I waited at the corner of Bleecker Street and Sullivan in the West Village for Jacob to pick me up for dinner. I booked a last minute trip to New York City needing to get away from Toronto. Layoffs were coming at work, so the environment was tense and I had yet another relationship fizzle so I thought a trip would help put things into perspective. And there I was in the West Village.
I’ve known Jacob for ten years now, and despite only seeing each other on occasion, I always felt comfortable around him. We’d originally met when I was living in Paris; he was in the visiting from Boston for business and we spent a few days together. He returned to Paris again after that and we spent more time, and then when I came back to North America but before I moved to Lebanon we went to Provincetown for a few days. There was a lot of affection between the two of us perhaps because we had the same level of emotional intelligence—he understood how I operated from the moment he met me and I was quite sensitive to him too. Since then he moved from Boston to New York.
Jacob finally showed up in a blue Volvo. He reached across the passenger seat and pushed the door open. He looked fancy in his brown wool blazer that hung over his chest. When I got a good look at him though, I could see that something wasn't right—his eyes were void. I kissed him and could smell alcohol of his breath. He started telling how he’d spent the day at Gramercy Park, going on about some key but I couldn’t quite follow because he was slurring his words. He then offered me some weed, which I declined politely—his behavior was very strange.
“What do you feel like eating?” He asked as he parked the car.
“Um, I’m up for anything really.”
“We can walk and find a place.” We circled through the West Village then circled again because we couldn't decide. He told anecdotes along the way about things that happened while he was living in the neighborhood (he lived in Astoria now), jumping from one story to another. I was trying to keep up with his train of thought, but it was somewhat erratic. I was as patient as I could be.
We then stopped at a sex shop and he bought a bottle of poppers. This wasn't as erratic as his other behavior; poppers were kind of our thing. We’d done poppers in the streets of Paris and in the metro; we’d done poppers walking through the Boston Public Garden; we’d flip fucked on poppers; sucked on poppers; had sex in some backroom on poppers—I felt safe enough with him to lose control like that and it was part of our history so I didn't question him. “Do you want to do some now?” he asked, as we continued down the street.
I laughed. “Maybe after dinner.” I did my best to act like everything was fine. He asked what I’d been doing in the city since I'd arrived but he only half listened to my answer and would interrupt to tell me more anecdotes about street corners or nearby stores.
We decided on an Italian restaurant on 6th Avenue that used to be one of his favorite Cuban restaurants—he didn't realize that they'd closed down. They seated us and we silently browsed the menu. After he ordered the wine, looked at me and smiled—I he hadn’t smiled until then. “What have you learned since I last saw you last?” he asked.
“What have I learned?” I found his question jarring, everything considered. “What have I learned?" I was silent for a few moments. “Um, maybe, I guess I learned that life is easier than I sometimes think. I mean, maybe things are more complicated than they actually are—or I make them more complicated. Not sure if that makes sense?”
“Yeah. I don’t know. What about you?”
“I learned that I’m my own worst enemy,” he said without hesitation. I began questioning him further and learned that we were actually saying the same thing. It’s easy to be beaten down by life and then you start beating yourself down, creating more obstacles for yourself because it feels like that's the way life is. What is easy though is to make it seem like it's more difficult than it is when you're your own worst enemy.
As we talked some more I learned that his mother was in very poor health, which concerned him. He was also going through a stressful period at work, describing the environment as “poisonous.” I listened to him, and let him talk.
By the end of dinner I was buzzing from the two bottles of wine we shared. While walking back through the West Village, Jacob started unwrapping the bottle of poppers. I took some this time and suddenly found myself pressed up against a storefront window with him kissing me. I squeezed his pecs. “You still feel the same,” I said. He laughed, and I continued to run my hands across his body. I kissed him with everything that I had. I wanted to heal him and make him all better because I knew he wasn’t okay, but that’s not how things worked—I was also leaving in a couple of day. Still, I pressed my palms against his hips as though it was helping, and ran them up the side of his body, back up to his pecs.
We went back to his car and I basically got naked. He pulled out his cock too. “I want you to suck it,” he said so I did just as a bunch of people passed by. We both chuckled. He lit a joint, then lifted my head and blew smoke back in my mouth. Then more poppers, more kissing, and he sucked me for a bit.
He never came—it was more playful than that. He kissed me, said he loved me and drove me back to my place in the Lower East Side. We knew we wouldn’t see each other again that trip so I gave him a hug and said goodbye.
By Mike Miksche
Mike's work has appeared in Instinct, The Gay and Lesbian Review and Daily Xtra. His first novel, Paris Demands, is out now by Lethe Press
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