It’s a quarter to three on a Sunday. It’s the first day of July and among so many things that I am thinking about, I am thinking how fast this year has gone by. Already, we have arrived at the seventh month of the calendar. The weather has only just begun to get hot, and the nights possess that cool balminess that carries with it a scent of earth and metropolitan grit. I’m only twenty-three. He is only half a year older than I am, but when I look at him I see a man; when I look at myself I still see a boy.
A year and a half it’s been since I last laid my eyes on him. Eighteen long months have elapsed since I slept by his side on that cold December night. I awoke before him the following morning; both of us naked, and he lay there asleep facing me. So blissful and calm and dreamy he appeared. Having stirred, I seemed also to have disrupted him from sleep just enough for him to curl up closer to me, onto my chest. I breathed him in and I felt just as happy and serene as he looked in his slumber. My hands found their way to the sandy blonde gold atop his head and pushed it back from his forehead, my fingers entwined in its soft fullness, and I know I must have been smiling rather dopily, but I didn’t care. I stroked his hair because I just wanted to make him feel safe and wanted. I remember thinking that I had succeeded, and then I knew I had because his words affirmed it. In a groggy-sleepy whisper he told me that it felt so nice and continued to doze.
I was scheduled to work at noon that day. The alarm I set had not gone off yet, so I was savoring these moments before it did and I had to get ready to leave. I didn’t want to go, but I had to. I showered, got dressed and we shared a cigarette together on his stoop before I went on my way. I sat close to him because I am always cold. We spoke about the day ahead. I remember we landed on the subject of my cynicism towards people. It’s easy to develop that sense of aversion, I think – especially in New York. He told me that he once felt the same way, but that there came a point where he made a decision to stop; he would change. He would look at everything day to day with love. He would wish every passerby the best day, and hope that in return his positivity would pay off. He told me that it worked for him. You may be able to imagine how skeptical I was about it all, but something about him made me want to try it too. There was so much that I wanted to try, so much that I wanted to learn from him. Our cigarettes were all but ash at that point, and it was time for me to start my commute. A long embrace later, I turned and walked away. I didn’t know I would not see him again until this past Thursday.
Five hundred and forty-five days after that embrace, I spent carrying around this shot in the heart. I wondered what happened for so long after the fact. I sent him messages. I called him. I cried. He knew how I felt because I kept telling him, but nothing. There was nothing that he gave me. Over time I gave up. I had to. I had to come to the decision that if he could not reciprocate what I was putting out there for him, that if he could so easily just shut the book on me, then I had to do the same. Being sad is not a way to live. Quite frankly it just doesn’t get you shit. More so than that it just takes away. For me it took away my appetite, my will to be awake for longer than I absolutely had to. It took away any shred of hope that there was someone out there for me, who wanted me for me, and every single ounce of neurosis, social-awkwardness, self-consciousness, trivialism, cynicism, and sarcasm that I possess. Hopeless. I felt hopeless.
But life is funny, isn’t it? It is! All this time elapsed, and all hopes of ever seeing him or stroking his hair, or of looking up from my plate and across at him to catch his gaze on me – my breath stolen by it – gone, and yet there we sat, together, him and I under a bridge with the breeze gathering around us. He doesn’t deserve me he said. He doesn’t come from anything good he explained. He ran because he was afraid. I was too much and I scared him. He felt something that he never felt before and it petrified him so much that all he could do was run because running was all he’s ever known how to do. Life has not been kind to him. His family isn’t ideal. He said I deserve a prince, but the he, he was only a mere trailer park kid. He had no right to ask anything of me. He didn’t know how I could ever trust him again after the way he acted. He explained it all, and I finally had the answers to all the questions that had ever swam through my head about him and I. Know that I felt nothing but happiness with you, he told me. Surely he must know that I had felt exactly the same way.
That day under The Hell’s Gate bridge was the last time I ever saw Eric.