by Estlin Adams
I’ve never met Don, and I never want to. I’m not antisocial. I don’t have anything against him. In fact I much admire him, having never met him and only glimpsed him one time. He doesn’t hover in some distant dimension of perfection and I don’t want to trade places with him. I just can’t help picturing to myself what his life must be like, how things are at his home, what a lucky man he is—not that I want to be him, nor even share in his run of luck. He’s simply the man I’ve never met and never shared any space with, who is still a substantial, physical presence in my life.
You see, Don and Mike have been partners for thirty-plus years in what we used to call the inner-ring suburbs. Twenty-three of those years, for all I know, passed happily for them, before I moved to the city next to theirs and placed an ad on Craigslist. Mike, whom I didn’t yet know as Mike, responded. He didn’t tell Don, whom I didn’t and still don’t know as Don, he had. I don’t think it was the first time Mike had worked the ads. It wasn’t the first time I had, either. I knew nothing of Mike’s domestic arrangements, I don’t think he knew anything about mine. That first time, close to nine years ago now, neither of us cared. It was truly a match made on Craigslist.
A better match has never come close to coming my way. The stacked, beautiful stud who appeared at my door liked it when I called him Sir. He said the pants I’d sort-of worn, ginger pubes curling over the sagging band, were the original low riders. He brought along his own schemes, played along with mine, matched me in adventurous play. I let him find me, stooped over a dresser, tighty-whities pulled down just enough to show my ass and reveal the metal cock-ring gleaming inside half-off drawers. I swirled two ice cubes on my tongue before I went down on him. He dipped the head of his cock in red wine, just so I would taste it. I met him in a wrestler’s threadbare singlet, which was ripped in two before we were done. I wore a slutty girl’s green skirt and Victoria’s Secrets, riding him with the hems of the skirt draping over his lower abs and knees. I opened my door wearing only a bow tie, apron, and tit clamps, seated him like he was a customer I was serving, said in a finicky waiter’s voice, some twenty minutes later, “the meat today, Sir, is especially fine.” Divinely sore stretches of me missed him whenever he wasn’t there.
We shared every sensual tenderness. He forgave me for an inept strip tease I should not have tried to do. He understood when one scene ended in the bathroom, amid soap, water and blushes; I tried to make amends as he assured me all was well. He held me through the oddly epileptic post-orgasmic seizures that my tense, fucked body undergoes—he clinched me tighter as rocking fits subsided, he learned to expect it right after I came, and he listened to me try to explain how at thirteen, I’d told a doctor how my body always seized like that. The doctor, once he understood the timing of the fits, laughed in my face. Sir, when I told him this—both of us still red, lubed, sweaty—said I had been brave to tell the doctor. He said he liked my body’s sudden, post-orgasmic fits. He said, let’s bring another one on.
We never promised one another anything, but the head got just as involved as the hard-on did. I noticed him removing a ring and slipping it into his pocket, sheepishly saying he did not want to be physically or emotionally encumbered. I respected that, making sure the ring made it back on his finger before he left. I slipped the ring off myself the next time, resting it on the nightstand. I don’t know whom it represents, I said of the ring, but I know—I said, meeting Sir’s eyes, admiring his body—he’s a lucky man. Sir’s eyes narrowed and he mentally went away a moment, probably thinking about whom it represented, what I’d said, what kind of luck had been involved. He kept playing, I again tasted his flesh, but, the time after that, his cell phone buzzed before we finished playing. The front door hadn’t even fully slammed before he was cooing his hellos on the way to his car.
Once, he was getting dressed to leave and I was still flexing tensed leg muscles, and he turned back and kissed me goodbye. Inhaling sharply, I hid the shock. Every inch of me had spent the previous hour getting brutally slammed, lovingly merged, fiercely conjoined, with every inch of him. And still, that kiss—as shy-schoolgirl as it makes me sound—was the sexiest thing I’d felt in years. Splashed acid burning into fingertips, a too-hot liquid surprising puckered lips, love rendered in language that narrowly escapes cliché—I still stood there, stunned, when he was already driving past the next block. My lips pined for him that time, long after sorer stretches remembered other things.
Once, I had been waiting in the basement, naked but for the cock ring and harness, when the phone rang and Mike’s voice asked, were we still “on” for the play we had planned? Caller ID flashed Don’s name. I mentally filed it away as I waited in the dark for the man who I then knew was Don’s partner. I rewarded Mike for finding me in a cobwebby wardrobe, went down on him on a mattress in the basement, even as, this time, he filmed it with his flash. He told me he watched those images repeatedly until, for Don’s sake, he deleted them. He didn’t use Don’s name when he told me.
Somehow, our email conversations came to involve his and Don’s planned international trip. It sounded so idyllic, remorse began to pang: was I was spoiling their idyll, just so my body could play? Were vacations their retreats from an extra-curricular like me? An email, all lower-case, achingly sincere, told Sir that if my play with him was getting in the way of life with Don, I no longer wanted to play. If he couldn’t take the cruise with Don because he was balling me, I’d rather he take the cruise. After “send,” I anxiously waited. Emoticons assured. An update told 300 friends someone had made his day. We scheduled another play date, before that day was done.
