Let’s Hear It for the BOYS

Hello Mr. Magazine - - CONTENTS - Zach Stafford

I don’t know what com­pelled me to wish you a happy birth­day.

I mean, sure, I guess I had been mulling it over for a few days. I knew it was com­ing up – my one chance to make it seem like I was only mes­sag­ing you be­cause of the lit­tle birth­day gift that popped up on my Face­book page urg­ing me to say hello and buy you a $25 Star­bucks gift card to show you I care.

But in the days be­fore your birth­day, I couldn’t fig­ure out the best way to reach out to you.

“HAPPY BIRTH­DAY!” was, of course, too stan­dard, too easy to get lost in the mon­soon of friends tak­ing ad­van­tage of the an­nual re­minder that you ex­ist.

“Hey you! Happy birth­day! It’s been so long – want to do din­ner at this sushi place I like next Tues­day af­ter work, like 6:30? I’ll make a reser­va­tion!” was too likely to make me seem like I put way too much thought into how I could land my­self on your cal­en­dar.

My lat­est draft, the draft that was clos­est to how I re­ally felt, was even worse.

“Happy birth­day – have an amaz­ing day! And when you get a chance next week, let’s hang out and cel­e­brate! I miss you. I want to pick up where we left off now that you’re here and set­tled into the city. I want to tell you how of­ten I think about what we could have been and what we were sup­posed to be. I want to make sure that you don’t be­come the phone call I re­gret never mak­ing or the text I re­gret never send­ing. See you soon?”

Ob­vi­ously, I couldn’t send that. I couldn’t have you think­ing that I’m some­one who writes in clichés and crosses his fin­gers that some­day he will be the boy who in­spires a syrupy-though-hummable pop song. Be­cause I don’t. Not re­ally. It’s just. It’s just…I know you live in the city now. I know that you’re lov­ing your smug lit­tle Up­per East Side apart­ment with your new room­mates and your new cat and your new work­out reg­i­men that you talk about too much on Face­book.

You’ve al­ready been here for a few months – why haven’t we re­con­nected yet? Did any­thing even re­ally go wrong since the last time I saw you?

I feel like, maybe, things just ended – a nat­u­ral break. An ex­cuse for you to stop and eject your col­lege life, switch it out for a new cas­sette – a blank tape with space for the next eight years of your med­i­cal school train­ing.

But there was still some room left on the old cas­sette – wasn’t there? Or couldn’t we, like, trans­fer it all to MP3 and mash up the old mem­o­ries with new mem­o­ries? Take the best of the clas­sics (me!) and spring board it into a new com­pi­la­tion called My Life Be­com­ing a Doc­tor Along­side My Won­der­ful and En­cour­ag­ing Boyfriend Who Has a Nice Ass and a Tilted but En­dear­ing Smile.

We had a good thing go­ing. That one week – the week where you started classes but I didn’t have school yet – we had worked out a sys­tem. I wrote all day in my un­der­wear, cleaned up the house, and started on din­ner. You came back, and you greeted me with a re­as­sur­ing kiss – a kiss that told me that you wanted me there, the re­li­able boyfriend who would sup­port your crazy busy life­style and keep him­self sat­is­fied with his own ca­reer and his own projects and his own plans to dec­o­rate the nurs­ery.

I loved that we could talk for hours – that you could help me with my Span­ish home­work and that I could be your sound­ing board while you de­bated all of the things you could do af­ter col­lege. I loved hear­ing about your grad­u­a­tion and shar­ing with you the amaz­ing highs and dark lows of my se­mes­ter abroad. I loved cheer­ing you on when you got five med school ac­cep­tance let­ters and chat­ting you with a pas­sion­ate fuck those U Penn ass­holes when the re­jec­tion let­ter ar­rived.

I loved our trip to the beach, the mini-va­ca­tion you sug­gested right be­fore you set off for your new life. You held my hand on the board­walk and told me how cute I looked in my stupid sun­glasses, and I teased you about your tiny bathing suit, and we ate a din­ner des­tined for only the Kingli­est of the Jersey Shore Kings. We had a re­ally per­fect night. When we kissed good­bye, I got a vibe that told me Can’t wait to see you again, and it won’t be for a re­ally long time – but wait for me, you amaz­ing stud, be­cause we’re re­ally cute to­gether. I was pretty sure we were leav­ing

the door open for a time like this. A time like now. A time when you’re here and I’m here and time has done only good things for both of us.

You’ve been do­ing your doc­tor thing and all – but I’ve been grow­ing up, too. I grad­u­ated from col­lege, be­gan work­ing in a field where I’m told I “show po­ten­tial,” moved into a shitty apart­ment, then moved again to a less shitty apart­ment. I fell in love, I was dumped, I tried to con­vince him that he didn’t re­ally mean to dump me, and then he as­sured me months later that yes, in­deed, he re­ally did mean to dump me.

But the wound grew fainter and my heart stopped hurt­ing, and since then, I’ve been on dozens of dates. The Mor­mon who told me how much he hated him­self and the world. The first date who con­fessed to pre­emp­tively Googling me be­fore pick­ing a fight over some­thing I wrote about Adam Lam­bert in my col­lege mag­a­zine. The guy who I fell asleep on be­fore I could even take my clothes off.

And through­out all of that, a part of me was think­ing about you and won­der­ing when we would get the chance to start things up again, pick up right where we left off, re­dis­cover what a Power Cou­ple we were des­tined to be.

When I saw that it was your birth­day, that’s what I wanted to tell you.

I was go­ing to call you up and I was go­ing to wish you a happy birth­day and tell you how ex­cited I was to see you back in the city. I was go­ing to ask you to din­ner – just a po­lite wel­come-to-the-city catch-up – and I was go­ing to sug­gest meet­ing up at this cute ta­pas place that you would re­ally love. I was go­ing to tell you how proud I am of all that you’ve ac­com­plished, and I was go­ing to tell you how happy I am with my life and my ca­reer and my apart­ment and my weight. And I was go­ing to subtly demon­strate to you that, if you made room for me on that new cas­sette, I could be your guy. I could be a re­ally great guy for you.

But when I picked up my phone, I thought back to nine months be­fore, and six months be­fore, and four months be­fore, when I had Face­book chat­ted you, and left you a voice­mail, and sent you a text mes­sage. And I re­mem­bered how dis­ap­pointed I was when I never got a re­sponse – even af­ter the Face­book chat win­dow as­sured me that my WEL­COME TO THE CITY! How did the move go?! mes­sage had been Read.

And so, in­stead, the con­ver­sa­tion on June 28 was quick. Sim­ple. A text that didn’t re­quire a re­sponse but left it open to a con­ver­sa­tion where you could tell me that you had also been think­ing about me, won­der­ing when we would fi­nally com­mit to a con­nec­tion we made four years ago. “Happy birth­day! I hope you’re do­ing well.” It took you a minute to get back to me: “Thanks – you too.” Adam Po­laski is a writer liv­ing in New York City who doesn’t want to have to wait so long. Fol­low him @AdamPo­laski.

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