You weren’t the first, but you were the first I told. We had one class together in high school, and that was enough. Your hair was a sweet ginger blonde, and I’ve been in love with gingers ever since. You were sweet with the kids at the elementary school we visited, and that made me think you were the most human guy I would ever meet. I built you up before I could be torn down. (We ran into each other once before my fiasco. We were both at Target, I stopped you to talk even though we had nothing to talk about and no mutual anythings. I was there to buy a dog collar, but it was for me and my only solace was that you didn’t know that.) You played baseball, I remember going to the field during PE and seeing you with those reflective sunglasses that reflect like oil slicks. A cap turned backwards on your head. I never appreciated baseball pants until that moment. And how I wanted a peak in the locker room, but of course you had a locker around the corner and no one took showers in PE anymore. (Except for the one time that I saw a football player go in after their practice and I was so excited I had to leave the locker room or risk being caught gawking.) And I was worried about being caught looking, like T once noticed how I stared because he wore briefs and that had a way of showing. I never even got that far with you. Maybe I saw your pale, hairless skin once. Maybe that was only in my dream. After I graduated high school (your senior year) I sent you a message on Facebook. It was long, like my messages always are, making sure to cover all my bases and being absolutely certain a monkey could follow my points. I told you in sum that I wanted you, and I hoped you did too. If not, I would go on my way and we could forget each other. Your response was plain, but enough. You told me you weren’t gay, and that you could ‘help me’. I didn’t even keep the mental space long enough to ask what that meant. I saw you once a year or two later, from a distance.
How many times did I say I’d be on stage with you? or did I only ever tell myself, reassuring no one that we both have talents though none of mine are musical I can’t play guitar (I own two, no one plays them) I can’t play piano (I own too, C used it then got a better one. I left it in the back of my car in summer and now it’s modern art) I can’t even sing (but I still got up with S and did it anyway – a tribute to The Ongoing Wow and we called ourselves The Eternal Yeah – Do you remember?) & I feel like I might even be lying, after all we were on stage together more than once— I remember being a ratchet fairy godmother, your mind, and once, your vampire lover. Once I was the echoing voice for your piece, once you were the voice in mine. (Better than that, you remembered the lines that I hadn’t highlighted) But we never built together— I’ve listened & watched you play your guitar & sing in your bathroom, on the floor by your bed, on stage over & over thanks to videos online & I asked for a CD so you made a video just for me to say you’re sorry (which you didn’t have to do— a line in a movie I saw more than once sticks with me forever, ‘for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one’ so I tell the people I love to never apologize to me, that’s love) that there is no CD (& D ‘liked’ the video which made me furious – it was a video for me & I don’t like him all that much) but most importantly you sang impromptu verse about & for me. I wish I knew all the lyrics to your songs or even the melodies – I keep remembering Peas & Carrots but one of the lines says you love C and he’s your ex now & I don’t know if it could be on the CD I want anymore – we were heart break buddies before I even realized I had a heart to break – I cried in my car to you & had no precedent or procedure for something like that, only ever having felt your tears before – I remember your naked body on stage and how Sadie’s wooden curves rested nicely on your lap (I had to find out her name again but I knew it began with an ‘S’, I always admired the way she knew the chakras, mapped above her as she slept in her black case— the same way I always admired you for a purity you maybe never saw in yourself) your lovely anecdotes before each song as you stripped off your clothes, the casual
way words and notes would slip & be forgotten – how it was part of the experience – you got to be organic – like a fixture in the room— a plant potted in brighter shades than my sickly trees. You belong naked.
And it was supposed to be a secret. A ride with R and I suddenly began crying, and I told her. I loved you. I didn’t even know it, until I brought you over for a night and we got drunk and watched The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra at the Dolen Place house in Iowa City. You were feeling terrible, probably something to do with your girlfriend in another state. You were having a hard time with everything, I wanted to make it better. I got a drink I didn’t want so you would have it for when you came again. You didn’t. I couldn’t come to your concert, I’m sorry. I watched it alone in the basement with headphones and cried whenever you dedicated a song to your girlfriend. You told me once that you were bisexual, and that’s something that seems good at sneaking up on me now. I thought you had made some move, I thought you had told me about relationship troubles, and I began to dream. I would take any chance I could to be with you, offering you a ride home even when it was only two blocks. In a drunken stupor I told everyone at a party I loved you. I thought they would get it, understand what that meant. I, the one who never loved, cried in his car just thinking of how much he cared. Like I had a heart, for once. You play guitar, and you sing, and you play keys, and you play whatever you want. We made something together once. We were the Eternal Yeah. One time performance. But this wasn’t going to be about me. It wasn’t supposed to be. You are a poet, too. I think sometimes you’re too poetic, romantic at the very core, and you are. And I’m not at fault? I self-published books and you thought you would too. So you did. I still have it on my bookcase. Sometimes I pick it up just to look at it, an artifact of another life. I guess I’m sorry I missed your book party as well. I’ve never been good at being around, but maybe you didn’t know that. And that’s lovely. I know your songs, and they hold your voice and music up to my ears to hear the ocean. This is my note in the bottle, and I’m hoping it floats out to you. So one day you will pick it out of the leaky abyss, and read it looking at the sky. A dandelion behind your ear like the picture of you I always loved.
Your voice has been called many things, but I only ever thought it was sexy. But you know that. (Like the night when I asked for your penis size knowing that you were inebriated and might tell me. You did. I asked the question between a myriad of others, social security, PIN number, etc. You chose to answer only that one.) Like I think your body is sexy, and the day I bought you that pizza and you met me there in nothing but sweats. The pants were kind to your package and the hoodie was unzipped enough for me to appreciate your strong chest and hair. One of the few times I want to see a man like that. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of you when masturbating at least once. Twice. Probably more. You told me one night that your girlfriend was coming over and that you had to go because of it. I told you to have fun in a knowing way that acknowledged that which I didn’t actually want to acknowledge. You said you would have fun, in a way that made sure I knew there was sex to be had. It shouldn’t have hurt me, but it did. (Sometimes I think you avoid me because you know I’m interested. Sometimes I think you forget I’m interested and you ignore me.) These are the same thing most of the time. It’s mainly a basis of me wishing and hoping you’d just send me that nude already, y’know, the one you said was probably floating around online right now from an ex-girlfriend. Or just take a new one. When I was drunk on New Years and desperate I sent out a text to every guy I could asking for dick pictures. I don’t know what I wanted from that, I don’t even like porn if all it is is the cock. I like faces, I like bodies, the personality of a person tied to the whole thing. The one time at work when you fixed my collar, I swooned the rest of the day from the touch of your hands. To have a hot body against mine, even however brief… But we aren’t even all that compatible. Does that just make you a hunk of meat to me? How often do I wade through my self-proclaimed romanticism actually just thinking about sweet naked bodies? One time I think you were talking about pancakes and I was touching myself. That was all it took, the timbre of your voice and the idea that maybe you meant to say those words to me. You helped me move things more than once. What a nice thing to do. What a manly thing to do. And it’s honest. How could labor ever be anything but? Maybe when I watch you lift the heavy dresser into your truck, maybe when we carried the heavy table together.
Dane Asmund is a queer writer now based in Denver, but recently in Chicago, and West Des Moines as well. He recently finished his MFA at Columbia College Chicago, and is now writing books of poems, novels, and RPG books.