Here’s my new piece in Frontiers Magazine. Thanks for checking it out!
There is no space. No where to go, no place to find that can be your own. That is the hardest part. Maintaining yourself and still being a part of the relationship. That is true of all relationships. Finding a place that you can sit quietly and just be. We live in a three bedroom house. We have two guest houses. Every spare room is rented out: either on airbnb or to friends. It is how we subsidize our lives. How we afford to live.
And yet there is no space. Someone is always moving about. Always shitting. Always doing laundry. On the phone. Someone is always washing dishes or sitting on the couch, people are talking, laughing. Rarely are there ever times when it all stops. And then there is work. Or having to take care of the car. Or the bills. Navigating outside relationships with friends. Family. Dying mothers. Ageing fathers. There is Facebook and the phone and tumblr and blogs that have to be maintained.
There is no space. No one can breathe. Everything private occurs publicly. Witnessed by someone. Even if we didn’t rent the rooms out there would be no space. There are three of us. There are three cats and one dog. There are groceries to be bought. In the space of just these few paragraphs someone has walked past me four times. My computer has alerted me, in the upper right hand corner, that someone is trying desperately to tell me something on Facebook Messenger. I have events coming up. It’s someone’s birthday.
There is an endless amount of things that must happen. Right now.
This morning I broke down. I ended up back in bed, after having been up for half an hour, sobbing. Uncontrollably. Sobbing so hard it hurt in my stomach and lower back. The weight of everything spilling over. I realized: this is just what it is. This is life.
A few weeks ago Paco, our little dog, jumped out of our bed and did something to his spine and couldn’t walk anymore. We had to take him outside to pee, expressing him by pressing on his bladder. He shit in his bed at night and didn’t know it. One of our cats began pissing blood. He had crystals in his urine. My mother tried to grow her hair back but it fell out again. She doesn’t like the chemo infusions. She says she can’t sit there like that, for endless hours, having chemicals pumped into her. I’ve had bronchitis for the past six weeks. At night I find it hard to breathe, like a great pressure pushing down on me.
Laying in bed, the blankets pulled over my head, I wondered: can I do this? Is it actually sustainable? Am I capable of this? Outside I knew Jon and Alex were fed up with me. Tired of my tantrums. Maybe I should leave. Even though I say we are broke I could leave. The money would be there if I needed it: plane tickets and a new life. An allowance to buy me some time while I re-figure out who I am. The money is always there when I need it. And I’ve done this before. Disappearing into new cities, leaving everything behind. Maybe that is what I should do now. Just disappear. I’ve failed at this life. Maybe it’s time to make a new one.
Ten and a half months ago I got married. We are discussing buying a new house. Laying down roots. More roots. More restrictions. More shackles. And I think about freedom. I think about space. I think about escape. I think about who I am and who I am becoming. 13 months and a few days ago Jon moved in with us. Taking up more space in my life, in my head, in my heart, and in the bed, on the couch, using the bathroom and his shirts and underwear taking up room on the floor and in the dresser. In two weeks Alex will go back to work, in six weeks he will leave for six months. He’s barely been here at all. I feel like I haven’t even had the chance to spend any time with him: because there is no time between the loads of laundry and the doctor and the constant negotiating of all the aspects of our lives. He just got here and now he is leaving again.
I look around my house. I look at all the books. At everything I love. And I feel the burden of things that are trivial, empty, meaningless: and yet all those trivial, empty, meaningless things grow into one giant weight, while the love seems to lose whatever power it once had to help elevate me.
There is the car honking outside. There is the neighbors fighting. There are all those bills: endlessly appearing and subtracting what I have. From my bank accounts. From my relationships. From my self.
I find myself thinking a lot about “a room of one’s own”. A quiet space where I can disappear for a while. I’ve been talking about going to Berlin or Madrid. About living in those dark, poetic skies in Kreuzberg, or on the Chueca Square. Of quiet and space: lying on the floor, no noise, no people, just thinking…my thoughts flying away from me, forever spiraling into new dimensions. Of going for long walks through strange new neighborhoods: a life of discovery.
Of being alone.
There are so many of us. There are so many socks and shoes and shirts: so many different feelings and thoughts and needs: there is never a break: never a moment when you can sit back and just be.
Or at least that is how it feels. The truth is: this is all wrong.
