Three weeks later, on our first get-together we actually called a date, I helped him set his things down on the picnic table in the little hidden park in my neighborhood. I smiled shyly and silently signaled for a hug—only our second hug since we’d met. COVID, and all. That first hug, after a long, friendly walk through town, had told us both what we needed to know: This attraction was mutual. And strong. I could no longer insist to myself that we were just “buds,” pushing our bodies forward on 10-mile hikes and 20-mile bike rides, attempting to drown our chemistry in a go-go-go physicality.
Pulling him in close for that second hug, the desire overrode the intention and we only got part way there. Our faces so close, our breathing already ragged, suddenly we were kissing. Hard, deep, passionately pressing our bodies against each other, our hands grabbing at each other’s necks, backs, arms, chests, faces. Our tongues flicked and reached, soft moans and whispers of “fuck” and “oh god” and whimpers of each other’s names escaped us as we paused for air before going back into the fray. Taking deep breaths, our flat chests heaving at the energy, at the pull of our magnetic attraction, we pushed each other back to force ourselves to sit down and look at each other, face-to-face, for the first time since we met at the party.
A few days after that first kiss, Tyson told me, “I love how you kiss. You kiss like a man. Like you want it.”
My mind flashed back to Jason, Sam, and Kelsi, all rejecting me in some way for being a man. For looking like a man, for feeling like a man, for thinking like a man, where man is a bad word. And now Tyson was praising me for it. My heart leapt in joy and gratitude at this man, who sees me as a man, and who celebrates and affirms me as a man. Man-to-man.
Where man is a beautiful, tender, sweet, wonderful thing to become. Together.
Will Richardson is a white, queer, transgender man; a dad; and a sexual and reproductive health researcher. He lives in Baltimore with his son.