It was Friday night — I was back in Toronto sitting on my sofa, drinking a beer. My life was feeling like nothing but a series of endless cycles. I had yet to see Ernan since I came back from San Francisco, but we had talked and decided to go out for dinner that evening, like we used to before we had begun fighting. We agreed to have a drink at my place beforehand, during which time I thought we’d finally talk about “us.” I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but I knew had to be honest. I couldn’t run away from myself any longer, I told myself.
While I waited, I thought about DH and the way he lived his life. He had multiple relationships on the go with different men. From cuddle-based to kinky, his relationships were varied and satisfied numerous facets of his personality. I think, in that respect, he’d gotten it right. And he didn’t need just one person or anybody in particular — that was what had always bothered me back in the day, that he didn’t need me or my damn ego.
Ernan arrived just after 7pm. He brought a bouquet of sunflowers, which he took into the kitchen and divided into two piles on the counter. He filled a couple of vases with water, cut the stems off the flowers and put them inside. He placed each vase on opposite ends of my living room, while I watched him from the sofa. His romantic gesture reminded me of how I had always thought I wanted a boyfriend, but the reality was that romance had never been my forte. I often felt guilty about this; who doesn’t want a boyfriend?
He sat down on the couch and I cuddled into him, thinking for a moment how nice it would be to stay like that forever, just him and me, content like a perfect couple. My curiosity never had any intention of settling though, so I finally turned to him and said, “We haven’t spoken since I got back.” I could feel his body seize up in my arms. I just started talking, not really knowing where I was going. I said things like, “You can’t get everything from one person,” and, “I want a partner, not a boyfriend.” I even said something like, “I want to explore relationships with other people.”
“I’m so crazy about you,” he explained, probably because he didn’t understand any of what I was saying. “It’s like you sprinkled pixie dust on me and now I’m mesmerized by you.” He was suffering.
The mood of the evening brought me back to when DH and I had ended our sexual relationship. I had thought I wanted him as my boyfriend, and when I knew I couldn’t have him like that, I tried to pull myself away — with little luck. I finally asked him, “Do you love me?” promising myself that if he said no, I’d walk away; the suffering was too much to bear. Of course he refused to answer the question, which is very DH, god bless him.
We had a horrible fight about it one afternoon. I can remember sitting in one of the leather armchairs in his living room, looking at his tired eyes. “The one thing that I did wrong,” I defended, “was I got attached to you. And now I can’t pull myself away. So yeah, I love you. But I can see it, the way you look at me. You pity me for it.”
“I don’t want anybody,” DH said. “I was clear about that from the start.”
“This whole time, you knew I was in love with you. You’d done so many things to show — ”
“Oh, stop it! A lot of things happened between you and I, Mike. I did some things, and you did some things too. We’re human beings. We make mistakes; we do things we don’t understand or say things we think we mean, but then we realize that we don’t. That’s what makes humans human — we may be intelligent, but we’re imperfect. That’s why you love writers like Henry Miller. That’s why you don’t write about animals, Mike. That’s what you love.”
Silence. “I know.”
“So you know that we can’t see each other anymore.”
“I know.” I had paused for a moment, on the verge of tears. “It’s just so sad.”
“Maybe in time you’ll see that you can have a relationship that’s not about ‘sex’ and not about ‘love’, and it can still be very wonderful.”
“I hope we can be friends somewhere down the road.”
In time, we would become good friends.
It’s only now that I can understand we actually did have a very meaningful relationship — I just couldn’t see that at the time. We weren’t boyfriends, but I’d argue that our dynamic was much deeper than anything I could ever achieve with a boyfriend. Perhaps me knowing this makes DH and I more compatible now than ever, but life seldom works out like that . . .