I think about him at night.
Tonight isn’t too bad. But he’s always there in the back of my head and plodding around inside my heart. And when I think about how he’s there in my heart but not here next to me on the couch, I can’t help but feel that feeling that isn’t a pang of agony, but more like a slow descent. The sinking feeling you get when you realize that you’re not going to get to go to the park today like your parents promised, you aren’t getting the thing you wanted, Christmas has been postponed for one more day, things aren’t going to happen the way you thought they were.
We met one another back in 2011. I was twenty-one years old then, and I’d just gone through a string of brief almost-boyfriends I’d met online, and with each one, I’d get a little close to them, freak out and push them out of my life completely, ending up with both of our hearts being broken. Some were worse than others. But I’d come to the conclusion that it was probably best for me to stay single. This didn’t stop me from continuing to put lines out into the water, though, and see who came along. I got a message on a dating site from a guy, I don’t remember which one of us messaged first. He was at school, in his college’s music building, practicing for his piano final. I told him I played piano. I ended up calling him. We both liked video games, particularly Sonic the Hedgehog. I liked his voice, although he sounded a bit high-pitched and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. It wasn’t that it turned me off, it just gave me a mental picture of him that ultimately turned out to not be what he looked like at all.
We Facetimed on our iPods, which is basically video calling. We talked for hours, I was getting sleepy but I stayed up and kept talking to him. I don’t remember what we talked about. He had sent me a picture of himself smiling in the piano room earlier. He was cute. He was cute when we were talking on our iPods too. I had to stay inside to talk to him, though, because my room was in the backyard in a camper, and if I went back there the connection would be lost. I’m a horny guy, and so when he said he’d be back in a moment, he had to go pee, I asked if I could watch. He let me. I did the same for him. I don’t know if he actually had a pee fetish or not, I doubt it, although I do, to the extent that I enjoy watching other guys doing it, and like to hold their dick for them and shake it after. I don’t really need it on me or in my mouth, I just like watching guys pee. I’ve always been a peeker at the urinal. I was shocked when, as a teenager meeting gay men online and talking to them, I discovered that a lot of gay guys don’t peek at the urinal. I always peek. I’m a chronic peeker. I guess that makes me weird or something. I don’t particularly care.
The next day, I felt weird. I was doing what I always did, worrying that we’d rushed into things too fast. We’d traded naked pictures on our first night, seen each other’s dicks, we were moving too fast. It was rainy outside, and I sat on the swing in the backyard and Facetimed him. I was worried that we’d moved too fast, that maybe we should stop talking. He calmed me down, and assured me that everything was fine. I wanted to go and visit him, he lived an hour away and I’d never driven that far, but he had assured me it was a straight shot from my house to his college. I was going to get paid by direct deposit on Friday. Thursday night rolled around and I wanted to go. He gave me the directions repeatedly, because I was sure I’d get lost, and promised me I’d be okay. My direct deposit hadn’t gone through, my phone had just been deactivated so I couldn’t call if I got lost, and the battery was almost dead so I couldn’t even call 911 in an emergency, I had enough money to get gas to get there but I didn’t know how long the gas would last if I got lost, it was two in the morning, rain was predicted, I’d never driven that far in my life or down the route I needed to go, and I would have no way to contact him. My mom found out I was planning on going and tearily begged me not to go, she said she was so worried about me. I didn’t really care. My mother lost my sympathy years and years ago. It’s probablty sad, but it’s true.
I got some snacks, something to drink, and got in my car. He promised me I’d be fine. I was excited. I pulled out of my driveway and went to the gas station and filled up my overdrafting my bank account. I was ready. I turned on some music on my iPod and set off. The directions were simple: I was going to get on a road I knew well, and follow it straight into town. There would be one left turn, but it was at a dead end so there was no way of getting lost. I’d go through a traffic circle and stay straight, for about fourty-five minutes, until the road become another road. I needed to do nothing, just keep going straight, and make sure I didn’t accidentally merge right when one road turned into another. It was a straight shot. Even the left turn wasn’t really a left turn, the road curved that way anyway. I was scared, though. I would be royally fucked if I broke down, got lost, or anything else. I had no means of communication.
