostly, I was laying low and being happy and being myself—stepping away from reality and exploring what I could be like if I were to make a really big change. I watched the people. I thought, I could find a boyfriend here. I could make new friends here. I could really roll myself into something.

Your kindness—or the kindness you conveyed in your messages—I think that’s what turned me on first. It was clear, you wanted to connect and have fun and do the things that people who have sex do.

You were ready to talk, to actually get to know me, and I welcomed that.

I met you down in the lobby. You looked like I thought you would—shorter, older, but still youthful. Just one look told me that you led a content existence. Your weekends, they were full. Your life outside of this, it was bursting. You had found success. You were grateful. And you had a story. In my hotel room that afternoon, you let me in on a lot of it.

I told you my fears. I told you what I liked about the city and how it didn’t share some of the things I disliked about the place where I was from. Then you told me what brought you here, as well as what’s kept you here. You told me about your little explorations. You told me about your weekend plans.

Our sex was hard and it was rough, and then it was quiet and it was passionate. We bashed the headboard in and the wall behind it. I can still hear the knockknockknockknockknockknock. You tried a lot of things with me that day and, every so often, you’d slow down and you’d ask, “Are you doing okay?”

I want you to know that there’s great power in such a simple question.

Afterwards, we lay together. You told me that you wanted me to come out tomorrow night to dance at this thing. It was charming. And it was even more charming when you started telling me about all the places that I still needed to see. These great, beautiful buildings that you admired. Museums, stores, the leather place that I would eventually go to and make an impulse buy.

You said, “You know, if you move here, I’d be glad to be your tour guide.”

That told me that you weren’t planning on forgetting the afternoon we spent together anytime soon. There was relief in that—I was bound to hold onto it, as well. When I think of that city and my time there, you should know I think of you, too. And you should know that I intend to come back.