Love them, hate them, fuck them. Usually in that order.

I'm packing up all your things, and all the gifts you gave me. Putting each one into the bag makes me want to cry, because each one is proof that you loved me and how our love grew and blossomed over time. Each one is stamped with pictures of us, journeying through the world, intertwining our lives, intertwining into each other.

Every time I press the button you made me, tears come to my eyes. Because nobody will ever love me like you did. Nobody will ever call me Kaichik the way you did. Or hold me like you did. Or make me feel as safe as you did. You were my shield against all the painful difficult things of the world. And now it's all over.

I'm giving it back because I'm undeserving. Because maybe one day I will be deserving and I'll be able to come back to you and find you there again, with everything packed into a box along with the things I gave you. And maybe then we'll unpack it, and laugh, and cry, and hold each other, and begin our lives together again. I love you, Ellioshka. I love you like I've never loved anybody before. Keep it safe for me, even if it's all over.

We had a petty argument tonight over photographs. I asked you to take a picture of me under these gorgeous lights in the middle of the snow, and I hated how the pictures came out. And it just went from there.

Frustrations of the day boiling over into a loud argument in the streets. And I told you, with my throat tight, that the reason I was mad was because I've never had anybody in this life that wanted to take pictures of me. That you never take pictures of me unprompted. That every picture of me in my feed is a selfie, taken from the same pose, with the same expression always. And a thousand different beautiful pictures of you. I want everyone to see you the way I see you, beautiful, handsome, adorable. And I told you that it felt like you didn't care if anybody else saw me the same way you see me.

Really though, I was angry with myself, not with you. It's another of those frustrations that exist only because of how deeply insecure I feel, and how little I think of myself. I know you don't think about these things because you don't feel the same way.

Supplement: You showed me your mementos. The hotel memo from our trip to Malaysia. The little cards and tickets you gathered and kept along the way. The (horrible) picture of me you keep in your wallet. And told me this is how you remember. I love you.

Feet pounding the pavement. Heart racing fast, about to burst. Because so much is on the line. Your last chance to see him, your last chance to convince him. Make him stay.

If only you could reach the station in time. Time enough to catch that train, to catch him and let loose everything that's been festering inside you and aching for release. Please—I love you—Give me a chance—Give us a chance.

But you're always late.

You run out of breath halfway, your thighs screaming. You try pushing through the pain, mind over matter, memory of him in your head. Seeing the minutes slip away almost makes you want to crumple and cry. Fuck cardio.

7 minutes away from the train leaving. If only you could push through. You see the old familiar bridge before you, the bridge the two of you had crossed under the blazing lights in cold autumn, months ago: that night when you gazed into his eyes in the bar, said the cheesiest line in the world, and found only sweetness and laughter in those eyes. You knew bliss. You know he felt it too.

4 minutes away. If you could only sprint across this bridge to catch that train before it leaves.

But the resolve cracks there. You run out of it. Whatever it was you were tapping. Confidence, desperation, love, desire, hurt, defiance. It all gives way to numbness and knowing: you've already failed.

He would've made time, if he really cared to. He would've shown love, if he really meant it. He wouldn't have pushed this ultimatum on you, if he meant for anything but this. You would've found a way already, to make all of this work out, if ever it existed. He was never yours to have. He's given up on loving you already.

The bubble pops. The bliss is gone. You cease running, halfway across the bridge. You've lost it. You've lost him.

You reach the station a minute after the train departs, could've caught it if you had only tried. The numbness fades, gives way to the anxiety, gives way to the sorrow of knowing you gave up too, so close to making it.

It comes to you in a moment you'd never expect it to. In a place so far from home, over coffee on a warm sunny evening in the square with her.

She says she doesn't have plans for the future. Because she never expected to live past thirty. She feels too little and yet too much. Przebodźcowanie. To be overwhelmed with so much feeling you feel nothing. When a loved one dies. When heartbreak falls.

And just like that, you exhume the memory of him: The nothing you felt when you first heard. The nothingness that became perplexed annoyance at the funeral. That became collective melancholy at the party to celebrate a life cut down before its prime. That became nothingness again even as you read his words a dozen times over: An act of compassion in this ridiculous letter written months before the end, meaning something, surely.

But you feel simmering indifference for a year. Forgetting.

The indifference that becomes the pang of sorrow when you remember a year later. The absence you'd forgotten. He hopped off your train without explanation.

The pang that tumbles into true melancholy a year on: When you read his words and remember not just the loss of him, but the person that he was. Everything you admired of him, that zeal and wonder.

But in relating this to her: this story of the end of his life and this life after death—and the words he wrote you—You feel so cold now. Cold despite the sun, despite the company, despite home being continents away.

