Today’s the four-year anniversary of my very first break-up. You probably think I’m weird for remembering that. But it was the same day as my brother’s birthday, so I always put them together.
Richie was my first boyfriend. We met in college, two months after I had come out. He was my first for a lot of things – the first guy I went on a date with, the first guy I held hands with, the first guy I hooked-up with. But also not my first for some important things. He wasn’t the first guy I had sex with. He wasn’t the first guy I said “I love you” to. Even though we dated for eight months.
We were good friends. We had the same interests and our conversations flowed so naturally. He had the easiest laugh and the brightest smile. But I think from the start, I knew things wouldn’t work out. At least, not in the long-run. He was my first boyfriend. I can’t imagine ending up with the first guy I ever dated. I’m a big believer in comparatives. I think you have to know bad to appreciate good. The definition of one depends on experiencing and knowing the other. So how can you be happy when you’ve only ever known one thing – one boyfriend, one kisser, one sexual partner. You have no idea what else is out there. How do you really know it’s good – that the two of you are great together – when you haven’t had any other experiences to compare it to?
So yes, I think my relationship with Riche was doomed from the beginning. Any first boyfriend I had would have been the same. But that’s not to say I didn’t have a good relationship with him. I learned so much from him. I had just come out of the closet and he taught me a lot about what it was to be gay. And we were great friends. Just never lovers. Those three words never crossed either of our lips.
When Richie ended things, I knew it was coming. I didn’t know the date or the time he was going to break up with me, but I knew it was inevitable. It still made me sad, though. I cried and felt lonely for several weeks. But I knew that the break-up was as much my doing as his. I had told him that I didn’t see us dating after I graduated that year. I didn’t love him, so I wasn’t going to do long-distance. And for his part, he didn’t see a reason to keep dating if we had an expiration date.
Just because we didn’t work out romantically, didn’t mean we weren’t good friends. In fact, we both wanted to stay friends. And we tried at first. I remember we went to get coffee a few weeks after we broke up. We went with one of his best friends, a nice buffer to cut through any awkwardness. We were walking across campus, Richie in the middle of our three-across group. It was late October at this point, chilly even in North Carolina. Richie had this disgusting jacket he liked to wear. A beat up brown leather, it had this flipped up collar that was lined with a fuzzy faux-fur that was just ridiculous. We all made fun of him for it, in a light-hearted but also serious way. He was wearing the jacket that day, and not thinking, I reached up and made some comment about the faux-fur as I rubbed it, something I would have done no problem back when we were dating. It wasn’t until after I did it that I realized I shouldn’t have. Richie kind of laughed it off and then moved to the other side so that his friend now walked in the middle.
Richie and I had broken up, but we hadn’t redefined our relationship to just friends. Not yet, at least. I had never been only his friend, and I didn’t know how to be that at first. We didn’t talk for a long time after that. I started dating someone else a few months later and then I graduated.
It must have been two years later or so before I can say we truly were friends again. We weren’t living in the same city, so it’s not like we ever saw each other. But we’d talk online every now and again. At this point he had gotten back together with the boyfriend he’d dated prior to dating me. So I guess the threat of something happening between us dissipated and allowed us to be friends. That or the two years apart let us reset our relationship and start from zero. We got coffee once when he came up to New York City, and then I would make it a point to see him whenever I went down to Philadelphia to visit friends.
We did almost hook-up again this one time, though. It was one of the strangest nights, about two months before I met you.