When I am frustrated or upset instead of getting sad or quiet or asking for help I yell. I get mad. I am conflict driven. I work it out through fury. This can be exhausting for those closest to me. For those who have to suffer my bursts of unexplainable rage. I like to blame everything else around me for the inadequacies I feel inside: the amount of people in the house at any given time, the laundry, the noise, Alex and Jon laughing or talking, the lack of money, the constancy of bills, the political climate and the whole fucking world. The problem is always outside of me. And I start punching.
The truth is simple: there is never time for myself unless I take the time. I know this but I don’t do it. Instead I am constantly caving to the endless chatter of Facebook and the New York Times: the constant call to pay attention to things that don’t actually matter.
Time and space and individuality are, for me, the biggest challenges in this relationship triangle I find myself in. All I want to do is be with them and all I want to do is get away from them.
Yesterday I blew up. I was sitting at my desk: which currently sits in the middle of the living room. When Alex is in Spokane and Jon is working and everyone is out of the house it is my favorite place to be: just me surrounded by all my books. When everyone is home it is chaos. As I sat there, frustrated because I couldn’t write, listening to Rene’s Mexican pop music and Jon and Alex giggling on the couch at Tumblr gifs I began thinking about how impossible my life was. How I had no space, no time: that I could not write and it was their fault. Everything was their fault.
I started huffing and puffing, stomping around: I was mad and they were going to know it. Everyone was going to feel what I was feeling.
Part of what happens, I know, is I pre-fight in my head. I work up a good fury before I even take it to the people. I imagine all the things I am mad at, all the wrongs done to me: I see how no one else is living up to my expectations of them. How everyone else is fucking up my life. I talk to them in my head. Hold lengthy monologues where I tell them how they are fucking up. In my head my arguments always make sense, they always add up: I am always totally justified in what I am feeling and in how I express it. I am always right.
Of course, none if it went as planned. Because they are there too: they are not the them that live in my head: they are real people with their own inner dialogues and their own expectations: their own needs.
I was hysterical with fury and panic. What started out as “I can’t think. I need space. I can’t write.” Turned into a discussion about our entire relationship and whether or not we should even continue. Five hours dissecting every aspect of every possible problem. When all I was really upset about was not having a space to myself. But they had their own upsets. Their own complaints and worries and fears: they were their own universes with their own needs and dogmas. Their own internal monologues. And it all ended up being dumped right there on the floor in front of us.
Alex and I discussed divorce. We discussed my just leaving for six months, moving to Amsterdam or Barcelona, where I could finish my novel. We discussed just giving up sex and opening our relationship up. I was melodramatic. I made them each promise not to leave me right away if we broke up.
I always wonder at people. At their relationships. At how they behave with each other when there is no one else there. I wonder at people beyond Facebook and the bars: I wonder at the truth. I wonder do they go as crazy as I do? Do they ever get angry and yell and scream? Do they say unforgivable things to each other? Do they worry that they are more Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woof and less Love Actually? Do they ever think about all the shit that keeps piling up, suffocating whatever love is there? Do they fight endlessly about nothing, worrying themselves down to the sharpest nerve? Or are they calm and quiet and perfect? Do they live in houses cluttered with clothes and books and the debris of life or are their floors clean and swept, white curtains blowing eternally in the gentlest wind? Everyone else always seems to have their shit together and I always seem to feel like it’s all falling apart.
We didn’t get divorced. We didn’t “open up”. We also didn’t necessarily solve any of our problems: in truth I’m not even sure exactly what our problems are. I’m still trying to figure that out. We all left the bedroom a little broken, a little sad: those kinds of conversations never really work out. I’m beginning to think “talking it through” might not always be the best idea. Maybe sometimes the best idea is just walking away. Getting a little space. A little time for yourself. Maybe a hike in Griffith Park. A walk to Larchmont. Sit in a café and read. A matinee alone. Sometimes we are so up in each other’s faces we can’t even breathe anymore.
I am realizing something about myself: all this talking isn’t about the talking: it’s about fear. About being afraid that I am no longer loved. Or enough. That no one wants me anymore. All this talking, this fighting, this round-about endless dissecting has very little to do with solutions. I want everyone to stop and just pay attention to me. I want them to all be happy and behave exactly how I want them to behave. How I expect them to behave. And that is the fucking endless problem. My expectations of how they should be behaving. My expectations of how life should be: how my life should look. My endless expectations of how everything and everyone around me should behave.
