Brent and I separated. Amicably, loving, tenderly — separated. Instead of a breakup, we’re seeing this as a shift. We’re moving to the next stage of our relationship: friendship.
Brent is one of the best humans I know. I hope the people who read my book can see that. I love him very much. He loves me.
Loving breakups don’t pack the drama that outside observers tend to want from them. I don’t have any anger or hurt to lay on the page. I feel grateful to have known love without any silly societal norms, expectations, or demands. I am thankful to have a friend who was willing to buck the norms with me for a little bit. We went on an adventure together until it was time to end it.
We plan to continue talking regularly and I’m sure some cuddling and sex are in our future. But as boyfriends, we were experiencing friction, and that friction was threatening the friendship we started with. I chose the friendship, the deeper thing, and he did, too.
The phrase “decoupling” has been used to describe breakups like this: a mostly semantic severance, no slammed doors or screaming, just an agreement to no longer apply the designation of “boyfriend” to each other. I won’t involve him in every decision going forward. I will no longer tack the pressures and expectations that go with the idea of partnership onto what was — and hopefully will remain — an affectionate bond between two men.
We were simply running out of things we had in common with each other. I have changed a lot in the six years we’ve known each other. He has, too. Our interests diverged. We became oriented to different social groups and different tastes. My relationship with him was right in its time, and this feels like the right next step. I used to view our differences — his mind for tech and business, mine for art and ideas — as good things, but they increasingly became gaps that grew harder to cross.
I believe I was using my relationship as a distraction, something to prevent me from addressing things in my life that needed addressing. I have big questions about my next steps and my career, and I believe that I need to figure these answers out on my own.
So maybe that’s what this post is: a call to the ether, to the dark god that watches over me. I am, to use an overused phrase, looking for a sign. It isn’t wise to wait around for signs, but I’ve had luck in this area — I have read some cards correctly — so I’m hoping to pull another rabbit out of my hat.
Brent was a card I read correctly. He was a gift. I am honored to have been his boyfriend.
Another good card was when I moved to New York. Brent was part of that move. I was living in Atlanta and talked on the phone with him often. He was new to New York and adjusting to it, and in those talks, he told me all his wild sex stories. One day, after one of those calls, I was in an Atlanta mall and saw a t-shirt with New York City on it — a silhouette of buildings printed across the chest with little stars over them. It was a hideous t-shirt and I didn’t buy it, and by itself, it meant nothing; one can find countless New York City t-shirts all over the world. But that was really the point: the world was mystified by this place, entranced by its mythology, and I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to explore its mythos, its history, and be part of its truth. Brent was a sampling of that truth. Brent made me want to be a New Yorker.
When I was about ten years old, I was in a taxi with my parents, driving over one of the city’s bridges at night. This was my first visit to New York City. I saw the buildings of Manhattan for the first time: columns of stars. We did Broadway, got cheap tourist trinkets, and ate in Little Italy alongside all the other tourists — and I fell madly in love with the city. Brent also had a childhood experience like this: a visit to New York City that ignited a little obsession, kind of like a crush, that burned for years until he was finally able to come here.
On that first trip, my parents bought me a little memento from a street vendor: a small resin brick with a laser-cut Statue of Liberty inside it. It still sits in my childhood bedroom. We did all the things parents do with young kids on a trip to New York, and for years after, I collected everything I could find about the city: guide books, posters, and art. Brent, I later learned, did the same.
Though Brent and I met in Savannah, Georgia, and started our official courtship in Atlanta, it was fitting that we truly found each other and became right for each other here in New York. We made our way here and fell in love. What more could one want? Interestingly, the end of my relationship with him feels like the end of something in New York City, too.
The wonder of any city diminishes after you live in it for a bit. Cities grow smaller with time and familiarity. But Brent and I know this: every now and then, New York drops a taste of that thing that first drew us here. You turn a corner and are struck by it — the sunset between buildings, the people, all of it — and your heart makes that little leap again. Most New Yorkers know the city is a slog — it’s frustrating and overpriced, and its expenses never quite justify its pleasures — but we hang on for those moments when the drumbeat of the city’s heart matches our own. There is no feeling in the world like being in sync — on top, confident, proud — with New York.
Brent, if you’re reading this, thanks for sharing the city with me. I love you. I’m your friend to the end.