You Always Remember The First Time

By Christopher Marsala

Remember that last blog post that I wrote about saying “F**k it” and being more self-centered?

Well, funny story: a day after I wrote that, I met someone—an Italian/Filipino “male” someone, to be specific—for coffee at a café by Il Duomo, one of Florence’s most prominent cultural, religious, and visual sites.

The night before we met, I had just uploaded photos from a weekend trip to Barcelona (if you ever get the chance, PLEASE go there—such a spicy city!). In my notifications, he “Liked” nine of them. (Have I mentioned yet that no guy in my universe has ever liked that many photos?)

So, I did what any bold, flirtatious young twenty-something studying abroad in Italy would do: I asked him out for coffee.


The conversation and coffee were actually really enjoyable, and I found it so easy to just “be” with him. As we chatted and got to know each other, I discovered so many similarities between us; it was like he knew my checklist and was going down it, making sure to cover all the bases. After coffee, we walked back to my school’s courtyard and bid each other farewell hugs before our classes. And then…he leaned in to kiss me.

"It was a hot five minutes, I can tell you that. Just the two of us, lip-locking in an Italian courtyard, alone. Romantic bliss, much?"

After our classes—and this time, a dreadfully boring class became a much-anticipated countdown—we met up to talk. He explained everything in crisp, clear English, while I tried to restate it in Italian. Soon enough, I came to understand: he couldn’t be openly gay and in a relationship. Before coming to Italy, I had done my research and knew to some extent that LGBT culture wasn’t super accepted as in the United States. But I was very surprised and saddened to hear about his perspective on gay life. Personally, it brought forth a chock full of empathy; I am very lucky to be able to express myself, sexuality and all, in the United States, and it hurt me that he couldn’t hug or kiss me in an Italian piazza.

Then again…that didn’t stop me from getting to know him on a more physical level. We headed over to my place and let the magic happen. Now, I won’t give details, because E.L. James has pretty much covered that delicious arena with her Fifty Shades of Grey series. What I will say, though, is that it did feel wonderful—and simultaneously terrifying—to lie next to this beautiful man. Hugging, kissing, and holding hands with another dude make for something marvelous and special.

However, it wasn’t meant to last. In the same week that I met my male Italian lover, I called him with tears rushing down my face. Even though we had been seeing each other, it was always in secret and brought too many hurtful emotions to the surface. He understood how I felt. I told him I needed time to “process” everything that had transpired in such a short amount of time. Truth be told? I already knew that I would choose to separate with him, but I couldn’t deal with any more heartache that day. The next day I called it quits officially, and we parted ways.

In retrospect, I’m so grateful that this romantic encounter took place. I had been putting so much pressure on myself for love to happen, and even then, it wasn’t the right match. I’m just starting to grasp that the “right” kind of love needs perfect timing; anything less just won’t do, and I certainly won’t settle for less than I deserve. Surprisingly, I’ve also realized something else: even if a man loves me, I might not necessarily love him back. And that’s OK. For years I had been on the receiving end of that dynamic, but being in the driver’s seat gave me another perspective. I need to be honest about what I want and need, and I already had experienced enough phantom heartbreak in my head, let alone real life. And—let me be real here for a sec—I also have a lot of personal stuff to sort out on my end, too.

Yet, there’s one last aspect to this whole experience that I need to spotlight: my inhibited ability to express PDA. Heterosexual couples have ever-so-much romantic privilege, and it deeply hurt me to feel like I had to repress and deny my affection when I wanted to kiss and hug my man like crazy. Francesco and Maria, for example, can smooch the shit out of each other and even swat each other’s bums (welcome to Italy, ladies and gentlemen). But for me, if I were to so much as caress a man’s face, I might experience potential police harassment and expensive fines.

"There’s so much more to say here, but I think the grandest aspect I’ve taken from this experience is this: although my Italian encounter wasn’t “love,” it served me as a stepping stone to the next place in my soul search for love. And it is SO freeing to realize and accept this!"

Now, I can just live life and continue to be open to what happens—whether that’s new love, a new travel adventure, or another joyful surprise on my life journey. Isn’t the “unexpected” quality what makes life thrilling and so delicious, anyway?

I can promise you that I’m still keepin’ it fresh and exciting, my friends! And who knows? Maybe, when I’m really not expecting it, I’ll have five gorgeous men chasing me down the street, showering me with poetic prose and sexy affection as their rippling muscles and shimmering eyes pierce my boyish heart. Fingers crossed, let’s go! I’m ready for the next step!