And so I am endlessly let down.
I want space but I want you to always want to be around me. I want time alone but I want you to be always thinking of me, always wanting me: content to just sit around waiting for me. But I also want you to go out and work: just in a way that is convenient to my needs. I want Alex to be successful but I don’t want him to go away for six months: so I get mad. I want Jon to write but I don’t want him to sit in the living room writing when I want to write: so I get mad.
I want the world to conform to me and it will not. It absolutely will not. And that makes me fucking furious.
I am like a five year old kicking and screaming and demanding that everyone listen to me: give to me: save me.
And even knowing this I still think that everybody would be much happier if they just did things my way: if everyone just did what I said. I’m smart. I’ve lived a pretty crazy life. And I’ve survived it. I know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m pretty sure I know better than everyone else how they should be living their lives.
People should fucking trust me.
This morning I was talking to a friend of mine on Facebook Messenger. He and his husband recently opened up. I asked him how it was.
“Fine.” He said. “Less than I thought.”
“I’m still not getting laid.”
He was mad at his husband. They hadn’t had sex in a month. They kept fighting about it. Talking about it. All the fighting and talking had begun to make the idea of sex seem not just unsexy but kind of repulsive.
“I don’t even want to fuck him anymore.”
I’d fuck his husband. He is hot. While listening to my friend I found myself imaging me fucking his husband. See, if we were open, I could fuck his husband. It would be okay.
Then I wondered if Alex would fuck him. Who would Alex fuck? And Jon? And I started getting mad. I could feel it building. It’s okay if I fuck the world but you better not want to fuck anyone who isn’t me.
Alex and I share a tumblr account. We post pictures of guys (mixed in with pictures of the three of us) that we think are hot. Recently Alex reblogged a picture of some hairy muscle daddy. I kept going back to that picture. Staring at it. Trying to divine what Alex liked so much about it: fine, it is obvious, the guy is hot. Hotter than me. And that was the problem. I didn’t mind if Alex reblogged chubby older white guys: but lately he’s been reblogging younger guys, muscle guys: super fucking sexy guys. And I didn’t like that. In fact, it made me fucking pissed. Because he shouldn’t want them. He should want me. Why isn’t he taking pictures of me and reblogging them (For the record, if I were honest: he is…it just isn’t enough…but then it is becoming clear none of it is enough)? Why isn’t he texting me and talking to me….and honestly, why does he jerk off in the shower? Why does he even jerk off at all? Why can’t he always fuck me? Why does he….and on it goes until the fury builds and I am ready to fight. To tear it all down. To fucking destroy everything.
“Do you and your dude still fuck?” I asked my friend.
“No. But that’s why we decided to do this. He says he isn’t in a sexual space, whatever the fuck that means. He isn’t horny. But I know he’s fucking other guys. I’ve gone on his phone and looked at his Scruff account. If he isn’t feeling sexual why does he even have a Scruff account?”
“Do you have a Scruff account?”
I told Alex and Jon if we ever opened up I didn’t want to announce it on Facebook. I didn’t want to know about their adventures. I didn’t want to see it.
But here is something I have learned about me: I can start out adamantly against something, and I can begin to reason with myself. Begin to see where maybe I have been wrong. I can be opinionated and arrogant and judgmental, but I am also willing to change. To see other sides of the argument. Maybe not while the argument is happening: I am designed to fight to win, but after the battle is over: I begin to think about it. To consider it: to let the opposing sides in. So maybe I would want to know about it: maybe their adventures would become my fantasies. Maybe this could become the new tool in our sexuality. A way to flirt with each other.
Because I want to be involved. I want to be included. Not just because I am selfish and greedy and want the world to revolve around me (all basically true statements) but also because then it feels healthy, it feels like we are still intimate on some level: participating in each other’s sexuality.
Sex matters to me. I believe sexual intimacy is important…maybe even essential to what I want from a relationship: but I’m also beginning to see it doesn’t have to be limited. Maybe being open is a way of allowing all of us to explore what we need, and then bring those experiences back to the relationship. A way to learn more about ourselves.
