Smile Like You Mean It

“Are you going to sleep?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come back downstairs.”

A few minutes later, I hear some rustling upstairs and footsteps immediately coming down the ladder of the loft. I open my door and see him standing there with this expression. He knows exactly why I asked him to come back down, and he’s half-smiling. I can’t do this anymore, all this tension with a guy who sleeps so close and has gotten so close, getting to know each other and him getting to me, like no other guy has gotten to me before.

I want to kiss him, so I do. And he kisses me back. Jean Paul Gaultier smells so good on him. I close the door; he turns off the lights. We don’t have to say a word.

Two months before when I was browsing through Craigslist, I was looking for a new summer sublet, not a summer fling. But there’s no such thing as a search engine for love; the best finds seem to always pop-up when you least expect them.

Although I had my fair share of adventures down on Wall Street, it wasn’t my sort of neighborhood, so I began looking for a new place in a new location just for the remainder of the summer. After a few days of calling, e-mailing, open houses and figuring out the security deposit, I found a spacious exposed-brick loft in the middle of Manhattan with three other roommates: a bartender, a musician and another short-term subletter, a 21-year-old Florida student interning at a prominent LGBT activist organization. He found the place through mutual friends. I was the stranger.

Shortly after we both moved in, I remember the boy from Florida knocking on my door to personally hand me my new issue of Esquire. Nice gesture, I thought, “Thanks!” He turns around to go back into the living area but then suddenly stops and turns back.

“Hey, what are you doing today?”

“Uh, nothing, just gotta go to work tomorrow morning…”

“Wanna go grab coffee or something, just walk around the city.”

“Sure! Have you been to Cakeshop? It’s my favorite.”

That night he tells me that he’s researching international hate crimes for this organization; meanwhile I’m interviewing celebrities for a teen magazine. He knows nothing about pop culture, and I find that refreshing. We have a great time engaging in political discussions about the state of gay rights because he’s quite the conscientious activist, and I have a knack for playing devil’s advocate for the sake of a good argument. I like to tease even in conversation.

And even though he spends all his workday submersed in reading up on some of the most atrocious acts of torture, he always comes home with a smile on his face. I come home after a day full of Miley Cyrus and all I want to do is kick a puppy.

He has this bright optimism, even though he's well aware of humanity’s irremediable flaws, that gives him hope, a silver lining sort of attitude.

To a boy like me—cynical, jaded, irreverent—it lifts my spirits just to see him walking in with that smile. I can’t help but want to soak that all in. I can’t help but want to get closer to Sunny D.

So it gets to this. Two weeks after we’ve moved in and had our first coffee run, we’ve grown so comfortable around each other sharing this loft. We’re sitting on my bed after a night out with some friends, we’re not speaking; he’s just looking at me.

I’ve never been this open with a guy before. I share my thoughts with him absolutely unfiltered because that’s exactly what I get from him. I never considered him a potential anything, just a roommate in the most superficial sense, but somehow and almost organically, he’s managed to bury himself deeper. For the first time, I’m not putting up a front to try to impress or to get laid. Sunny D gets to see and hear and witness all of me all the time. I’m totally transparent in front of him, and he’s still here, looking at me.

He has a boyfriend back home whom he promised to be faithful, and I’m seeing other guys in New York. There are no secrets between us, just the unspoken. I feel something, and it’s heavier than a crush, and I know he feels it too. I’m ready to say it.

“I better go back upstairs,” he says waiting for a response that might convince him otherwise.

“No, stay. Stay here with me.”

“I can’t. You know that.”

“You can. You can stay here,” I whisper in his ear as I pull him closer to me.

He jerks back abruptly, and gets off my bed. He looks at me for what feels like ten minutes. Finally he says, “I need to change out of these clothes.”

“Are you going to sleep?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come back downstairs.”