“Can I tell you something?” He asked.
“I have the biggest crush on you.”
Just like that.
I have a crush on him too. A big one. But even though I know he's been single for a while, I haven't made my move. Can't. I could anger the gods just thinking about it. He's a Hanukkah candle. Can look but you can't touch.
Now he's standing in front of me in a club his hands on my waist. I should walk away but my legs, they won't move.
We dance a bit. I can feel his breath on my ear, his heart pounding underneath his shirt. Then, just as we're about to kiss, just at the moment a 60-piece orchestra would hit the crescendo in a romance flick, a clearing of the throat.
“I don’t do one night stands,” he says.
“But I’d like to see you again.”
I pull out my phone, turn it on. Blue on his face, his eyes, his clothes. I punch in the number, then look at him.
He says good-bye. He's about to leave.
One last try.
“Can’t we just cuddle?” I say, a smile on my face.
He looks at me. I can tell he doesn’t trust my intentions. He knows.
“Cross my heart, hope to die.”
We head out, walk the five blocks to his apartment. It’s cold out.
“Do you remember my name?”
“Do you remember when we met?”
How could I forget? This is where I go back. Tell you the story I never thought I’d tell.
John was an up and coming DJ with a regular gig at a small East Village bar. A cozy place where my friends and I used to hang out on Thursday nights. I remember the first time I walked through the door, saw him. Tall, lanky, beautiful face, a body that wouldn't quit. He was nothing short of stunning. It wasn't unusual for guys to trip over their step as their eyes caught the sight of John in his booth, his ear glued to his shoulder.
I’ll admit. I had my eye on him too, even though I knew he had a boyfriend. I think deep down I never thought he’d go for it, which is why I flirted. Shamelessly. But one day he bit. And before I knew it, we were in bed, his elongated muscles and smooth skin all around me.
It was one night. We never talked about it again. John had a boyfriend, I had Jewish guilt. And that was that.
Then one day as I'm at the bar, John's boyfriend walked in. Tall, blonde, thin-rimmed glasses. Cute. Nerdy cute. John's total opposite.
"Ethan, this is my boyfriend, Aaron."
A look, a smile. Trouble, capital F.
Aaron's being nice, a little too nice. He's chatty, his hand's touching the small of my back, then the back of my leg. His eyes are smiling at me, he's got that look.
I'm sweating bullets. This is dangerous; I'm playing with fire. I should stop, go home. But Aaron's too cute. He's got big hands.
Then, as John turns around looking for a record, Aaron grabs my arm, pulls me aside. We're in the bathroom. We're making out. He's on his knees. I'm going to hell.
The story doesn't end well. The gods, they don't like hubris. Aaron ended up telling John. John confessed to Aaron and I was caught in the crosshairs of two angry lovers.
Cold shoulders, looks that could kill, months of guilt and shame and the knowledge that I'm not above trash. The white kind.
I heard from friends John and Aaron split soon after that.
"Yeah, we kind figured if that happened, it wasn't a good sign," Aaron told me when I ran into him months later.
More Guilt, more shame. Lowest of the low. Gutter.
I bumped into John in Provincetown that summer. Was waiting for a table on Commercial Street when I noticed him having dinner with another boy. It was a first date, I could tell. Something about the way they looked into each other's eyes, the way their bodies leaned forward.
"What's up man?"
"I'm good and you?"
"Good, Ethan this is Austin, Austin, Ethan."
There was no hate in his voice. He was with someone new now. Life, funny that way.
I'd see them, John and his new boy, around. Always very close, always happy. They looked cute together. Then it happened. A crush. Nothing immediate. Took a while before I noticed how beautiful Austin actually was. Happens sometimes. You don't see someone's magic right away. Then you wonder how you missed it.
There was something in Austin's eyes, a kind of tenderness. Wisdom too.
But with my past, our indirect history, I figured best to ignore it.
Now we're walking to his place in the East Village. It's nighttime and he's just told me he likes me. Life, funny that way.
In his bedroom, in the dark, we get naked, and under the covers. We hug, we touch, but we have no sex. At one point he kisses me, soft on the lips. A good kiss. I can feel it in my toes.
"I've wanted to that for seven months," he says.
I feel like saying, "Yeah, me too." But I'm not that fearless.
I touch his body, his beautiful flat stomach. He sighs. I look into his eyes and I know I could have sex with him right now. He's mine for the taking.
But I don't.
"No sex remember?" I say.
"Are you sure?"
He's not offended. He knows it means I like him.
In the morning I get up, go home. Amazed at the fact that this boy likes me. Amazed at life's incredible twists and turns. But even more amazed that in my 35 years on this earth, this is my first time "just cuddling."