The first time I met you, you were wearing shoes that resembled house slippers. But somehow, they worked. You rocked a rucksack emblazoned with deli meat branding that made no sense. But somehow, it worked. Somehow, I knew you were going to be a ton of fun.
You suggested we meet by the south fountain of Madison Square Park, unaware how terrible I am at directions. I braved my navigational incompetence and headed to the one nearest 26th and Madison, convinced I made the right choice. (Not it.) Proceeding west (south?), I cut through throngs of tourists to meet your eyes for the first time next to Fatty Cue. We smiled, hugged, and got into trouble for drinking our beers outside the confines of Shake Shack. We stole a table for two underneath the trees; conversation over beers turned into hopping on the 6 train, turned into laughter over dinner at that delicious little soba spot in SoHo. I felt as alive and warm as the buzzing recess of that restaurant.
You kissed me on the forehead goodnight.
The day after, you surprised me with peaches from Fairway. I remember fidgeting in anticipation of that first post-date text. And when it arrived, and you asked me to meet you downstairs with treats in hand (because you also happened to work right next door, out of all the other buildings in Manhattan), a goofy smile dominated my face to which I turned back around and floated all the way back up to my office on the seventh floor. I knew you were going to be unpredictable in the best way.
The first time you visited my neighborhood, I showed you my choice bench along the waterfront where we sat and stared at the Manhattan skyline. I was feeling playful and pointed to a random building resembling a shark fin, then half-jokingly asked you to tell me all about it. And you really did know all about it. I knew you were going to open up a new world within New York to me.
You were a man of unapologetic self-awareness, an infectious hunger for knowledge who constantly questioned others’ apathy. I was a nomadic spirit constantly leaping before I looked, who threw most caution to the winds that carried my whims.
You brought me outside of myself.
We never really even drank much on our dates—it was actually refreshing how liquid courage was unnecessary to get to know you. You sent me silly Snapchats of your niece and made me laugh and reflect; I listened to your musings on energy conservation and Americans, firing off questions in attempts to understand the way your mind worked.
We hiked upstate together, wading up to our waists and making out in the cold clarity of the lake. We’d romp through Harlem with an ongoing mission of finding the best tacos—you always ordered al pastor, I’d get the carnitas. I still think the place with all the different sauces and horchata is the best. We spent hours together exploring, drinking wine everywhere (your rooftop, a bar, on the couch with Netflix), smoking weed, making out or simply lazing in the sunshine on your patio balcony without pants, while spying on your neighbors down below with the overachiever garden. You knew your way around the stove; I tried to recreate a ramen burger, which you gamely ate to be nice.
It was a gorgeous, endless summer.
The distance between Queens and the Upper West Side suddenly became too far but not close enough.
Fast forward to five months later. To last Saturday, where I ran into your arms because my heart was pounding so fast, not from the four flights of stairs to your door but because I felt so nervous about the brewing storm of anxiety in my mind. You were in the middle of making us tea—I didn’t accept a cup when you offered, partially because of the looming sadness I felt in knowing it may be the last.
I poured my fears out to you; you poured out the pain in your heart. I learned you’d been hurt before. In that moment, we were just two people equally together and alone. In that moment, I wanted to go back in time to the man you were and hug you, tell you things would be okay. But I know you already know that they will be.
And then we realized, is this as far as we can go?
These are words of preservation, honoring a world in which you and I lived these past five months, sprinkled with silly jokes and weird animal nicknames. And I just wanted you to read them and know what they meant to me. I’m smiling because I will never view this city in the same way.
This is an I miss you, a thank you for being everything you are. For meeting me on that warm July day, for asking permission to kiss me for the first time after our walk along the High Line, for challenging my thoughts and giving my heart wings in a city that can be so harsh and frigid and wretched yet so maddeningly beautiful at the same time. For finding the courage to be vulnerable with me, even if it was only for a moment and the most you could find within yourself to give. And to let you know that I understand.
Like you said, maybe this isn’t goodbye, but the start of something new for both of us. When I pass you on the street, or while entering our next-door-neighbor office buildings, I look forward to saying hi and looking at you like it’s July again, just two open people who see the other exactly as they are, and all they can both be.