Bo's Last Few Days
September 6, 2014
At my birthday-party-slash-housewarming last year, my friend Hope leaned in to me and whispered.
"Is he here?"
"Yes," I said, pointing across the room. Bo was on the sofa, in a blue polo shirt and plaid patchwork shorts, talking to a guest.
"How is it going?" she asked.
"Good, except I don't know how he feels just yet," I said to Hope. Bo and I had been seeing each other for a month, but he hadn't even hugged me goodbye or pressed my hand. It'd been a true formal courtship, which I liked. But also it made me nervous that we would become "just friends".
"I would just grab him and plant one on him," Hope laughed.
"I don't know if he'd like that. I want to wait for a sign," I said. We shrugged. Through the night he kept his spot on the sofa. I periodically glanced at him and made note of the angles on his face, the arch of his laugh. He spoke French so casually and well. I wished in that moment, he would want to give me a sign someday, but I didn't know when. I didn't expect it would come so soon.
September 10, 2014
It was my actual birthday on September 10, so Bo texted me during the day, "I'd like to cook you dinner," he wrote. I told him that it would be a late night. He didn't care.
We met at the Westside Market and bought steak. Then we went to his apartment, cooked up the steak and sat at his dining room table together. Bo lived in student housing in Morningside Heights, a two bedroom apartment facing Columbus Avenue. He explained that he frequently threw parties and left the decor up for months. He had tiki stuff everywhere from his Polynesian-themed birthday party earlier that year. I peeked in his room, a little space with a desk, lots of religious literature, and quotes on the wall about personal sacrifice. I liked the quotes, and had him explain them. I decided in that moment, that if I wrote about him on the blog I would nickname him "Victor Lazlo". But as you and I both know, the name didn't stick.
Bo showed me the view out over on Columbus. We sat together on the windowsill.
"If I lived here, I would sit in this window all day," I said.
"I like the way you look at things," Bo said. "I never really look out this window."
When the conversation slowed, I grew the courage to proceed.
"I have a question for you," I said, treading delicately. "When you're courting someone, how long is long enough?"
"Before...what?" asked Bo.
"Well, I mean..." I stammered. "My friend Topper texted me after my party. He said that I should you let you know that I like you, just because you might run away, if I don't. He had a feeling that you like me, I told him that I wasn't sure."
"Well, he's wrong," Bo said. My heart sank, and then lifted. "I would never run away from you, if I didn't feel the same way, we could always be friends," Bo said. I sighed to myself, prepared for bad news.
"Ariel," Bo took my hand in his. "I've been waiting for the longest time for you to give me a sign. But I figured that you just wanted to be friends."
"Oh, well it's quite the opposite," I said. I looked down sheepishly at the carpet. Moments later I asked Bo if I could kiss him, which smiled big and said: "Please."
It was the best birthday I'd ever had. Bo walked me to a taxi cab, hand in hand, and said that he "felt very lucky." We made a promise to see each other that weekend. Then we saw each other again and again, until a whole, glorious year passed. We decided that our anniversary would always be on September 10.
September 5, 2015
September 5, Bo and I went to Hackensack to rent a car. We would be moving the rest of his belongings to a storage unit for the next few years that he would be in Italy. I had managed to make it for months without crying, even though whenever we held each other, or snuggled close to watch TV, I felt a pang of sudden sadness.
We had a long day with many stops, including one in Connecticut to briefly see his parents. They invited us to stay for dinner, but Bo and I needed to beat the clock home. The car rental deadline was 6 o'clock sharp and we'd hit traffic on the way up, we knew we'd likely be late.
Driving through Connecticut, Bo suddenly slowed near a park. We were in his hometown, Darien.
"I know we're on a deadline," he said. "but I have to do this."
"Do what?" I asked.
"I'm going to kiss you in Waveny Park."
"I'm going to kiss you in Waveny Park because I love you and because this place means so much to me," Bo said. He parked the car on the green, and smiled. "I love you as much as there are stars in the sky," he said.
And with that, I cried. Bo couldn't see it, I turned my face away from him in the passengers seat and put my sunglasses on.
September 8, 2015
A few days later was Bo's last day in the city. I met him after work, we took the train out to JFK airport. I was cross. The sun seemed offensive, the world seemed unfair. So many other people had the luxury of being near the people they care about, and Bo was leaving. I didn't know how to respond. We took a train to a bus, and then the Air Tran, speaking about small, insignificant things. Ignoring the clock. We had Korean food at the terminal, such a cold, antiseptic place for emotions.
The time came for Bo to leave. We walked down to the security gate.
"Is this how we say goodbye?" he said. He didn't seem satisfied with the surroundings. He offered to walk me to the AirTran instead. The train was already in station, leaving no time between us to hug and kiss goodbye. I boarded, reluctantly. Bo stood on the platform and waved. I imagined that my heart would immediately sink, and grow cold as it was accustomed to doing to keep itself safe but I felt nothing as the train smoothly left the station. Oh, if only life were cinematic, if only there was thunderstorms and endless tears.
I did not cry all week but felt disoriented. My brain continued to be cloudy through the week. So cloudy that I almost forgot my own birthday and turned 31 without confections or hoopla. And Bo and I spent our first one-year anniversary, apart.