I met Buckminster on Scruff—traditionally a gay hookup app, for many a gay dating app—in early 2014. On our first date he disclosed that he’d be returning to grad school in the fall. He was humble about his applications, but knew that he had the pick of whichever architecture program he wanted to attend. In my head, I shouted “Columbia! Pick Columbia!,” so that he wouldn’t have to move, and because I liked him right away. But he was leaning toward Yale, which isn’t far but still two hours by train. Buckminster (not his real name, obviously) was everything I wanted in a significant other: smart, humble, ambitious, charming, handsome, healthy, scruffy. Our first-date chemistry was a synchronized blend of wit, sharing histories, making eyes—all very charged, very jittery. It was that rare, harmonious collision that tells you “This…this is going to be an event.” At risk of growing too attached, I set the countdown timer for his departure in my head, and built a fortress around my heart. Guys like him didn’t come along often, and I wanted to soak him up while I could. After a drink, he walked me to my dinner plans, down Ninth Avenue and into West Village. My buddy was there waiting outside, and I told him to go in and get a table. I wanted to steal a kiss goodnight from Buckminster, and to ask for a second date. I got both.
One thing I adored about Buckminster: he would stop mid-block, on any random street, at any odd hour, and look up to admire a building. He would tell me the architect, the history of the structure, details on the trim or the windows or the foundation, as well as the period in which it was built. He knew the questions I would ask before I knew to ask them. Another thing: he wore dark calf socks with shorts, a style that looked misdirected but that he owned with such confidence, so it worked. I started mimicking him, getting sometimes-curious, sometimes-complimentary comments from colleagues and friends; I’ll never do it as well. He would also wear brightly colored socks under his cuffed work khakis. He was so good with socks. A third thing: he had the best restaurant recommendations, like Bobwhite on Avenue C for dinner, or Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop for lunch, near both our offices in Flatiron. They always hit the perfect cross-section of New Yorky and Not Pretentious. And he would routinely get food stuck in his beard in an endearing way. Another thing: he was intentional, which is sadly very rare among gay men. For its elusiveness, it is the most attractive quality to me. Buckminster would say what he felt. He would address concerns. He would divulge insecurities. I trusted him wholly from the start.
In my 2.5 years as a New Yorker at this point, I had dated dozens of men—most just once or twice, but three others very meaningfully. For me, “meaningful” meant that they lasted anywhere between two and six months. None of those was ever integrated into my group of friends, however, as I was very cautious about giving anyone the face value until I knew he would stick around, or that I would keep him. Buckminster broke mold, and fast. He always accepted concert invitations, awkward office +1s, or 2 a.m. dancing at Bedlam. And he invited me to parties at his apartment, introduced me to his brother, and showed me around his own office. Like I said, he was intentional, and his actions further expressed his motives. It took me a month, still, to be exclusive with him. I allowed myself to continue seeing other men for a few weeks, but after a couple aimless pursuits, I realized I was taking away from someone who deserved my complete attention, someone I thought about nearly every minute of every day. I wanted to focus all of my energy on him, since he seemed to be giving me his. After all, our togetherness was finite before he would leave the city, before we would yield to unfortunate timing and split ways at the fork just ahead.
One night at Buckminster’s apartment, his close friend introduced me to another as “the boyfriend.” She didn’t think twice of her word choice, but it lingered in my head the rest of the night. We were just two months into dating, and he had only two more in the city before moving to New Haven. We were exclusive—or at least I was to him, and presumed the same of him to me—but I hadn’t once considered any sort of permanence. After all, he was going to be nose-down in books and sketches and projects for the next three years…in New Haven, which is not a charming place, and a haul to get to. And he would be far too busy to get back to New York very often. Plus, I was finally on my feet in the city, with a good job and a solid group of friends. I wanted to be present in the life I had worked hard to earn, to keep, to preserve. I went into things with Buckminster quite protected, but fully excited, because I knew he fit the mold of the partner I wanted. Only now, with an actual title lingering in the air, I felt myself peddling backwards, afraid he might soon use that loaded word, too.
We went to dinner in Williamsburg for his birthday, to a cute New Yorky and Not Pretentious place below the JMZ line that he had suggested. (I forgot the name of the joint in writing this, which irked me since he probably remembers what we both ordered. I tracked down my April 2014 bank statements, saw an ATM withdrawal for the date, and googled the line-item’s address: Café Moto! All better.) After dinner, we walked hand-in-hand up the waterfront and to Baby’s All Right for a Tove Lo concert. She was hardly off the ground back then, and this was her first U.S. show, so she played maybe seven songs. Before the gig, he halted our cutesy, easy talk and, in his intentional way, opened up to me very vulnerably: “I was checked out, ready to go back to school and say goodbye to everything here. But then I met you. And suddenly I don’t want to go. I have to leave, obviously, but I’ve thought a lot about this, and, since I like you a lot and since things are going so well…I think we should be boyfriends. And we’ll make the distance thing work. I’ve thought a lot about it; I know I want to do this.” He said it with such an earnest, heartfelt, warm expression, that it pained me to tell him we should discuss it at another time, since the show was about to begin. My intentions had never been made clear, but now they were emerging. He smiled in humiliation, in shame, in recoil, in hurt. The opening band took the stage: “Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for having us, we are Great Good Fine OK!” What a shitty name. What shitty timing.
It was agreed that Buckminster and I take time apart—a full week—to find common ground. I went to a wedding in Kansas, and was asked numerous times if I had a boyfriend. It seemed too difficult to explain, and unfair to say I was single, so I told them I was seeing Buckminster. A lot of people were very happy for me, equating success with finding a partner, as many in Kansas do. Upon my return, Buckminster and I met to discuss our union. He went first, and had decided that we needed to end things promptly. Go cold turkey. No more contact in any way. It would be the easiest way to move on, he said. I told him I originally thought we could have made it to July, that we could have enjoyed two more months together. But on this night, we found our common ground: my mind was also changed, and I too believed we should cease contact. We embraced one final time in his doorway. A tearful goodbye kiss, a “good luck kiddo,” and a “you too.” I walked very, very slowly down his stairwell, my vision drowned, already missing him, and unsure if I should curse timing or my own stubbornness. At the landing, I found my phone, opened Instagram—the only social network either of us used—and noticed my follower count tick down by one. He had already done the deed, a moment before I was going to do the same. Cold turkey indeed.