Above: Jose dancing in Savannah, Georgia.
I am leaving Savannah in 25 days. I’ve lived here for six years. San Francisco is my next destination, and as the day draws nearer, I find myself doubting my reasons for going. I want a fresh start, more chances, more experience — but I’m leaving a man I love.
There’s something I need to say. I’ve written in the past about how little regard I have for relationships and repeatedly scoffed at the idea of dating. I’d like to take all that back, because I’ve fallen hard for someone, and my heart is breaking.
When he and I first met, we had no plans to start anything. It was casual. It was sex. Sex that led to sleepovers. Sleepovers that led to movie nights. Then we were eating together, and I was meeting his friends. At some point, I showed him my blog. The next morning, we talked about it over breakfast. “You think relationships are nothing,” he said.
He was right. At various points in this blog, I have presented those who try to date as delusional — as children believing in a fantasy. But then I found the fantasy. I met a handsome man who swept me off my feet and changed some of my thoughts. Jose was not committed to any fantastical idea of love. He was realistic and knew there would be occurrences when I’d be attracted to someone else. We’d make permissions here and there as needed and work to suit each other’s needs. And that’s what we have done.
When we met, I was president of the LGBT student group at our college. He attended a meeting one night — I think it may have been the first meeting of the year. He was standing in the back. I remember he had his sweater tied around his waist and was wearing a cutoff shirt with Marvel comic book characters on it.
After the meeting, several people were clustered around me and we were chatting about upcoming club events. I saw him behind them. He got closer and asked, “Are there any Cokes in the refrigerator?” I didn’t really understand the question — I didn’t know we had a refrigerator. Then I remembered there was a small kitchenette near the entrance. I’ve been leading these meetings for nearly three years and have never been in it.
“You can look. If there are any, take them.” He nodded and walked away.
The next day, I checked my Grindr messages and saw that he had messaged me. We realized we both lived in the same dorm — he was a few floors below me. I walked down to his door. We started making out in his dorm room, and then our clothes were off, and then I saw he had a great dick.
“Sorry about my belly, I’m working on it,” I said.
“What! No! I love bellies,” he said and kissed my gut. And that’s when I knew this was something.
The hookup led to dinner. A few days later, we went on a first date. Then another date. Then sleepovers. Then afternoons together not doing anything, cuddling, watching movies. When we started doing homework together, we knew that we were a thing. We understood it without much discussion or preamble. Yes, it would be hard — I was graduating soon, he has just transferred in and had over two years left — but we’d ride it as long as we could.
He understood my views on sex. He knew I wanted total freedom, and while he wasn’t completely OK with that, he was willing to make some allowances. We’d play with guys we were both attracted to. Yes, we’ve had differences, but somehow we’ve made this work. I have never written about us. Now that I am, I could talk about all the adorable stuff, at the parts of our relationship that no one wants to hear — how I love watching him brush his teeth, how he loves my butt, and all the inside jokes we have — but all that stuff would bore anyone to tears, and it’s too painful now, because it’s ending. All of it. San Francisco became a thing in my life around Christmas. I told him as soon as the opportunity presented itself, and that I was thinking about taking it.
I actually remember the moment I told him. He didn’t speak for several minutes. He looked away. He knew it and I knew it. We would break up.
In these last few weeks, I’ve been watching him in the shower. He’ll be happy one moment after some joke has just passed between us, and then he’ll stop. He will turn his face down and that million-dollar smile will disappear, and I know what he’s thinking. San Francisco. His heart is breaking too.
He understands me, understands why I’m going, and why I have to. This is what you do in your twenties when you’re recently graduated. You take opportunities that come. You move. You chase the dream. He would do the same.
I don’t want to regret this, and I’m afraid that I will. I’m afraid that I’ll be in some other city someday a little older, remembering how he looked in my bed the other night, how his eyes looked in the dark, glassy and broken. I held him close and felt him breathing and could do nothing. I felt cruel and had nothing to say in my defense.
That day at the end of that meeting feels warm and bright now, and I return to it all the time. I see him coming up to me with that bizarre question — “Are there any Cokes in the refrigerator?” I go back to him again and again through the crowd, reaching through the throng of people, trying to tell him I’m sorry, reaching for his shirt, unable to find him.
I’m sorry. I love you, Jose.