I was cleaning out my apartment in preparation for my trip when I came across a shirt. Not just any shirt — it was a salmon coloured V-neck, the one I wore when I first met DH. I hadn’t worn it much since (he hated the color because it “wasn’t me”) so it still looked like new. I took off my flannel shirt, placed it on one of the packed boxes and tried on the V-neck. I found it odd to be wearing the shirt again; I’d changed so much since that day DH and I met. I’d bulked up a bit, so it was tighter, but the change was more than physical. I looked at myself in the mirror. DH was right — it wasn’t me.
Sentimentality is not usually my thing, but I couldn’t help but feel sad about leaving DH behind in Toronto. He’d laugh at me if he could hear me say that. I knew he’d be better than okay without me — he always was — but I was sad anyway. I cared a lot about the damn guy. Sure, he was my daddy, but lately he felt more like a brother.
It’s funny to think that two and a half years ago DH and I had found each other on Grindr of all places. He didn’t use a face pic in his profile, but after some back and forth he sent me a selfie. He was dressed in a white button-down shirt with dark pants, taken through his bathroom mirror. DH seemed sophisticated yet rough in that pic, which got me. He was obviously a businessman, but had unusually rugged hands for a suit, and life experience was etched across his face, rooting deep in the creases of his skin. He’d lived life in his 50 years on Earth, no doubt; he was my type of man, riddled with the alluring imperfections of a proper human animal. I especially loved how he gripped his phone with such feral strength.
We’d actually chatted a few months before that, though I’m not sure if he’d remember. He’d sent me the same photo of him in the bathroom with the pressed shirt. He was strictly looking for sex at the time while I wanted “something more” (whatever that meant), so we didn’t meet. He was very much my type though, so when he messaged me months later, I suggested again that we grab a beer. That time, he said yes.
At that time in my life, I was particularly aimless. I’d been serial dating guys in one-month cycles — one guy after another, from bears, to bankers, to gym bunnies. I was always the one to end the relationship when things were getting too routine. I would blame them for it, complaining that they were too normal, too boring or just uninspiring. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the reality was that I just wasn’t interested in a typical, heteronormative relationship. As gay men, we’re taught that success means marriage and assimilation.. It became an oppressive force in my life, and I was beginning to feel like a failure for not falling in line.
My ideas about love and relationships had been based on silly notions created through Hollywood films and marriage equality videos — you know, the ones that make you cry. I had become desperate to find that perfect partner and prove to the world that despite being a homosexual I was just as good as them, if not better — even if it meant cycling through the entire gay population of Toronto.
I tried to turn DH into that type of partner. But he didn’t have the time for conventions, which led to some horrible fights. Despite that, we’d endured each other’s baggage and became very close. It took me time, but I finally accepted that a traditional relationship was not what he wanted in life — and like the shirt, I began to realize it wasn’t what I wanted either.
I took off the V-neck and continued packing my old clothes into bags destined for the Salvation Army. I kept the salmon shirt aside. I couldn’t give it away, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.. I did, however, know what to do with DH.
I felt like I knew what he’d say, but I told DH I was leaving, and that I’d miss him. “Your journey will not take you away from me; it will give us more to share,” he said.
I was fully moved out of my apartment the following week.