Alex used to say, when we were first dating, that he didn’t want to limit my sexuality. So much of who we are and what we need or want gets limited: restricted: inside a relationship. But we don’t necessarily have to give in to that. We can step out side the constraints and try something new.
And still be us.
Life is not easy. Often it is hard and messy. Sometimes it feels designed to oppress us. To hold us down. To keep us trapped inside our narrow worlds. But we can step outside those boxes: walk around our self-made prisons, consider life on the outside.
I believe that the only limitations we have are the ones we place on ourselves. That doesn’t mean I will become a world class Opera singer or president: but it doesn’t mean I have to live a small, narrow life either. I can go big if I really want to. I can go as big as I allow myself.
And the other thing I am beginning to realize: all those things that are driving me so crazy: my cellphone bill, my car insurance, mortgage payments and the constant people who are always around me, loving me: wanting and expecting things from me, little Paco and our cat Ash, Henry and Dorian, all these things that are driving me so fucking crazy right now: they are blessings. Things I have fought for. Things I have built. Things I love. I love my house: our home. I love my books and the computer that Alex and Jon bought me for my birthday. I love our crazy little world of animals, I love the two men who sit on the couch and giggle and whisper to each other: even when we forget that we are friends and not enemies, I love them: I love the car my father bought for me when I met Alex and was embarrassed to tell him that I was recently sober and had lost my car along with my house and everything else: I love my father who never stops supporting and loving me, my dying mother who has beat the odds over and over again: I love this life that just three and a half years ago, drowning in drugs and alcohol, seemed so impossible, so far away: I love the way sunlight plays across the wood floors: all these annoyances and distractions are mine.
I have fought hard for this life. And I am lucky. I can remember so clearly living at 1036 Sanborn Ave, high on oxy and whiskey, standing naked in front of a mirror screaming at myself: hearing voices telling me to jump out the window: to die: telling me I was alone and I would always be alone. Forever.
But that was just a lie. I am not alone. I am surrounded by love. Even as we disappoint each other, even as we save each other, even as we scream and yell and cry: if I can just remember: this is mine. It is what I have always wanted.
And while everything comes at a price: it is never so high to make it not worth it. And so maybe my white curtains never seem to flow as perfectly in that gentle warm breeze as I would like, and maybe there are dishes in the sink that no one seems to be doing, and Paco is always barking, and Jon is doing the fucking kitty litter box again, and Alex is watching some stupid video, and maybe Facebook keeps reminding me to wish some asshole I don’t know happy birthday, all of these things…are mine.
I have been given the chance at a new life. Most of you never knew me when I was high. Will never know how far I fell. How desperate and scared and ugly it got. How fucking alone I was. How in those moments late at night I would have sold my soul for the life I have been given.
And then I remember: this is magic. I listen to a lot of people talking about how horrible the world is. How mean humans are. How terrible and ugly everything is. And I know: life is what I want it to be. Even as my mother dies she goes to book clubs and she has lunch with friends: even as she coughs up blood she tells jokes and makes dinners for the people she loves.
There can be so much ugliness and despair and hate. But all the things that seem to hurt so much are all the things I have loved so deeply.
A few days ago, driving down Fountain Avenue, I pulled over on the side of the road and began sobbing. My mother had been telling me about a book she was reading. I could see her there in her apartment, Don asleep, shadows surrounding her, it would be cold outside: and she would be both frail and endlessly strong: she would be this woman who was sick and old and she would be my mother, young and healthy and beautiful, a woman famous for the parties she threw, famous for the artists she knew, my mother standing on the banks of rivers conjuring ghosts. After we hung up I pulled over to the side of the road, alone, and sobbed. I screamed at God. Because if he existed he was a monster. My mother did not deserve to suffer like this: she did not deserve this ending to her life. She did not fucking deserve this pain. My mother did not deserve this and fuck God and the Universe and fuck everyone who lived on this miserable ugly planet.
And then my phone rang. It was my mom calling again. I picked up.
“I forgot to tell you!” she said, her voice raspy from coughing.
“What?” I asked, trying to hide the fact that I had just been crying.
“Just how grateful I am. You know, I’m not grateful I got cancer, but I am grateful for what it showed me. I keep thinking how every thing I’ve ever done in my life was selfish. I left you and your brother, I’ve cheated on so many men, I’ve been selfish and petty and yet tonight, all these women came over and made dinner with me and we watched Sherlock and then we laughed and gossiped till after midnight. I mean, think about that. And I am grateful for you. And for Damon. I don’t think I deserve the life I’ve gotten. I am the luckiest person I know.”