But I wanted to see him, and so I did it. I was terrified, because there was so little on the way there. It was mostly winding roads going through mountains, with occasional creepy houses that I really didn’t want to break down next to. There was a gas station every now and then and that made me feel a little safe. It started to rain a little bit. I was hoping I’d see him soon. We had become close very quickly, I knew he’d comfort me and tell me I’d done a great job. I made it to his town, and I saw the sign telling me I’d entered the town I was supposed to, and I knew the college would be on my right soon after. On my right side I saw a turn-in to some apartments, and standing there in the light rain was a boy in a hoodie, with his hood pulled up. It was him.
I pulled up and he hopped into the car with me, and I parked. I hadn’t known what to expect. He was a little chubby. At the time I was thinner than I am now and I guess I noticed that he was bigger than me, and at the time I would look for any excuse to decicde a guy wasn’t right for me. I’d had a very bad experience with a boy who I was entirely unnatracted to, but who I tried to like despite it because I didn’t want to be shallow, but I was so incredibly turned off by his looks and his clingy personality that I had to end it, and it was a very, very upsetting and stressful experience for me. I was terrified it might happen again. But this guy wasn’t like that. I didn’t know what he like at all, I just knew he was kind and I was excited to see him, even though the doubts were already building up like a cancer in the back of my mind.
He led me up to his apartment. We came in and sat on the couch. He made sure the first thing I did was call my mom from his computer and let her know I was safe. She was asleep. So much for staying up all night worrying about me. Oh well. After that was done, we sat on the couch. I kissed him. It was only a little bit awkward. I don’t remember exactly what I thought about the first kiss, but I might have been a little less than satisfied. He was smiling at me and being sweet, though. He had the new Sonic game, which I’d never played, and he showed it to me. We eventually found our way into his bedroom. We ‘d promised one another we were not going to take things too fast, just kissing. Within a few minutes I had his cock in my hand. He laughed and said he thought we were taking it slow. I told him I had no idea what I was talking about and sucked his dick. He did the same to me, and he was very good at it. He also fingered me, which normally I don’t like, but he did a good job and I found myself stuttering when I tried to tell him to stop and writhing around in pleasure. We spent the whole night laying in bed, kissing, cuddling, fooling around, sucking each other off, having fun. It was sweet.
It was early in the morning and the sun would be coming up soon. I wanted to see the music building, because there was a piano and a harpsichord. He took me there, with his saxophone in tow, and I got to play the piano and the harpsichord. In the entrance hall, which was mostly deserted, he played his saxophone and the sound echoed off the walls. It was very pretty. I was tired, and it was early morning, and it was raining outside and everything felt so romantic, even though I was doubting myself to death, and it occurs to me now that at the time I hadn’t taken my anxiety medicine in a year or so since I’d lost my insurance and didn’t have it anymore, and my anxiety coupled with my compulsivity is probably what caused me to be completely unable to enjoy the experience. We went back to his apartment. At this point I was still telling myself that it just wasn’t going to work. I kept accidentally calling him the wrong name in my head, the name of the boy I’d disliked and had to break it off with, the one who I’d made a mistake with that I was terrified of repeating.
We made it back to his apartment. We went to sleep. I woke up later on, he had to go take one of his finals that day, and he’d sent me a message and planned on surprising me between classes, but I’d been asleep. He’d won a free meal for two at a restaurant that he was going to take me to that night. We went to Taco Bell and got some food, then came back and played Sonic. I was having fun. But I was terrified. I started crying.
He held me, asked me what was wrong. Through my tears, I told him that I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be with him. Something just wasn’t right and I knew it. He told me it was alright, all he wanted was for me to be happy, even if that meant not being with him. I told him how sorry I was, simultaneously relieved that there was no more pressure and incredibly disappointed, in the situation and in myself. He looked at me and said, “Hey, why don’t we do something, okay? Just for this weekend, we’ll be boyfriends, alright? While you’re here, I’ll be your boyfriend, and then you can go home and you don’t ever have to talk to me again if you don’t want to.” I nodded sheepishly.
He took me to dinner. He wanted to drive my truck because he hadn’t driven in so long. I drove us there and afterward he drove us back, including taking us on a trip to Walmart. We walked around and I bought some Yugioh cards. In the truck, we made out. We were making out with the light on, and I realized suddenly that the people in the car next to us were looking, a girl who was laughing her ass off and a guy who looked like he might be grossed out. We laughed. We went back to his apartment.
