The beginnings of relationships are often better than their endings. You didn’t know what you soon found out later, don’t know that the person you spent all day lying in bed thinking about it was actually damaged or boring or sad or just not the one for you. It’s hard finding those things out. You want your mind to constantly play tricks on you, to convince yourself that this person is the one for you because you’re so just tired of looking. What’s that Death Cab song? Bah bah, this is the sound of settling! Right. Fuck me. Fuck you.
But I do know one thing for certain. I thought I could love you on the Fourth of July. Admittedly, I didn’t really know you yet but I wanted to see if you were a good fit, wanted to see if I could just be with you forever without wanting to kill myself. So I went to your party on some rooftop. I was 21 and young and Fourth of July just seemed really sexy that year for some reason. Maybe I was showing skin and hadn’t eaten much. Skin always looks better when it’s hungry. I felt confident that you would kiss me that day. Maybe it would be under the fireworks but hopefully it would just be in your bed. I wanted you to find out if you could love me too. Actually, I knew you could. Otherwise, I would’ve never pursued you. It’s funny how someone’s self-esteem can flip flop between utter garbage and overwhelming hubris. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Fourth of July feels special. The air smells like hot dogs and sparklers and everyone has this vague sense of patriotism hanging over them like a red, white, and blue cloud. No one really knows what it means so they take their cues from popular culture and just drink beer and get really happy, which is sooooo American. As I walked to your apartment, I saw little children playing in pools of water. Their parents were drinking Bud Light and talking to each other in the way adults often do. And then there was me. A boy on a mission to smooch some dude, which seemed like the adult gay version of the Fourth of July.
We had kissed a week earlier. It was hot, messy, and primal. It felt like a jolt of electricity had gone through my body, which was why I needed more. I spent the next few days doing the technology song and dance, and it had been a total bummer. You seemed disinterested in picking things up or maybe just really bad at texting. Who knows? I didn’t care because I was going to have you on the Fourth of July regardless.
Having a crush is the ultimate anti-aging cream. Screw Botox. Get a crush on someone once a month and it will keep you looking and behaving like a 17-year-old. As I walked up the steps to your apartment, I felt like a young ripe thing who wanted to be picked. Pick me, pick me!
You answered the door in a tank top and seemed happy to see me. Your grin was sloppily slapped across your face, which seemed to suggest that you were either stoned, drunk, or stupid. I knew it was the former though. You looked sexy. Your shoulders were tan and the beginnings of your chest hair were peeking out of your shirt. I wanted to take you in your room right then and not come out until you were mine and/or fireworks were going off, but social norms wouldn’t let me. Social norms demanded that I go hang out on your roof for awhile with our friends until we both couldn’t take it anymore.
So we did. We hung out on your rooftop in Williamsburg and I said the right things to the right people. I took polaroids that made everyone look cute, young, and happy. One of them was going to be someone’s new default picture on Facebook. I just knew it! We stole glances at each other that seemed to say “hey gurl hey! see you in 20!” The anticipation was killing me. 20 minutes had passed and nothing happened. You seemed to be getting progressively less sober. Seemingly on cue with my thoughts, someone informed me that you had taken mushrooms. I remember then looking over at you immediately and seeing you talk jibberish to the wall. Shit. Mushrooms are more powerful than me. I ain’t got shit on mushrooms.
The sun was going down on the Fourth of July. You had been spending an hour eating bits of cake when I realized this wasn’t going anywhere. I was being red, white, and blue balled. I wasn’t going to find anything out about you on the Fourth of July other than you liked to take hallucinogens.
I went downstairs and found you lying in your bed. I went over to say my goodbye and wondered if this would be the chance to salvage things. You looked sleepy and dazed. Your mouth hung slightly open and I knew if I tried to kiss you, it could be considered rape. I just gave you a long hug instead. You hung on to me like a stuffed animal and nestled your head into my shoulder. In that moment, I felt very proud to be gay and love men because the tenderness that can exist between two males can leave you breathless.
You weren’t going to be mine on the Fourth of July. In fact, you weren’t going to be mine for another two months but I didn’t mind the wait. And whenever I felt like you didn’t like me and I should just give it up, I remembered that primal kiss and sleepy bear hug on the Fourth of July and suddenly felt okay about everything.
Our ending is not important, at least not in the context of this story. Our beginning is what will always continue to grab me. Wanting you so badly on the Fourth of July under the bright blue skies and fireworks—that’s what will stick to me like glue. Everything else will dissolve.
Happy Birthday, America. Go kiss someone hard on the mouth.