I do not think I deserve the life I have gotten. I have cheated and lied and betrayed those I love. I have squandered the gifts I have been given. I am rarely grateful and when I am it is usually a prelude to wanting more.
And if there is a God I’m still pretty sure I do not like him. Not one fucking bit.
“We are blessed, you know.” My mother said to me. “You and I. We have been blessed. Kissed by heaven. My whole life I’ve been giving God the finger. I’m glad he has been more tolerant of me than I have been of him.”
No one can prepare you for the amount of fucking that goes on in Berlin. But I will get to that in a moment.
The thing people don’t seem to get, or that they struggle with, is that Jon is not our toy. He is not some thing we took for a period of time that we will one day send back into the world. He isn’t a solution to some problem we were having. Jon is one third of the equation. An equal component. That’s the part most people don’t seem to really understand: that we are one relationship with three people. Each person equal. Each person essential. In the beginning Alex and I were the “core relationship”. It had to be that way. We were bringing someone else in. We were the established couple. In the beginning “We” were dating Jon. But that isn’t sustainable, not in the long run, not in a real relationship. The structures had to be torn down and rebuilt. The way “We” did things had to change and grow to accept this new person. In some ways “We” were dissolving and the three of us were becoming.
And that is not easy. We often fought against it. Sometimes we still do. Alex and I had to learn to allow parts of who we were to dissolve while maintaining the core of who “We” were. We still get to exist. We have been together for almost three years longer than we have known Jon. We have a whole life together. A whole world of shared events. And that doesn’t change. It doesn’t go away. And none of us, Jon included, want that to go away. It’s what helped draw Jon in. Our love, the way Alex and I loved each other, is part of what attracted Jon to us in the first place. We aren’t going to give that up.
Jon is not our puppy. He is not our boy. He is not our fuck toy (though to be honest, I kind of see both Alex and Jon as my fuck toys, but I think that’s okay. I think they like it). Jon is one of Us. Just like I am. Just like Alex is.
We are a family.
The other thing people don’t seem to understand is: just because we are a triad doesn’t mean we are sluts looking to fuck the world (though, sometimes, that might be true. Often it might be true. My point is: we have rules.) Just because I have two boyfriends (well, a husband and a boyfriend) does not mean I’m going to suck your dick in the bathroom. It doesn’t mean we are “open”. It doesn’t mean any of your fantasies about a Triad are true.
Now I’m sure some of you will throw this last paragraph back in my face when I get to Berlin and the endless asses and dicks we encountered there, and for that matter, all over Europe, during our honeymoon. I’m not pretending that we live a conventional kind of life, or that we want a conventional relationship…it’s just…some guys seem to think because I am in a Triad they can say and insinuate and do anything they want. It’s like they’ve watched so much porn they forget that we live in the real world with consequences and rules and feelings and that we still pay our bills and have to go to work and sometimes would rather stay home and watch TV and eat ice cream than go to your lame chem sex party at the Holiday Inn Express in Silverlake. To be honest, I’m pretty sure we’d always rather stay home than go to some random hotel sex party. But then again, who knows? I guess it depends on who’s throwing the party and who’s going.
We don’t like to be limited either.
Rules are the corner stone of our lives: it’s what makes all of this work. We aren’t free flowing sex liberals always on the hunt for our new lay. We aren’t burning sage all day long and chanting sex positive affirmations. We are just three dudes. And sometimes we can get really horny and go a little crazy. And other times we want to eat pizza and watch the Golden Girls. Sometimes we are dogs on the prowl and sometimes we are all emo wrapped in blankets and hiding out from the world.
I still role my eyes when I read posts on Facebook from guys who go on and on about how they don’t need just one person, they can love an endless amount of guys, and when one love is over they can let it go, easily, and move to the next. I want to say: if it’s so easy than maybe it isn’t love. Because losing Jon or Alex would be devastating: soul shaking: world destroying.
I’m not in this to love the world. I’m in this to share my life with these two very particular, very specific guys.
And that brings me to the word Poly. Alex is always telling me we aren’t Poly. I think, by default, because we are more than just two, we are Poly (polyamorous). According to the dictionary polyamory is: the practice or condition of participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship.