Because this melancholy blurs into the regret and anger and confusion of the now. When the words he wrote you are all you have left. When what was once him has become a blur of things you can barely remember. Was he kind? Was he compassionate? He must have been.

You unearth the letter for her. It's still on your cloud. He wrote you a recommendation to his university, condemning it for refusing to take you for a place. The stream of words is as manic as it is wonderful, a stream of praise of your being, it's so sincere you could hear him rant it. You never did send it on.

And she tells you it's beautiful. And in reading it with her, you remember some of how he was. Endlessly passionate, endlessly full of wonder. His mania.

Przebodźcowanie. What a beautiful word. You know how she feels. You know what it means to feel too much, and yet not enough. And what you both fear underneath. And you cannot accept not having plans after thirty; not from her.

No, she isn't him. Not like him at all. It's wrong to draw lessons from the past like this. And yet you do, because here, you are kindred in a feeling. You can't bear the thought of her not prospering. Not well.

You fumble with your phone, trying to see if Messenger allows you to make plans in ten years' time. It doesn't. You have to use Google instead. And thus you announce: We're meeting in ten years for coffee.

The two of you laugh. You'll call her in ten years: 'Urgh, she'd better be dead if she isn't picking up'. More laughter, before arguing over the place. Not New York. (Not here either) Vienna. Vienna! We will meet in Vienna!

The laughter lingers in you as you walk home. As does the cold: As you read that letter on that walk home and remember how much you've forgotten.

If the fever breaks What remains? Something more than this. Something more than the pain. Something more than him, or him, or him. When the fever breaks.

So much bile rises in your throat when he says that. I told you not to fall in love with me—he says—like a shield.

That sweet memory of the months together unravel: of him saying—don't fall...—before he kisses you in the street below your office. His cheeky grin as you wave goodbye. Your near-daily ritual escapism in three acts, (I) a flirty conversation over lunch, meandering between Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons and how badly he wants to fuck you, (II) temptation lurching into heat, dragging you both into an afternoon quickie of pent-up lust and need, like exhibitionistic performance, (III) the rest of the day spent texting him furiously as you chase the next act.

It begins as ritual escapism—forbidden pleasure to break white collar monotony, friends with benefits, fucks of convenience, friends, period—but with time, it changes. Convenience gives way to need; gives way to realising you want him more than you should; gives way to distance, gives way to longing kisses; gives way to want;

gives way to him texting you longingly from under his blanket miles away in the snow—I wish you were here—gives way to you texting him from your bed—I wish you were here too—gives way to you resolving that he means something to you. Gives way to the question: Is this what first love feels like? He needs to know you feel.

So you tell him, excited and eager: Your feelings confessed over dinner, leading to, like so many acts before, fucking.

And you lie together in bed, in the afterglow, staring at the ceiling. You remember feeling so at ease then, limbs entwined. At bliss? Content. That shadow on the ceiling looks like a death star, you giggle. You will never forget saying that before he tells you.

—I have a boyfriend.

—I told you not to fall in love with me.

—I didn't mean to tell you this only after we'd fucked.

So the memories unravel and the comforting warmth fades forever. Everything a charade. Your first love withers before it ever blossomed. So much bile rises in your throat, you don't even know what to say. But you say some things. You want to hurt him the way he's hurt you. Insults, questions, more insults, more questions. Nothing makes the feeling of violation ebb, like so much poison.

The lacking boundaries become clear only after you leave him, those ambiguities you would always overlook.

Fantasies of that idyllic day: The kitchen island stacked with wine and cheese, pie and eggs, and cocktails, made by his mates—A couple in the bliss of togetherness for years now, sitting across that island from you and him.

There's an expectation of equality, between them who have everything—in their award-winning apartment and fulfilment already found—and the two of you, you and your lover. Despite your only year long romance.

But this is what it's like to have a little piece of bliss. Pretending or partaking? Lounging in the glow of him, as if the outside world didn't matter at all. Talking of the little troubles, never the big ones, because all the shadows seem minute in the face of this radiance. It's not a contest, but you want to impress, to show them that you're a worthy mind, a worthy lover for their friend.

And the space between the two of you narrows with every drink, every bite, every kiss. Until the closeness lulls you into that peace longed-for since you were little and knew you wanted to love and be loved.

Then comes the interloper to your garden, who knowing your lover's history, his lingering romance of the past, who asks: What are the two of you? Are you dating now?

And him, your lover, turns to you and says, you get to decide.

