It was last summer. One of the hottest days of the year. We were lying by the Danube. Two young men, their wet bodies glittering in the sun, listening to the album Everything is Love.
I met him the year before in May. A mutual friend introduced us. We immediately bonded over Beyoncé and talked for quite some time about our lives, who we were, what we did, where we came from. First, I just thought he was an interesting young man. Before then, I only knew him from the distance. I remembered seeing him on pictures from social media, taken at gay clubbing events. He looked like one of those Greek marble statues portraying Apollo. My assumptions about him were right. In reality, he looked like a demigod of the present time. He had dark, thick slightly curly hair, the perfect cheekbones and his sweet brown eyes that, when he looked at me, you might as well forget everything you have ever known about the world.
When I had first met him in a gay club all these thoughts rushed through my head. He was beautiful all right but I was uncertain about his character. He seemed so interesting, yet so sure of himself, so full of self esteem that it was actually difficult to like him. Yet I liked him for some reason I did not fully understand then. At that time it did not dawn on me that I was an absolute fool and I had totally and utterly fallen in love with him. It was the first time I was in love.
Over the course of half a year our paths crossed sometimes. Mostly in clubs, getting drunk, catching up on things (Beyoncé especially) but nothing more than flirtations ever happened.
Then something changed. He started texting me and called, once or twice every week. I enjoyed his company, his attentiveness and every time I heard him smile or laugh, I had to smile too and every time we met up and he looked at me with his warm brown eyes, it felt like the sun would actually rise within my chest. A fire, so strong, so hot, living on its own, like dragon fire, I then realised and knew I was in love with him. I was twenty two. He was twenty. We weren’t boys anymore but not yet men either.
The following spring we grew closer as friends. We visited the beautiful museums of Vienna or went to the cinema. He trusted in me and my advice, telling me about his Grindr hook ups. I silently tortured myself, giving him advice on all the stupid fuckboys he believed to be good men and he repeatedly failed to date. I could not tell him how I felt. I feared our friendship would end and I hoped my deeper feelings for him would fade eventually. Oh boy was I wrong.
One of the worst nights I experienced with him was when he asked me to go for drinks and then go clubbing. I did not know exactly what to expect but every time he wanted to do something with me there was a spark within me, a feeling of hope, I could not and did not want to suppress. A kiss with him might have been within the range of possibility that night. Kissing him, the boy, the man I was in love with would maybe want to kiss me back. I did not think any further, after all love makes people really stupid. That night he did not kiss me or any other night. He made out with some random fuckboy and gave him a blowjob on the club’s toilet. But seeing him making out with some other guy was too much for me that night. I quietly slipped away. I told him and my other friends that I was tired. I could not get it out of my head but it did not work. It stuck with me.
By summer I knew I had to tell him. Tell him that for me there was so much more than friendship. I felt love for him I haven’t felt for anyone in all my life. A fire- breathing dragon was raging in my chest, wanting to break out, take wings.
We spent more summer days together but nothing happened until that day in August. It was one of the hottest summer months in Vienna. I loved it. The heat, the feeling of warmth, being kissed by the sun, the fire within me. And on that day in August, we went swimming in the Danube. Just him and me. How I liked it best. Because whenever we spent time together, when we went clubbing or went out with our friends he always acted different, tried to be cooler, pretended to be that fuckboy. Looking back, he was actually so immature and I was stupid in love. On that day though, he was just himself, the best version of himself. He was the man I thought he could be.
We had a pink floating mattress with a swim ring attached to one side you could sit in, while the other one could just lie on the floating mattress and chill. He didn’t suggest or imply anything. It was just his smooth way of saying, you lie on the mattress and chill and I will be in the ring and paddle us around on the Danube. So I was just lying there bathing in the sun while he did all the work. I looked at his back, his muscular shoulders, his strong arms moving through the water and his wet black hair glittering silver in the sun. How much I wanted him in that moment to turn around and kiss me. I was like a dragon staring at a treasure of gold. How much I just wanted him to look at me, smile, how that would elevate me into the skies, rising into the air. He did smile at me on that day, especially when I turned on some music on my phone. Not just any music but Beyoncé’s Lemonade album that we thought to be her best one and then switching to the song Love on Top which was his favourite song.
On the floating mattress we talked about our favourite stories, The Lord of the Rings or Avatar the last Airbender and then I even told him about my dreams of becoming a writer. Whenever I spoke to him about my stories he was always intrigued. But after all that talking, there was one more thing I still got to tell him. How I always liked him, how I fell for him, why I felt this way because he was more than a friend, a person, a character you could never just like but had to love. And I sensed that he was not in love with me but still, I had to tell him because truth is the most important thing when a friendship should work and the truth is what you should share with each other. I simply said I am in love with you. He was quiet for a moment. The Danube kept on flowing, like a clock that was slowly but steadily ticking and taking my words of honesty and love with her. And I knew that our friendship might run out of time here by the shores of this current. Then he said something. He told me that he had so much respect for me, telling me all this in person, not over Whatsapp or drunk, like he did two years ago with another guy he was in love with. But he did admit that he was not in love with me and never would be. That we were friends, good friends, that respected each other, had to respect each other and now more than ever. And I realised there and then again that this response, this character was the reason why I fell in love with him in the first place. Because he was honest and meant it. And I could have closure. Of course that did not change the fact that my heart was broken. The dragon had fallen out of the sky. I needed time to heal and he understood. We did not want to lose the friendship but we both knew that there was no coming back from this.
And that was it. I fell in love for the first time. It burned like fire, beautiful and painful. I loved and lost like we all do. But now I don’t remember a boy but a man who did understand, who gave me a clear answer to how good and how painful love and the truth can be. Like all gay men know, like every person who falls in love knows, when you want the rainbow you have to deal with the rain and sometimes rain is all you get.