When it was time to go home, it was upsetting. He walked me to my car. I went home. My plan was to never speak to him again. But there had been something about him, something that I sensed was good long-term relationship material. But I was just so scared. No, it was best not to take the chance. Best to stay single. He had given me one of his shirts to keep, I wanted something that smelled like him, that would remind me of him. I got home. I laid in bed with his shirt. I went out to my truck where I could get internet on my iPod and I called him. I was crying my eyes out. I missed him so much. I was sorry for saying I never wanted to talk to him again. I was so confused. He calmed me and assured me that whatever I wanted was what he wanted to. He was visibly upset by my rejection, but he also wanted me to be happy.
I went back to work and I thought about him, but I tried to get my mind off of it. The weekend rolled around again. He didn’t have any food. He had a meal plan but he’d missed lunch that day, and he had no money. He was upset and not feeling well. I decided I was going to take him out to eat. He told me not to worry about it, but I raided my mother’s food and threw it into my truck, and got in, assuring him I’d be there in an hour. I was. I took him to the Waffle House and told him to get whatever he wanted, it didn’t matter if it was expensive. It did turn out to be expensive but I didn’t care. I think I was just glad to be around him again.
I went home again when I had to go back to work. What were we? Well I’d said we couldn’t be boyfriends, but what were we? I refused to say being possible boyfriends was an option because I was just terrified of the idea of committing, so we were in limbo. I think it must have been my third visit there when we had the conversation. He told me I should take a chance. He liked me, he cared about me, and he wanted to be my boyfriend. I was so worried, though, so confused. What if it didn’t work? It didn’t matter, he said, I owed it to myself to take a chance on finding happiness with someone. I conceded. I asked him, are we boyfriends? He smiled and said yes. I kissed him, and laid him back on the couch and lay on top of him. He whispered that he loved me. I told him I wasn’t sure if I could say it back. I think he told me to try it. I told him I loved him. The biggest, most beautiful grin spread across his face. We kissed some more. We made it official on Facebook. We went to bed. While I was asleep, he wrote a journal entry in a text document about how happy he was to have me. I think he did something while I was asleep, like kiss me or try to talk to me, but I don’t remember. I just know that I went to bed terrified, but hopeful.
I remained terrified but hopeful. I went back home when I had to. I had to go to work, and I didn’t have enough money to keep driving around town and buying us food. I don’t remember when we first had sex, but when we did it was in his bedroom, and I remember that we tried fucking each other and he actually topped me and I shot a load on his bedsheets. Because he couldn’t afford to take them to the laundromat and he didn’t want his parents to see the stain when he got home, he’d had to scrub it off on his own. I missed him when I went home. We talked on the phone and on Facetime every night. He wasn’t crazy about my mother, because of how awful she was to me, and all I’d told him about her. I don’t blame him. The woman’s fucking crazy.
We spent a few weeks away from one another. It felt like forever. I was terribly sad that he was so far away, and the fact that I missed him so much made me feel better, because I had been worried I wasn’t really feeling my feelings. Remember that at the time I was incredibly compulsive about doubting my feelings for someone, so it was a constant struggle. I wrote a journal entry about it in a note document on my iPod. I put up sticky notes on the mirror in my sister’s bathroom (which happened to be the one I used) that said “I love you” and something about not letting my anxiety win. I believe I put up one that said “anxiety lies.” I missed him.
I finally got to see him again, but this time he’d gone home to his family so it was a two hour drive. It still wasn’t very complicated, only a few turns. When I got there, I was a little unimpressed with his house. It was a tiny trailer in a small neighborhood and his parents were both disabled and spent most of their time in recliners in the living room. They were incredibly nice, even though at first I was scared by their southern accents. He hopped in the truck with me and we went back to my house. From this point on, we were never apart. When I was working, he stayed in the camper with me. When I wasn’t working, I took him home, and stayed there. When it was time to go back home, he would just come back with me. There was one occasion where I had to leave him, and as I pulled out of his driveway he held up his hand in a half-heart gestured, and I held my hand out the window, completing the heart. When I came back to see him again, I was ravenously horny, and pounced on him the moment we were in his room, kissing him and smiling and trying to pull his clothes off. He liked the attention but wanted to show me the video games he’d been playing.
When we were at my house, we played video games. Actually we pretty much played video games wherever we were. We watched an anime called Sgt. Frog on his laptop. I made my signature tater-tot-casserole, which really sounds kind of gross but isn’t all that bad. I eventually got tired of the taste of it, by the way, and I don’t make it anymore. But at the time it was delicious.