And all of this day catches in your throat. Because you want to answer yes. You want to pretend that this is a thing that could last. That you don't have plans this evening to meet and fuck another boy. That he is yours and you are his. That you could draw out this taste, draw out these afternoons with him, those nights spent gazing into each others' eyes under the blazing lights of the city, those mornings you spent clinging on to him in bed. But you hesitate, and give into uncertainty.

And your answer comes so much like acid: Why would you say that?

And the moment ends, question lingering. You've never given me the impression that I had a choice—you want to say—that you were within reach with the gulf of old loves and unforgotten trauma between us. But these words have no place here.

He only laughs. So do you. As you lie against him, and as the contentment of your day slips under a roiling black of sunset. You leave the apartment lightheaded, still heady from the wine. Pondering this.

The words will simmer in you like a little taste of what could be. A beautiful lie or paradise within reach?

You will throw his words at him in tears months later. When confessing your feelings, you ask him why he was ever cruel enough to give you the illusion of choice, this little piece of everything, if he'd only wrench it away now. He throws in your face the reason you left that evening, for another boy.

You will look back, thinking of how you could have answered differently. Yes, he's mine. Yes, we're dating. Could pretending it was have made it real? You will look back, wishing you never left behind that little piece of bliss for another fleeting embrace in the night. You will wonder if it even matters that you did.

You will press him for this longed for certainty, and his answers will never be enough. You will wonder, what rift separates the man you want to be, and the man that you are. Did he ever or never love you? Or did love turn cold in the wake of decisions such as these?

You will never know, and for that will remain poisoned forever.

You've been poisoned. poisoned. Poisoned. For a long time now. You write to exorcise it. Is that all these entries are? Suck, spittle, suck, the venom runs. Lover to lover. Runs endlessly onto paper, because you can't let go.

He's disenchanted with it.

He wants to remain faithful to his wife and children, but knows he belongs elsewhere. He wants to find a man he could love truly and genuinely, but every man he meets only makes him question fidelity. As a concept, as a promise, as a way of life.

All this he tells you over tea in a quiet bar in Vilnius. Stories of his life so far, and the life yet to be. Before he comes to a question: What's the purpose of this encounter?

Nothing, you tell him. Much like any other thing from grindr, there is no purpose. It could be the start to a grand something, or just another fleeting thing, to be enjoyed then forgotten.

So you meander from bar to bar. At each one, learning more about the other. Stories of his exes, his children, his music, his cock, his country. You laugh, the image of him becoming clearer and clearer: Of an honest man with many wants, but not the means to have them.

At the end of it all, you part ways with a long drawn-out kiss in a dark alley. As though knowing already that your paths would never again cross. A fleeting thing.

All that remains of him in your head are the lingering questions of love and fidelity. And whether it will ever be yours to have.

with a mate who does it better sober than you ever would drunk. You're out and about in a new city, a new club, and a sea of new men all moving to a familiar rhythm.

You still long for that missed connection you were texting outside. A boy you were trying to meet at his bar, if only the timing had worked out. But whoever had the bright idea of making this club a mobile deadzone, you whisper thanks to.

So you guzzle gin, dance with your mate, slip deeper into the rhythm of it. Slip so far that you only laugh as you're pulled onto the stage—as a stranger starts making eyes at you—as he grinds up against you—as you pull him into a kiss—as you make out on the dance floor while your mate films it all for the morning-after shame—as your lips part to laughter.

You want to dance longer, but the next drink calls. You drag your mate to the bar, feeling this stranger's eyes following you all the way.

More drinks—the beautiful noise and colour that is a drag show in two languages, you're so proud to be gay—followed by your eyes searching the crowd for that stranger. You've not nearly had enough of him yet.

You make excuses to leave your mate behind, step through the crowd to the bar in hopes of finding him. Needle in a haystack. Until you hear him call out.

Not the stranger, but the missed connection. Sitting by the bar, he is everything this city is: Beautiful eyes under the grunge, tenderness in the rough. So he made it to the club after all.

Buys you a drink, he stares into your eyes, you're hypnotised. Your lips graze once, and it sparks a slow dance: Pressed against the bar, making out, feeling his beautifully bearded face... You slip deeper down.

He tells you of his plan to hit another club. But another slow dancing kiss later, he revises it into a question: Come home with me?

You have time enough to say goodbye to your mate, to pass the stranger on the dancefloor on the way out. Time even to ask him for his number before the boy drags you home, and onto his couch. Where he rolls a joint as your rain-soaked clothes come off.

He is tenderness, until the primal fucking that blows your brains and leaves you panting and laughing in the sheets, covered in your and his fluids. On any other night, you would drag him into the shower and wash it away, but on this, you fall asleep blissed out in his arms.