I’m single now. I won’t spill all the details. So much of my life is for public consumption, so this needn’t be.
I learned from a past breakup that some things should be protected — not everything in my life must be fodder for writing. Using the harder parts of my relationships with good men to build an audience was, though well-intentioned, invariably cruel and disrespectful.
Brent is a good man. He is one of the best men I know. I hope the people who read my book see that. I love him very much. He loves me.
Loving breakups don’t pack the drama that outside observers often want from them. I don’t have any anger or hurt to lay on the page. I feel grateful to have known love as it is, absent of its silly societal expectations and demands, and thankful to have a friend who was willing to buck the norms with me. He went on an adventure with me and left me better for it.
We plan to continue talking regularly — and have — and I’m sure some cuddling and sex nights are in our future. But as boyfriends, we were experiencing great 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 matches, 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 stay — a friendly and affectionate bond between two men.
We were running out of things in common. I 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, different tastes. My relationship with him was right in its time, and this feels like the right next step. I used to see our differences — his mind for tech and business, mine for art and ideas — as good things, but they increasingly became a gap 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 questions about my next steps, my career, and much else, and I need to figure these answers out on my own.
Maybe that’s what this post is: a blind call to the ether, to the dark god that, for whatever reason, keeps watching over me. I am, to use an overused phrase, looking for a sign. It isn’t wise to wait around for signs — most adults are still waiting, decades later — but I’ve had some luck in this area. I’ve read some cards in my life right. Brent was one of them.
Another was when I decided to move to New York: Brent was part of that. I was living in Atlanta and talked on the phone with him often — he was new to New York and still adjusting to it, and told me all his wild stories. One day, after one of these phone calls, I was in an Atlanta mall and saw a t-shirt with New York on it, a silhouette of buildings 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 New York t-shirts all over the world. But that was the point: the world was mystified by this place, enraptured by its mythology, and I wanted the truth. Brent was a sampling of that truth; he made me want to discover it and to see what place I could have within it.
Looking over that shirt, a memory flashed in me from when I was about ten: 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. I saw the buildings of Manhattan for the first time: columns made of stars. We did Broadway, we got cheap tourist chachkis — my parents bought me one of those small glass bricks with a lazer-cut Statue of Liberty inside it from a street vendor. 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 and posters. Brent had the same experience: a childhood visit ignited a fascination that became a promise. Someday, we knew, we would live here. And then we did. And we fell in love.
The wonder of cities diminishes, of course. They 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 dumb — the sunset between buildings, the people, all of it — and your heart feels that childish leap again. Most New Yorkers know the city is a slog — it’s frustrating and overpriced, and its expenses never quite justify its joys — but we hang on for those moments when the drumbeat of the city’s heart matches our step.
Hey Brent, if you’re reading this, thanks for sharing the wonder with me. I’m your friend to the end.