Hot Vax Summer
I was single and fully out for the first time but fully in for the first time because of a pandemic, and I was crying and listening to “Hospital” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and Lana and Lorde too much and I was thinking I will never feel this love again and I was thinking if I do not feel this love again I will not be real anymore and the university man will call to tell me I do not exist.
But then everyone was saying hot vax summer and my therapist was saying maybe I’d been putting up an ad for a racquetball partner when all I wanted was to play racquetball. So I redownloaded the apps and went out with everybody. I went out with a man who gave me a reading list I jotted on a sticky note and one day decided I could throw away. I went out with a man who wanted to start a business in our little city—didn’t know what kind—and the date ended with him strolling past various properties and I just kind of stopped following him. I went on a date with a man who called Tech Decks evanescent. I stuttered sweet nothings on video dates. I watched my soul ascend from my body on the bad dates. I talked to older men and couples and one very wicked man (he was in Wicked, some 1200 shows). I talked to a woman at the bar and realized for the first time in three years, Oh, I’m flirting, that’s there.
And then, him, Mike, a repeat offender. Mike and Michael, some joke, it was bound to happen. We went out once, and then again.
We found the garden after hot pot. Date two in Camberville, we dipped enoki and short rib in house broth before strolling through the summer city. New luxury condos rose like pimples—Axiom, Jewel, Prism. A park with swings, gated off. But one house sat bewitched between the condos. We wanted to go in. He unlatched the neighboring community garden gate and led me through. He knew the vegetables by their leaves—onion, some kind of garlic, another kind of garlic, eggplant. In another life, we could lead lives of luxury, spend all day in brick houses and gardens without working. He sighed, longing for a benefactor, his humor on point. We managed running jokes after going out only twice. Around us, neighbors stood at attention, peeling curtains back from the windows. When they looked, did they know what date this was? Could they see me swoon? Could they even see two people there?
Michael Colbert is a queer writer based in Maine, where he’s at work on a novel. He is the founding editor of The Rejoinder and is a prose editor with No Contact. He holds an MFA from UNC Wilmington, and his writing appears or is forthcoming in Esquire, One Story, The Florida Review, and The New York Times, among others.