So the Math test that I had been dreading, the one I happily got a 76, not 36, on, was Monday. After an hour introducing double integrals Jake cocked a cheeky smile and pulled out a giant bag of tests, which were all the more daunting because of the fact that there were only 13 of us… Yes… those tests were 20 pages each…
Math death was upon me. Over the course of 150 minutes I toiled through parametrizing, reciting vector definitions and applications, calculating the critical points of three-dimensional shapes, finding the gradients, the hessians, and the other inane partial derivatives that we’re expected to have mastered in 3 days.
Anyway, it was bloody awful. Throughout the whole test the only thing that kept me going was, “At least I get to see Hollen tonight.”
At 4:20 we finally got out of the exam and I staggered back to my room. Where I collapse, throw my backpack against the wall, and inhale the rest of my partially eaten protein bar. Oh, what a glorious moment that was. I next grab all ma shit and toss it in my laundry hamper. Yes, Hollen had agreed to let me do laundry at his place. This dude is legit.
Half-an-hour later Hollen rolls up and whisks me off to the magical land of… HEB, the Dierbergs/Food Lion of Texas. On second thought, it’s marginally better than Food Lion. Don’t want to offend the Texans out there.
We roamed through the aisles assembling only the finest of ingredients. Ok, so maybe we just ended up with a random cart loaded with… well who knows, but I like to think that we are fine people with fine ingredients. So there that’s. Rather than interrupt later paragraphs I’ll spoil the grand mystery of dinner: NY Strip Steaks (mine with chevre (goat cheese) on top), quinoa, roasted ears of corn, and some delicious beverages… Most regrettably Hollen is rather lactose intolerant, so he cannot partake in my deep and boundless adoration of all things dairy, especially cheese. So, rather than waste a perfectly good log of goat cheese, I ate the whole thing. It was the selfless thing to do.
After HEB we headed back to his place and talked for hours. I swear I don’t even know what we talk about because it’s just so natural that my mind isn’t even there. It’s like I’m speaking straight from my heart… my soul. Over the last two days I’ve told Hollen things that I’ve never told anyone else, even my best friends. He then made himself a delicious, if terribly spicy, cocktail (the base is mashed serrano peppers… that shit is cray). I then had *navy censorship,* which was delicious.
We then headed up to the terrace of his apartment building. It’s nestled right in the heart of downtown Houston (well Midtown, but given Houston’s three financial district, “downtown” is a very fluid concept). The lights of the city danced around us as we grilled the steaks and the corn, oh! and the asparagus. I forgot that we had asparagus. Yes. Yes we did, and it was delicious.
Obviously this whole time we were still talking, and that didn’t stop. Hollen is the most honest, open, genuine guy that I have ever met. There’s nothing to hide around him. All of my vulnerabilities are bare, and not only am I ok, I’m glowing. He is the most uplifting and affectionate man I know. Around him I can be my authentic self, and of the selves I have, that is the one that is the hardest to be.
So before I begin my next part, I have to say one of the other best parts about Hollen. He is a classy guy. He respects me. There is no rush, there is no pushing. After everything that I’ve been through over the last eight months, I’ve become increasingly reticent to start things too early. Good things come to those who wait. And Hollen waits. He is a gentleman. Something that I cannot say about any other gay man that I have ever been on a date with.
Ok, so the reason I said that is so that you, dear reader, would not jump to any conclusions about the next sentence. After dinner we went upstairs to his bedroom on the second floor of his apartment. We had talked about watching Harry Potter 7 pt2 because I had never seen it in English (oh that is great story that I cannot wait to tell). He pops the movie in and we start our own witty, cheeky commentary. Ms. Menzel would have been so proud of how snarky I was. Of course eventually we start to get engrossed in the movie, and for the first time all night I finally shut up.
As Harry rummaged through the vaults of Gringots and then escaped to the Scottish Highlands, I sat enraptured by the beautiful cinematography. Of course, that wasn’t the only beautiful thing I was thinking about. Hollen had be so respectful, so gentlemanly that I wondered a few times how exactly our first kiss would shake out. Even in bed I had sent out a stray hand to his, which while it did not go unrequited, also did not cause some sort of calvalcade of subsequent action. No, instead I resigned myself to forgetting about it.
Which made what happened next all the more endearing. I turned to check a text, and when I set my phone down and turned back there he was, coming closer. And it was good. I know I have quite a few straight friends reading this and one of my biggest fears is that somehow I’ll embarrass you or make you feel uncomfortable, but this, this I have to tell. The kiss was wonderful, and it lasted for that perfect first kiss length, that moment when everything coalesces, when it all comes to fruition. It was bliss, like floating on a sea of dreams suspended over the world’s darkness. An untouchable moment.
Once that bridge was crossed, we wouldn’t go back. He does this thing, that I honestly think might be one of my favorite things in the world, where we just kiss, nothing a la francaise, repeatedly, slowly increasing the tempo until it’s like your being enveloped by a jackhammer of adoration, and then he grabs me and holds me tight. I really can’t give the jovial sensation that overwhelms me justice with my petty words. We cuddled all night, and he would kiss me on my head, forehead, elbows. He just cares, and that’s what all of this shows. It’s not sexual, and that’s why I’m sharing it. He just makes me feel like I’m worth it, like I’m someone truly extraordinary. I mean he’s such a great guy that if he likes me this much it’s hard not to be buoyed by it. In brief, he’s just the bee’s knees.
And, to cap all of that off, it was his birthday. Yes. He chose to spend his birthday with me after only two meetings. He said that someone must have been looking out for him to give him such a great birthday present, and I couldn’t help but swoon. He treats me so well that it doesn’t seem real.
The next morning he dropped me off back at Rice so I could meet another guy I met on Grindr (just friends) named Donald who just graduated from the Naval Academy. Donald is a pretty sharp guy, and he treated me to a wonderful lunch at Hungry’s. Nevertheless, Donald reminded me why Hollen is such a catch. Donald was aloof, cordial, and had a few interesting things to talk about, but I was not blown away by any aspect of him, even as a friend. Aside from our shared Naval background, I don’t really think there’s much there besides a professional connection. He dropped me off afterwards and I raced to my class, which was the same old 3 hour-a-day Multivariable bootcamp that I’ve grown so accustomed to. Tuesday was especially difficult material, and the thing that most got me through it was “Well [the class] is almost a third of the way over… You’ll survive.. I’ll cover you in kisses as a reward for getting through.”
And then my class ended, and my night began.
My two favorite texts from Hollen (I hope it’s ok that I share these 😉 )
June 20, after Tuesday night, which I’ll tell you all about tomorrow
“You really are the rarest of kinds. You are one of a kind. genuine and far more special than you know.. I want to thank you so much for sharing the last few days with and even more so, sharing so much about yourself. I think someone was watching out for me and gave me the perfect gift this year for my birthday.”
This one he actually said to me, and it is by far the nicest compliment I have ever received.
“When we were at Restoration Hardware and you started describing the maps of Paris and Italy, you shined like no other. I think saying you were brilliant and passionate about it is, even on a good day, a lackluster understatement of words.. You captivated not only me but even the employees stopped to listen to you. I saw other customers listening to you the whole time we walked through the store. At that point it took so much strength not to just throw you on one of those beds in the showroom because I had never been so attracted to anyone. Dan, you truly are one of the greats.”