That is us. Almost. Sort of. Are we polyamorous? I don’t feel like that is us. We are not participating in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship (sure we have fucked a lot of other guys together, but I’d like to point out that word serious: none of them were serious. Some were seriously hot, but none of them went beyond fucking. A few of them might even be friends, but again: that word serious sounds pretty fucking serious, it has weight, meaning.).
Alex, Jon and I are participating in one serious romantic relationship: our relationship. The three of us. We are one. So maybe being in a Triad doesn’t make us Poly. Are we Poly because we sometimes go and fuck other guys? If that were the case than, whether people know it or admit it, most of us are poly. Cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend makes you poly. The random blowjob at the gym or in the back of the car when drunk that you never intended to happen and doesn’t really mean anything about the person you happen to actually be in love with means you are poly. If I go by the idea that having sexual -relations with more than one person equals poly then the word becomes kind of irrelevant.
The urban dictionary adds a twist: it implies that everyone involved must know about the other sex or romantic partners. I guess that sort of sounds like us. But again, not really.
Maybe I believe that all of us, to one degree or another, have the ability to be Poly. I learned after we met Jon that my capacity for love is larger than I ever could have imagined: that it was not limited. I have learned that just because I fuck another guy, or Alex does, or Jon does, it doesn’t mean I don’t want the guys I am in a relationship with. It just means that my sexuality is large: it encompasses many things, and I am willing to explore that and be open to it.
I want to explore the boundaries of love and sexuality. I do not want any of us to be locked inside a box: a prison made out of societal constructs on what relationships and sexuality are: but I still am not sure that makes the three of us poly.
I am in one relationship with two guys. The three of us form one unit. Us.
And then there is Berlin, and that infamous Laboratory, and Barcelona with the sexy Columbian, and Madrid…Madrid and all those outrageously sexy guys. I guess those stories will have to wait.
But I don’t think any of that makes us Poly. I just think it makes us humans. With really big sexualities.
Or maybe I am just really against being defined by someone else’s words and the weight that comes with those words. Maybe I think we should all just be allowed to live our lives how we want: monogamy or open, couple or triad or in some communal love den, or single, building different alliances. In the end as long as we are loving it’s like a win-win situation, right? As long as we are taking care of someone else, holding them, loving them, while also taking care of ourselves, and allowing them to hold us, what’s the problem?
I love Alex. I love Jon. And I get to be loved by them. Before we leave the house we huddle up. We kiss each other. They are taller than me so I can look up when they are kissing and see them. Their eyes closed, the way they move in, close: the openness of it. There is something so endlessly beautiful in that moment: something that has captured me and made them mine.
And then we hold each other and I know we are safe. I know that we can go out into the world and that we will be okay.
Because they are my family.
Right now none of us are living in the same city.
Alex is in Spokane Washington working on Znation and is gone six months out of the year, Jon got a job as a reporter at a newspaper in Bakersfield and is only home on the weekends, and I am here, in LA, keeping our house safe for my men.
It is a strange time. It has offered me a lot of time to sit and think. To read and to write.
It has been unbearably hot in LA. The nights burn. The sun is inescapable in that cloudless, endlessly blue skied, LA way. I have found myself crying over things that people don’t cry over. Sometimes out of sadness, sometimes because I am so overwhelmed with joy: I can’t seem to make it all the way through a half hour TV show without crying at least two times. It’s become kind of embarrassing.
I have no idea why I am crying so much.
In November Alex and I are going on our honeymoon. We are spending three and a half weeks in Europe. Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. Jon won’t be going with us. There are many reasons why this is true: it is our honeymoon, something we had planned before Jon, something that we all three feel Alex and I need to do: but also Jon got this new job. A good job. A job that is exactly what he wanted to be doing: this is something I realize now that makes the three of us very lucky: we each have found a way to do exactly what we’ve always wanted to do: we are each living the lives we wanted to be living.
I am going to miss Jon while we are gone. A lot. I am going to miss his strange and awkward facial expressions, his startlingly handsome smile: how he goes from total book geek to super model in a matter of seconds. A friend of mine recently said, “Jon is so unassuming, so quiet, that sometimes it’s like he isn’t there, and then he will say something or do something so small and charming, and he will smile, and you are taken aback by how handsome and gentle and beautiful he is.” This is true. This is exactly true.
