“What do you want?” Ernan asked. He was pleading. What do I want? What do I want? I knew I wanted the freedom to connect with new people, sexually and intellectually, and be uninhibited by obligations to any one person. But I still wanted a relationship with Ernan.
I did my best to explain this to him. I wanted it to be more casual, which was certainly a step back, but I enjoyed his company and the sex we had. I was willing to offer him my companionship, a warm bed and some good times.
He tried to understand, but by the way he twisted his nose, I don’t think he got it. Even if he had agreed, I knew he would suffer in the process, which would only lead to more of my guilt. I didn’t want that, either. Granted, I had endured a lot of suffering to get to the point that I was at now, and being at the tail end of the journey, I was very grateful for the experience that DH offered me. So what’s a bit of suffering if you’re enlightened by the end? When I think about it, though, the difference is that I’m a masochist: I can take pain, but I don’t want to inflict it on others. And unlike me, Ernan didn’t ask to be enlightened.
“So if it’s a Wednesday,” Ernan said, “and I want to come over, and have you make me dinner. And we spend the evening talking and watching television then sleep together and wake up together. We have our morning coffee and I’m late for work again: you wouldn’t want that?” There was a teary-eyed innocence about him as he said it. It was the way he said it, as though life were as simple as that — and maybe it was. I’ve always been drawn to the complex nuances of human nature, so maybe that was the difference between us. I didn’t want the simple life; Ernan did.
“I think we want different things,” I concluded.
“What?” He stared at me like he missed something. “So? Then . . . should it be a clean break?”
“We want different things,” I said.
“Should it be a clean break?”
“Yes,” I said, as clearly as I could.
More silence followed. I turned away and looked at the Ghirardelli chocolates on the bookshelf that he’d asked me to bring back from San Francisco. Something about those chocolates in that moment fascinated me — knowing that he wouldn’t be taking them home with him that evening.
Ernan started to cry, but then laughed in an attempt to suppress the tears. “I can’t go outside like this.”
“You need a boyfriend and that’s okay,” I said. “That’s not what I want.”
“What do you want?” There was a sudden peal of anger in his voice.
“I don’t know. But whatever it is, I know we want different things. We’ve been fighting for weeks. Things aren’t going to get better, they’re going to get worse and worse.”
He sat there like he was waiting for more, but there was nothing else to be said.
He went over to the door and tried to put on his jacket, but he broke down in tears. “I love you so much,” he said between sobs. I grabbed onto him and hugged tightly, locking my hands behind his back and squeezing. Perhaps I was just hugging myself, holding on to the person who aspired for all the things young gay boys are taught to want: the perfect romance with the perfect boyfriend. I was letting go of that, accepting that Ernan, and all he represented, was s not who I am. He cried and cried, and I held him like I’d never let him go. You’ll be okay, I thought, though I wasn’t sure if the words were directed at him or at me.
I finally let go.
Ernan swallowed his tears and left.