I had just flown from metro Detroit to Seattle when he greeted me with flowers and no, I was not sleepless, but certainly restless. It took four hours and 30 minutes to get to him, plus $596 for only our second date.
Was this the worst gay social experiment in the history of gay social experiments? It was only our second date or meet-up or something, and I almost didn’t give it a chance because it’s easier not to. But friends don’t let friends pass on budding romances. I’m glad to have a friend like that. That same friend stressed that I go. Have fun, he told me. See what happens. Don’t overthink it. “This is your husband,” he teased, except you never know with him.
That friend saw it happen: We both met Mr. Seattle in Palm Springs for a very gay poolside barbecue. Six-plus feet, rugged, perfect smile, a living He-Man – I was into it. And apparently so was he. A few flirty come-ons later, the shindig went from casual dinner party to scandalous skinny-dipping reality show with a literal sideshow on the side of the house – our very own version of Fire Island.
Just hours into our conversation, he invited me out to Seattle for an upcoming Pride Brunch he was hosting. Nice gesture, but come on, pay a month’s rent to fly across the country for a man? I didn’t have enough spiked fruity whatever-they-were-serving to even fathom going.
However, when I got home to Michigan, I couldn’t get him off my mind.
We texted every day, and then he called me. Even though friends urged me to pack my bags and go, I kept trying to talk myself out of taking him up on his invitation for fear that I’d be investing too much in something that wouldn’t work out…or something that would. Could I even date someone 2,300 miles away? Was I wasting our time? But a two-hour conversation sealed the deal. I was in. I was going.
This is the most I’d spent on a second date. Not just money. I’m talking time. I was with him Thursday night through early Monday morning. A full weekend and then some. It was exhilarating…and overwhelming.
At first, it was easy to be distracted by Pride Brunch prep and sightseeing. I walked the parade with Mr. Seattle in a bit of a glow. He held two of my fingers. This was him doing us both a sweet favor: The unusually high temps made hand-holding a sweaty experience. We ate deep-fried halibut and made small-talk about self-care. We obsessed over Lorde’s “Supercut.” My life then was a pop song. I cranked that song every time it came on. I wanted him to hear every word.
By the end of the trip, I wasn’t the only one singing it – he was too.
During the final stretch, it got intense. I opened up to him the night beforeI flew home to Michiganabout my past relationships. He told me about his. Meeting his family, his closest friends, his neighbors – my mind was trying to catch up witheverything. There was a lot to process. Eventually, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just seeing Mr. Seattle like you would during a second date at a coffee house or over dinner or at a bar – in just 72 hours, I was seeing him through his people and their secondhand stories.
And I wasn’t just getting to know his life – for those few days, I was a part of it.
I now know that, as a child, he adored his lesbian aunt’s partner’s sweet face. He loved scooping it between his hands. I know his mom is hard-working like mine. His sister is spunky, and I like that. His elderly, Meryl Streep-lookalike neighbor brought him homemade cinnamon rolls to thank him for inviting her to his Pride Brunch. The affixed note fondly acknowledged the conversation I had with her, which was gratifying. He loved that as much as I did. It made me feel closer to him like everything did that weekend.
And because we basically lived together for a weekend, I know his living space is about as clean as mine (he said he was living like a “dude” before I came over). I know he gets up earlier than I do (but he’ll let me sleep in) and we both eat 0% Fage (that’s something, right?) and that he once died for eight minutes (heart condition) and then he almost died again but his defibrillator saved him.
I think back to what he revealed before I found the friend-summoned courage to make the trip out to see him: He told me he wanted something real. Is “real” purely a pipe dream these days? Have we become stuck in our day-to-day ways, accustomed to collecting dick pics and partaking in endless, dead-end chatter?
This felt real. Happy real, fast real, Fage real, good real, scary real, phone-call real, flowers-at-the-airport real, finger-holding-at-Pride real. Real I might not have known, but the kind I’m glad I do.