PHOTO BY Steve Brennan

I got the text on a Friday afternoon: My friend GF’s boyfriend broke up with him.

It was the day before his 25th birthday, and the day before his birthday celebration: ice skating at Chelsea Piers.

He insisted we go ahead with the plan. I wasn’t sure exactly how to dress for ice skating in August, so I put on a pair of white lace shorts, a t-shirt and my Levi’s denim jacket, making sure to pack thick socks in my satin Prada backpack.

Despite the fact that GF and I are close, I didn’t know what to say. He and his boyfriend were together almost two years, and with a few words—“I don’t want to see you anymore”—it was all over. Do I ask him how he’s doing, and risk the answer, “Not well”? Do I tell him I’m here for him, and risk opening the floodgates for the gruesome details of the breakup on his birthday?
My boyfriend J and I held hands on the way to Chelsea Piers. Do we stop holding hands around him? Do we avoid kissing in front of him, at least for now? Is it going to tear GF apart that, aside from his roommate, everyone else invited is a couple?

GF and I are very different in a lot of ways. When AJ and I broke up in January, I retreated into myself until I was ready to come out again. Nobody had to worry about how to act around me, because I avoided seeing anyone until I felt like I was over it. But GF—he wanted to press on with life. He wasn’t going to let any man ruin his birthday, or any other day for that matter.

We all deal with things differently.

When we arrived, I did what I always do—blurt out something inappropriate, but hopefully charming. “Hi, cutie. Are we on the prowl to find some rando for you to fuck tonight?”

He laughed, and he kept laughing while skating through throngs of couples on the ice. Later, he opened up a little bit while we untied our skates, and I knew he’d be OK—eventually.

Ice breakers lead to heart breakers, I thought bitterly, watching GF do his best to mask his pain. It starts with “Hello,” maybe a dashing smile, and ends with, “I don’t want to see you anymore.”

When I was a kid, I went rollerblading with my dad every weekend. He always told me, “If you aren’t falling down, you aren’t trying hard enough. It doesn’t matter if you fall down; it matters that you get up and keep going.”

And so, we keep going. “Let’s go to Little Italy and get a cannoli,” GF said excitedly to J, returning his rental skates. He might not be ready for the Olympics of dating, but he’s not going to just sit there on the ice, either.

In Little Italy, GF bumped into a handsome, six-foot-tall blond boy. “Sorry!” he exclaimed, blushing.

Blond Boy did a double-take at GF, smiled a dashing smile. “Hello,” he said. GF just smiled.