When a friend whom I had not talked to in five years walked into an alternative bookstore and saw The Ethical Slut on a shelf, she bought it, and mailed it to me. The day before her copy arrived, I had bought a copy of my own. “Slut” has a positive connotation. I like to think we uninhibited ones spread footloose liberation as a kind of collective mission. I once joined a nine-man hot-tub orgy. I helped engineer a multi-man scene in a buddy’s basement. I blew and was blown by a B-list celebrity in a bathhouse. I am not ashamed I have done any of these things. I carry out my own romances, have my own flings, let partners and buddies know I don’t play with just one man, and never expect them to—just that, like thesluts’ version of “honor among thieves,” they respect those who are also playing the proverbial field. It ruffles homebodies’ feathers to say so, but at least among gay men over 30 (maybe 35) it would be a much better world if more people thought as we sluts do. Not all of us want a traditional marriage. Monogamy is so hetero, after all.
And yet, there was Don—or more accurately, there wasn’t Don in the actual sphere of my life. He was always also attached to Mike’s body. He was also a part of him. He also, I intuited from Mike’s ceaseless sexual energy, possessed stretches that still felt Mike’s presence, even when Mike wasn’t there. Still sore from a bucking Mike at age forty, I pictured how fiercely he’d first bucked Don when they had first met up, at age twenty-two. I Googled their phone number from caller ID. I got their street address. But, honest to God —I have never driven, ridden, or walked by their house, though the location has a psychic hold over me. I found out Mike’s full name. I sampled his talents through keyword searches. I found he’d lied about his age in the first-ever, completely-unheard-of Internet fib. I scanned his friends’ avatars. I wondered idly who else belonged to the club.
So help me, I thought of scenarios in which I would have to enter Don and Mike’s life. If Mike left something valuable at my place, I would have to find a serious, anonymous way to return it. If Mike passed out while brutally, bodily slamming me, I would drive him to the emergency room, call his number, tell Don, and hang up as he inevitably asked, who’s this? My body, during and after sex, seized up and viscerally remembered Mike, and my mind seized on him, too; remembering Don was part of the equation. Liberated as I am, my fuckbuddy’s husband all too often came to mind.
Sir is a locally known actor and is always cool under pressure, but I manifest my emotions; listeners sense the truth, or lack of it, in anything I say: I’m not a home wrecker. I don’t want to ruin Don’s idyll. Picture, though, growing up in a place where you always see a lofty mountain peak from the same damn angle your entire childhood. You cannot help wondering, what does that mountain look like from the other side? An obsession collided with liberation. An “ethical slut” couldn’t not think of Don.
The main drag of their suburb closed down one summer festival Saturday. Card tables lined curbs. People hawked arts and crafts. They signed up for shifts on Neighborhood Watch. I spotted them half a block away: muscled, forty-something, chiseled, an iconic gay couple in matching attire. Their bodies stoop at the same angle, they’re carrying bags of the same design, they’re ambling forward in dead sync. It is as if the bags are of equal weight, as if they share the same thoughts. Of course it’s Mike and Don. Of course, the street signs tell me they live just down the street. Their bungalow, which I’ve never even seen, magnetically attracts me from scarcely two blocks away.
An elevated walkway connects the regional satellite of a college to its garage across the street. As they lope beneath the walkway, it looks like a child has cut out the same paper doll twice and marched the figures across a game board, adjacent to one another. And it hits me. They’ve probably passed that walkway a thousand times. They’ve inhabited these streets for decades. They’ve made people in the neighborhood, like the diners at the Middle Eastern take-out across the street, say to themselves as Don and Mike approached, here comes that beautiful gay couple again.
And I know, so help me, for no reason at all, right at that moment, I cannot go on sleeping with Sir.
I smile after them, and continue faux-shopping the fest. Headed home, they won’t pass me. Now I know, from a distance, whom the ring represents. I know who else’s stretches secretly prize visceral memories of Sir. I know who Sir’s lucky man really is. Gay men need breaks from monogamy’s monotony. More of us should study The Ethical Slut. More of us should know primary partnerships are enhanced by fuckbuddies’ flings. More of us would try out what’s taboo.
And yet, as they walked beneath that elevated walkway I saw for myself the obsessions I’d allowed for myself, the Don I had conjured, without actually knowing Don. I want more of my fellow gay men to be happy, even when—especially when—I won’t share in their happiness myself. Among the dizzy ditzes, bitchy queens, and just plain pieces-of-work one meets, well adjusted, happy gays like Don and Mike should surely abide, even abound. Don’s sex life, I’ll venture to conjecture, might be one tiny bit better for his husband’s having known me. Don’s peace of mind might still rely on never meeting me at all. Don’s inner stretches, I’m sure, like my own, still miss Mike, even when he isn’t really there.
© Estlin Adams. All rights reserved.