A Single Man
There were so many times I looked into your eyes and wondered what you were really thinking, as the sweetest words I’d ever heard came pouring out of your mouth. That damn mouth, crooked smile, with a kiss that I swear could burn my lips and cure my skepticism. You were never exaggerated, of course, that wouldn’t be you at all though it would be me, and you always said the words I thought I’d waited the entirety of my life to hear.
You’re everything I want. I’m better because of you. I love you. I love us.
Like a lovesick schoolgirl, dizzy with the promise of love and passion and a future with someone where nothing could stop us, I admit I excused more than I should have. What you promised only a fool would turn away and this fool was in deep. Of course, that’s easier to come to terms with now that it’s fully four years after you broke my heart — the words then, less perfect if not just as powerful. It’s easier to come to terms with what I excused because those words should have broken me right along with my heart.
I’m not in love with you. I don’t know who I am anymore. I should want to be with you, and only you, but I don’t.
And you know what? I didn’t break at all.
Alone, I made my way through the busy streets of the city of Big Shoulders. Indeed they are. But I was never alone — I earned the love of many friends, some now more like family, and have nurtured some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. In my first truly challenging professional endeavor, I succeeded; hell, I fucking killed it. I dove into a job working for a man who I will forever respect because he saw something in me — plucked me out of the bowels of LinkedIn (and Ohio) and gave me my first real shot at something real in The Big City.
No, I don’t mean you. I have made truly lasting friendships from that first job, reminiscent of the kinds I made in Ohio and Orlando. You can’t put a price tag on the people that are my version of family. So many of the dreams we shared I have made come true for myself and I am now at a point in my career where I can command the lifestyle we said we’d have. All on my own.
I didn’t break at all. Though it might be said that my attempts at love after you haven’t been quite as successful as I would like, I have met the most incredible men. Men who have shown me that I am worthy, deserving, even owed love. I haven’t been ready or they haven’t but they have been honest with me and I with them. These are men that will be with me forever, with whom I can still talk and laugh and share a beer with — unlike you. You either couldn’t forgive yourself or you couldn’t forgive me for forgiving you, whatever that is supposed to accomplish, and so you look past me when you see me or ignore me on the street, on your phone when I send you a happy memory. For what it’s worth, I’d welcome your friendship any day.
Dreams we shared have come true for me, through hard work and a little luck and a lot of trust in myself and the world around me — from the dream job to the dream home to the dream dog (even if she’s not mine, and I will have to bid her goodbye soon). What I’ve learned the most about all of this, this life, is that the end of an us is not the end of a me: I went to parties, some on a beach in Massachusetts and some in an ill-fated, world-renowned theatre in New York; I’ve volunteered, I’ve danced and crossfitted and written investment banking policies and loved bacon and cooked it and entertained 30 hungry men for brunch and I saw my first international border. I was sad sometimes, but mostly I was happy. I am happy.
I write this memory as I sit on a transoceanic Boeing 767 non-stop to Paris and remember how we were going to see the world together. In a few short hours, I will see Paris and Rennes and Mont St. Michelle and tomorrow I will see Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia and eat baccarat and skinny dip in Sitges. I’ve made it. Me — and it feels so good.
My time in our city is short, as the wind that whips north on State and cuts over Wacker toward The Drive starts to lift me up and take me westward, past Southport and Greenview and Ashland and Iowa and Colorado. As I get ready to leave the City of Us, I can’t help but wonder what could have been — who could stop me? Me, dammit. And it feels so good. I can stop me from thinking that anything could be better than the life I have made for myself, because there is no life better than this one. I am not perfect — far from it — but I am good, and kind, and loving, driven, honest and strong. And I am the luckiest man I know. I have friends — all over the city, the country, the world — that would do anything for me, and I for them. I have a family, small and mighty though they be, that will always be there to celebrate me and to pick me up and to remind me who I am when I get lost.
I can stop me from thinking that anything could be better than the life I have made for myself, because there is no life better than this one.
So I can finally (Finally! I know, right?) say goodbye to big u “Us.” Man, it was good — a year of love and almost four of figuring out that I am able, capable, and stable enough to make all those dreams come true — dreams for two, for one. We are nothing in this life without the moments we remember, and please know that little u “us” is a fantastic memory. But I’m going to make as many moments as I can, as many dreams I can a reality. Because I have a lot more to give, and there’s this amazing life to live, and so much more worth remembering. A single man, making my way through the world and this life, dreaming and laughing and loving.
And never really alone at all.