Right Where You Left Me

By Alan Semrow


You remember these things.

How, on that one pitch black morning, I left a single sock tucked in the corner of your room, knowing that the next time you saw me, you’d present it freshly washed. It was by this point that everything was different, but nothing was changed—including the fondness I have for you.

How, that afternoon, I sat with friends on the patio of that corner bar, each of us sipping at something too strong for the middle of the day. I never ceased checking my phone because of you. And then you sent it—a validation of sorts to the longing I’d felt since that night at the party. That picture, it wet me, took me out of my element, and almost out of my chair.

How we stood, near your Jeep, but far enough away to take momentary residence in the middle of the street. I made a comment about how the black SUV parked next to it was its twin. That’s when our clean kiss happened. I don’t know what I said next, but I said something.

How, after you took me away from myself for a half hour (maybe an hour), I asked your name and you told me. I exclaimed, “I knew it! I knew it the whole time!

How, sitting on your messy bed, scratches down my back from the night(s) before, you ran around the room, picking the ingredients from the closet, from the dresser drawer, that made up your gym bag. The hot pink running shoes. The blue hoodie that you almost lost to me. I want you to know that after that last kiss (wait, maybe just one more), I fell into my car and then my head fell into my hands—the culmination of what I like to think of as the trip of my life. You don’t know what you do to me—every so often, when we traipse back into each other’s lives.

How, after all is said and done, passing you in the hallway, I can still wink and feel my entire body warm over.

How, while your boyfriend showered, you turned to me, gulped from the purple drink, leaned over, and did what I presumed to be true. I opened my mouth and let you pour it inside.

How, after the fuck marathon, I spotted it and pointed at the canvas with the glaring political statement. It was tucked away, like you never intended to hang it anyway. I said, “I LOVE that.” And you told me, “You should have it. I want you to have it.”

How, after the bloody nose massacre I’d just committed in the men’s restroom, I made my way through the dark supper club, past all the magical couples who made more, but appeared less content. I met you at the table, held my nose (still stained red), and looked down at my steaming, rusty chicken soup. I said, “That’s so embarrassing.” And you laughed, because my bloody nose didn’t matter.

How on that cold Sunday in January, you ran out the door with no coat on. Your eyes, big and bold, you looked at me in a panic. I stood unhurried, with a blue stream of smoke piling out of my mouth. You said, “I thought you’d left.” I rolled my eyes and smiled, “I’m only smoking.” I want to thank you for bearing with me for 12 hours at that bar—that really says something.

How you told me about the novel you wanted to, but didn’t know how to, write. I said, “That’s the hottest thing I’ve ever heard.” I said it because you once said the same thing to me—when you saw my book collection—when I was vacant and vulnerable and, most importantly, emotionally unavailable. I kissed you in the enclosed outdoor patio, the same place where we’d once spent time.

How we made out with each other’s faces in front of the bouncer, before walking in to meet our friends, pretending like nothing ever happened.

How flutter, flutter went my heart as I turned my head in the dark of the bar, only to spot you (you little devil), walking cautiously toward me. I’m not sure how I appeared, but you hugged me and said, “You should have seen the look on your face just now.”

How your hands met mine at the special showing of Casino. I whispered in your ear, “I love her performance.”

How, after we beat the shit out of the headboard (and the wall behind it), you cradled me and said, “If you move here, I’ll be available to be your tour guide.”

How we met crossing the street that day (“Where’s the parade?” “Probably where are the rainbow flags are.”). I want you to know that I’ve kept what I presumed you gave me. And I don’t plan on letting go of it.

How, after I shot that bullseye, you patted my ass and, at the time, that meant everything—until I met one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers later that night. You got the wrong impression of me—but I can still recall what it felt like when you tapped me with your hand.

How, in broad daylight, cars passed by and honked at us, leaning up against the light post, digging into each other.

How you wore that expression on your face the day we met.

How red your eyes were after you told me those personal things. You took a hit, clenched your teeth, and said, “Open you mouth.” I did as told, and you blew the sweet smoke inside. “I always wanted someone to do that to me,” I said. And we both stepped out onto your perfectly trimmed, cold lawn and stomped through it like two boys making their way through a muddy swamp.

How I gave you the keys to my car—I’d had far too many margaritas and really needed you to take the wheel. That night, you drove in the wrong gear. When we realized it, we flew into hysterics. At home, we fucked on my Serta air mattress. Before you came, you muttered, “You feel so good.” I always was a fan of how you said that.

How, with that Christian Bale movie playing in the background, you said, “Stand up.” Stand up? I stood. You said, “I wanna take you against the door.” I pointed at it. “That door?” “Yes.” That’s where you took me to the moon and back, the door rumbling with the ooh-ing and ahh-ing echoing through the vacant—maybe not so vacant?—halls. It was a brilliant idea that I’ll never forget. Just like all the things I never got the chance to tell you.

How I turned to you, drunk, giggling, saying, that was hot. “What was hot?” you asked. I grinned, running a finger through your blond, sweaty sex hair. “Why did you choose me?” I asked. “Of all the people you could have chosen this weekend.” That’s when you gave the most perfect response.

