In the 10 minutes before catching my bus, I stopped brushing my teeth and yelled to my roommate, “what if I’m getting catfished…?” He chuckled. “Just run home. It’s a straight shot back home.” That looming, unknowing feeling hovered as knots in my stomach as I waited for him in the rain against the side of the restaurant. Fifteen minutes went by as I kept my head down, staring at my boots, wondering if they could be used as Nikes if need be. I saw a pair of Pumas stop before me and looked up. It was the same face I had been seeing for six months, in pictures, in videos, in Snapchats, smiling back at me. I hugged him, mostly out of relief. He was really him.
Two weeks before Halloween, I matched with this adorable redhead: big green eyes, bright ginger beard, and a smile for days.
I quickly learned that he lives Colorado. He was just here visiting his sister and was back home before I even had a chance. We exchanged numbers and talked quite a bit. Guys came and went on my end, but he was always a comforting constant. If I ever needed some male attention or a smile to brighten my day, he was just a text away.
I never gave him much thought. I never really banked on him coming back to Chicago, or if he did, I wouldn’t see him. He was simple and modest, in a good way. He had a stable 9-5 desk job, went to go the gym religiously, volunteered for studies at the nearby university, had a small group of married friends he went out with, nerded out over Star Wars and the Broncos. Even in dirtier times, his naiveté would become a bit much for me. A Snap of his junk, explaining how he’s “defently hard.” While he had nothing but pure intentions, his uprightness made me cringe a bit. He was still a sweetheart who asked me about my day before ever addressing himself.
In the three weeks warning of his arrival back to Chicago, he was very excited to see me, but I had an menacing feeling I wasn’t going to actually see him, or worse: meet him and hate every minute of it.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been nervous on a first date. I didn’t even know I was until he pointed it out. I was clinking my nails against my pint glass as he asked if I was okay. ‘Shit,’ I thought to myself, ‘I am actually nervous. Whatthefuck.’ I was literally talking into the air, avoiding the gaze of his gorgeous green eyes. I remember him telling me he was nervous when he first told me he was coming to Chicago. I wasn’t alone in this boat. As we started to eat and introduced him to Malort, things became much more relaxed. From the moment he took my hand walking in the rain to the bar, I understood him better.
Every quirk I had read from him was being acted out in real time. We stood in line outside the bar and I looked at him; he pushed my hood off so he could see me as he grabbed either side of my face. He smiled as he put his hand in mine and led us into the bar.
We quickly became those people that have to be touching their other person. We drank, and laughed at how awful I am at skeeball. The place was fucking packed and we had to be shoved next to the bar in order to have any room around us. We were talking as he suddenly started to close in. I quickly dodged it and laughed with this cheeck against mine. “Oh shit. I fucked it up, didn’t I? I’m sorry.” “No, no. I just don’t think we should be kissing in a bar.” He agreed with a sad grin on his face. I told him there are two things I have to do before we go to the next bar: pee and work the photobooth. “You’re gonna leave me here alone…?” I kissed his temple and disappeared into the crowd.
As we got in line for the photobooth, I could tell the alcohol was kicking in and we were noticeably more giddy. We climbed in and gave the camera silly faces as I sat on his lap. As we kept posing past the last shot, I kissed him on the cheek as the lights went off. But that wasn’t what I wanted. I can finally cross ‘kissing in a photobooth’ off the list. We walked to the L, which he had only been on once. The blue line was packed and we were whispering to one another. A man, who was clearly homeless, entered our car, making loud jokes and shaking his cup for change. I’m sure he could smell the tourist on Mikey and made a bee line for us. I’m trying to get him to avoid eye contact so this dude goes away, but Mikey is just enabling him by taking out his wallet. Our stop was next, thankfully. The man looked at the two of us holding hands, who are of similar height and hair color, and asks, “wait, are ya’ll dating, or brother and sister?” As the doors open, I replied, “both,” grabbed his hand, and jetted onto the platform. That poor man’s confused face was the last thing I saw as the doors closed while I heard laughter from the other passengers.
The next bar was dead compared to the last. We found the last available booth and, with his arm around me, became very snug. We only stayed for one round as we knew we were already drunk. We hopped on the bus and soon enough, sipping drinks on my couch. That night and all the next morning, I haven’t been shown that much physical affection since I was in high school. I had forgotten what it was like to have someone who wasn’t afraid to show how they felt.
I forgot that I liked to be kissed for days.
As wary as I was when he first held me, I grew comfortable to his touch as I was showered to sleep with his endearment and warmth. He was almost hogging the bed in order to get closer to me, but I’m one of those people who can either sleep or cuddle, never both. I stopped the unconscious withdrawal and let him in.
After how much we drank and late we stayed up, we were surprisingly awake; even admitting that was one of the best night’s sleep he’s gotten in a long time. He literally jumped on me when he came back from the bathroom and I had to tickle him to get him off. He kissed my face goodbye as I stood by the outside gate in my onesie pajamas, which he seen me in pictures dozens of times.
I tried to see him the night before he flew back home, but he couldn’t make it out. “No, don’t wait for me. I still want you to have fun and do something tonight. I just feel so bad about this. You know I want to see you. I want to do my best and make you happy.”
Mikey is one of the sweetest men I’ve had the privilege of meeting. He is the old fashioned gentleman who paid, and got mad when I paid, opened doors, looked for my own comfort before his own; he made me feel wanted and beautiful. The bravery of being soft. They don’t make them like that anymore. I sold him short before I had the chance to even meet him and I was so glad to be wrong. I based him so solely on how he was via text. I had been so concentrated how comically and sexually compatible I have to be with someone, I forgot that not every connection has to be solely about those traits. The only problem between Mikey and I is that he wanted to give more than he actually could. And I, selfishly, would have taken it all, foolishly thinking we had more time.