One of our dogs died. My family was gone when it happened. This dog had been a puppy only a few months before, she was young, and we think she ate some plastic and that’s what killed her. When I found her laying sadly in the back of her pen, I took her onto the back porch and tried to make her eat, but she wouldn’t. I told my mother about it over the phone and she said that if the dog wasn’t better tomorrow, to take her to the vet. The dog went back in her pen, and I made dinner for us. When dinner was ready I went outside to check on her. She was laying under the dog house, and she wasn’t moving. I didn’t want to approach. I saw flies around her. She was dead. She’d crawled under the dog house and died.
He made me eat my dinner before we buried her. I felt guilty eating while a creature was laying out there, dead. He helped me bury her. I’d never done this without my family around before. First, we had to lift the dog house off of her. It’s not like she was crushed under there, but we couldn’t get to her with it in the way. He brought trash bags outside for us to put her body in so that animals didn’t dig her up. When we moved the doghouse, I looked away, but I briefly saw her laying there, dead, with flies all around her body and around her open, dead eyes. I couldn’t touch her. He knew, and he said it was okay. Her body had gone completely stiff, something that I didn’t know happened when creatures die. It was when I heard him talking to her that I lost it. He was saying “I’m so sorry, baby,” “I’m so sorry, honey,” “Oh sweetie, I’m sorry…” at first I thought he was talking to me but then I realized he was talking to the dog. He put her in double plastic bags, and we set about digging her a grave. I cried while we dug. He told me it was going to be alright, and was very comforting. We dug, and I cried. We put her in the hole and covered her up with dirt. I have a terrible fear of death. I don’t like touching dead things, or things that have touched dead things. We finished burying her and I said a few words about her. I had been the only one home when she was born. Her mother had never had puppies before, and I picked up the few pups she’d birthed out of the dirt of the pen and put them on a towel with her, and stayed with her while she gave birth to the rest of them. Now, when she’d died, my family had been gone again, and I was the one who buried her. I saw her through from the beginning of her life to the end, and in all that time she loved me. She was a good dog.
We went inside and washed our hands. I was terrified of touching anything that had touched the dead dog, so we stripped our clothes off completely naked in the laundry room and put them in the washing machine, and then went and took a shower together. I gave him a warm, naked hug, and he held me while I cried. We cleaned up. We played video games. We went to sleep.
There’s more to the story. So much more. But that’s where I’ll stop for the night. As I write this, as I remember, as I think back on it, I think of how unfair I was later on, when things got bad, when I seemed to forget the good moments, the excitement. Perhaps it was because all of the excitement was lost under a wash of anxiety, but it was there. Love was there. And now that he’s moved on, now that he has a new boyfriend and he lives hours and hours away from me, I miss him. I want to put my arms around him, peel his clothes off and get in the shower with him again. I want to feel his soft, gentle lips touch mine. I want to lay my head on his strong chest and fall asleep. I want to tell him how much I love him. I still love him. It’s been about six months. I seem to love him more as time goes on. Tears are beginning to blur my vision. When the night comes, I think of him, I miss him, and I love him.
And when I crawl in bed at night, I don’t usually think about him. I think about some hypothetical lover who will be perfect in every way and give me all of the things I want, hold me in the night and shush me and calm me and kiss my tears. But it’s him that I want to kiss my tears. It’s him that I want to whisper to me that it’s okay. It’s him that I miss. Him that I love with all my heart. Him who I’m lost without, him who is missing from every daily activity, from every car drive, from every night in bed, from every meal. Him who occupies the fullest space of my heart and my memories. His love. Does he still love me? He has a new boyfriend now, surely he must love him. But does he still love me? Or has his love for me faded away, and now I’m outside looking in, me just loving him?
It’s time for my medicine again. It’s past midnight. Later on in our relationship, he introduced me to Into the Woods, and it became my favorite musical. The line that hurts the most to hear is one Cinderella sings: “Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the wood.” I am alone in the woods. He left my halfway through. But can I say he left me? I broke up with him, I sent him away. But I still feel as though I’ve been left, and abandoned. I loved him, and I love him still. He’s not here. He’s not here, and I have to remember that and deal with it every day. I have to keep facing it over and over again, and it’s hard to stay brave, it’s hard to be strong, it’s hard to face it. He isn’t here. He isn’t coming back. What if we continue to drift apart and we just peacefully go our separate ways, and I actually never physically see him again for the rest of my life? I never smell him again? I never touch him again? I miss him.
At night, he comes to me, in my heart and mind, and I grieve. “No one is alone.” But I feel alone.