How quickly the swimsuits fell off in the hot tub, how it felt to kiss both of you at once, tasting the lemonade and the vodka and the sweetness of man.

How, after those months had gone by, we ran into each other (drunk at the bar)—I gave you the eyes I’d once given and then after you said, “What?,” we made out in front of everybody. Just because.

How your face looked right before you came, how you said, “You’re fucking amazing.”

How I stepped into my car after saying goodbye for the last (maybe not?) time. As I drove off, “Glory” by Liz Phair played and my eyes glazed over. Thank you for the reunion. It’s chained to me like a cute little locket.

How, after glaring into each other’s eyes and cumming at the same time, you walked around Greta’s condo (I’m really sorry, Greta), pointing at the picture of me and her on the wall. You said, “You were younger then.” And I sensed it—a change in the room, in the dynamic, in two people that once were.

How all you had to do was run your finger down the impermanent tattoo of mine that read, “Kiss me. I’m Irish.” We made a scene for two whole weeks—the impermanent power couple.

How you slapped me around and became “Daddy.” We left each other to head to our respective sports games. On your way out, you said, “I really needed that. Thank you.” The next morning, I walked into the office, beaming, proud of whatever I felt the need to be proud of—no one would ever know.

How I pulled too hard and the entire window of the door folded down on me. I yelled as the dog flew off in the other direction. I said, “I broke your door!” You, noticeably amused, you said, “What have you done now?” Like I was a little kid or something, always getting himself into mischief.

How I spotted you across the birthday room, filled with gays, that I’d either come to know, or would never know. Someone told me that, once, I had a full-fledged (drunken) conversation with you. In whatever anxiety or discomfort or jerk-reaction, I smiled and waved, and you sent it back.

How I licked my lips and yours, before letting you kiss me full-on—just because that’s how Elio and Oliver did it in the movie.

How far up you lifted me before throwing me down onto the cloudy bed below. The towel you draped across the bathroom door afterwards, I kept it there for two whole weeks—just because.

How I couldn’t walk or sit straight for three whole days because of you.

How, that afternoon at the bar—after all that time—when you slid your hands down my back and to my ass, ever so briefly, my entire body tingled. It’s because I always wanted you, even if the conversation really dwindled that day at the restaurant that I never quite cared for—when you were recovering from that surgery, and I was especially lonely.

How you lured me over with two fingers as your husband bit into your neck. You said my name and had me there.

How I sat on top of your body and you said, “My passion is your pleasure.”

How, when I grabbed your face before kissing you goodbye, you gave those sparkling parting words, where you promised that one day, we’d meet again—this time, on a spontaneous trip to South America, where we’d run away for a bit, and get to understand each other.

How, at the time of meeting, he said, “I’m just about to head out with my friends.” Both sets of eyes stood still and we kissed, knowing that we’d probably never find each other again—but for the hell of it, we did it to let it exist in time. You have a wicked tongue.

How I thought, maybe this is perfection, while trembling next to you. You said, “Why are you shaking?” “It’s because that happens, sometimes.” But really it was because I was perched so far on the edge of the bed that I was about to fall off—but I didn’t want to let go.

How much you enjoyed massage oil.

How I wrote that note on the napkin and handed it to you before leaving; how you ran after me and we proceeded to be each other’s boyfriend for a night, standing in front of Sherry, introducing ourselves as such, making out on her balcony that overlooked the lake and the moon and the stars.

How, after sucking your dick in the bathroom of that bar, my Uber driver announced her arrival. I entered the car and she said, “How’s your night been?” I laughed and said, “I think I’ve lived a full life.”

How, during take-off, with Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” blazing through my ears, my eyes welled up, thinking of what we’d done only hours before. What trickled down my face just then? How had the molecules changed?

How you had the same name as that guy from my past.

How I found you at the end of the bar, made eye contact, and we smiled. “I see you’ve grown it out,” I said, touching the side of your face. You could have been thinking anything, but that didn’t change the fact that I always wanted to know what you were thinking, and wondered if you ever thought about how I sat with everything—after all was said and done.

How you called me “kiddo,” and used to comment sweet nothings on my Facebook posts.

How, on my twenty-sixth birthday, before meeting seven or eight of my favorite people in the world for brunch, you and I couldn’t stop kissing against the door of your trendy apartment. I said to you, “Why can’t I keep my hands off you?” “For good reason,” you replied. I petted the dog, kissed you once more, and hopped in the Uber. The driver asked me what I’ve been up to today. That’s when I blushed and laughed, basking in the afterglow, in what it sort of maybe seems to mean to be another year older, to let another year pass—but not really.

How, without knowing a thing about you or your preferences, I winked at your sunny, Ryan Gosling face, while walking with Jack through the terrace. Just because.

How you smushed the ice cream sandwich in my face at the mall.

How you started it.

You remember these things. And if any were to ask and say, “Where have you been?,” there’d only be one answer. I’d lift my hand to wipe an invisible strand of hair from his eyes and say, “Right where you left me.”