The First Time Ryan Told Me He Loved Me

Was on New Year’s Eve 2018

We had reconnected in mid-December after not talking for 3 months

He had cut things off between us not long after I told him I loved him

I texted him a long, vitriolic screed, and it “rattled him”

We pretended to ignore each other in bars, and it was getting to feel ridiculous

I sent him a heartfelt apology, and we got dinner at Racine’s

Outside, he told me he wanted to keep hanging out, but he was meeting up with his friends, and they still needed to “get the memo”

That was okay, I understood

“I don’t really feel like going out anyway”

Later that night, we both ended up at Trade

“You said you weren’t going out”

“Yeah well after dinner I wanted to decompress”

“You’re drunk”

“Yeah”

“Let’s go fuck with Evan”

We went to get a drink from Evan and exaggeratedly rubbed tongues outside our mouths in front of him, to his surprise and delight

Things were all good between us now, for now

He got drunk and I got drunker and we both got coked-up

We went back to his apartment and had intensely emotional and cathartic makeup sex

“I want to see you”

He insisted on missionary, eye contact

Waking together

“What are we going to do, Ben?”

“I think we already did it”

Ryan went to San Diego for Christmas and I worked at the bar over the holiday

“We always get the Jew to work Christmas”

I FaceTimed my mom as I walked down East Colfax after eating terrible Chinese food

“You’re working on Christmas?!”

“Yeah . . .”

I am estranged from the Jewish side of my family

New Year’s Eve, I bought a couple bottles of Prosecco and headed to Ryan’s

Alcohol and cocaine

We went to Keith and Brendan's, then Trade, then back to Keith and Brendan's

We kissed at midnight

Things wound down and I extracted Ryan from a conversation he was having with a straight couple

We went back to his place

I was inside him from behind

“Oh Ben, I love you”

He froze

“Stop, stop”

I pulled out

He buried his head under a pillow

I rubbed his back

“Hey, hey, did you just . . .”

I was smiling and chuckling

I lifted the pillow and gently turned his face toward mine

“Hey . . .”

He was groaning and shaking his head

“Hey, it’s okay”

He looked at me, tears in his eyes, frowning

“Did you just tell me you love me?”

He nodded woefully

I got emotional

“Those are fighting words––don’t say that shit unless you mean it”

“No, I mean it, I love you, Ben”

“I love you, too”

He looked scared

“How long have you felt this way?”

“Since we got back together”

“Have you ever told anyone this before?”

“No”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I’ve wanted to, but never have”

“Wow”

He was 44 and had never had a boyfriend before, even though he was out since he was 18

“I’m honored”

We resumed

We made love

Waking together

“You told me you loved me last night”

He moaned and pushed his head into my chest

I texted my friend Joey and told him what happened

“Oh boy, buckle up”

What are we going to do?

What are you going to do, Ryan, when you have already done it?

These are not fighting words

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