Sometimes, when Jon is home and Alex is still away, in Spokane, I lay next to Jon, my hand on his back, feeling him breath, and I love him so much while simultaneously missing Alex to the point of it hurting.
I am amazed at how all these things can exist simultaneously. An infinite array of feelings happening at once. It makes me wonder about our complexities: about what it means to be human.
And while I will miss Jon, while I know there will be nights when I will lay in Alex’s arms and feel his love, the completeness of him surrounding me, I will also feel the loss of Jon: the pain of his not being there: and I will also be happy. I know that I will experience the amazing adventure with Alex and I will experience the pain of not having Jon by our side at the same time. Both will exist. Both will be true.
I recently had a dream. I am walking through a wide open field. It is dark out. The moon hangs low and full in the sky. A light fog moves over the ground, coming to my knees. In the distance I can see the sparkling lights of a large house: warm and bright: inviting. As I walk up the path to the front door I hear voices: a vast tapestry of the same voices all happening at the same time: each distinct, each it’s own pattern, it’s own story: a hundred different variations of three voices: and I knew what each one was saying: as if they were brightly lit before me, burning streams leading off into different directions.
Inside the house I walk through rooms: each a completely different world, a different experience: Jon and Alex and I, sitting on the floor, or at a table, or in bed, talking and laughing and fighting and fucking and cooking dinner and making plans: all of this happening in each room I entered: all of it happening at once: and I could taste the flavors of the emotions in the air, I could see the colors surrounding us, the beating of our hearts, the way the blood moved in our veins: the small lines carved into our skin, the maps of our existence: I could see the fullness and the depth: I could see it all.
When I woke up the next morning I felt something had been given to me: a gift that, while beautiful, I wouldn’t exactly be able to use: the kind of gift that is marvelous and perfect and yet strangely impractical.
In September Alex came home for a three day weekend. His mother was here too. She had sold her house in Huntington Beach and was moving to New Mexico for a new job. This was the house Alex had grown up in. So many things were happening, it was layered and complex: his child hood home was being sold, his mother was moving away, Jon and I were here in LA, life was moving forward and he felt like it was all happening without him, away from him. The weekend was hard. For everybody. I can’t exactly put my finger on it: for me, I know, I am not good when people are sad or sick or scared. It terrifies me. I want to break things and rage: I want to destroy everything back to being okay.
This is not always a helpful approach. I know that.
When we brought Alex to the airport after the weekend, I sat in the car, watching him: he stood there, people moving past him, crying, looking at us as we drove away: lost. I have never known exactly that pain before. There was nothing I could. Nothing I could say. Nothing I could offer to make him feel any better.
I was just a witness to his life.
I think sometimes that is all any of us can be. Witnesses. To each other. To life.
A few nights ago I found myself sitting in the middle of my living room, our living room, alone: it was late, after two in the morning, and I was crying. I can’t tell you why. I just felt afraid. I felt lost. I felt hopeless.
I felt powerless. Over everything. Again, I was a witness, only now it was to myself.
After a few minutes I stood up and I started talking, out loud, to the air and the house: to the room: to the future. I believe there are things that listen to us. I’m not sure there is anything they can do, but it is comforting to me. And after a while I went to sleep and when I woke up there was a stream of text messages in our threeway group chat. Stupid things, meaningless little things:
“Babies! Are you awake yet?”
“I’m awake! I don’t want to be! I want to be in bed with my loves!”
“You will be! Soon!”
“Do you promise!”
“Baby what are you doing?”
“I’m at work.” A picture arrives of a prosthetic zombie body, painted to look bloodied and decaying.
“Baby! That is so cool! You have the coolest job ever!”
“Yes baby. It’s true. You are the coolest ever.”
“What are you doing, baby?”
“I’m at work. I was given a new assignment today so I’m researching story leads. It’s hot here.”
And then me: “Babies!!!! I’ve awaken!”
“Baby that is so beautiful!”
“Shut up baby! You are so beautiful!”
And I get out of bed and I play with Paco and the cats and make coffee and I consider writing or reading, maybe the gym, reading texts from Alex and Jon, going through my day: a witness to our life.
I will miss Jon when we are gone. I have missed Alex every day for six months. And I will love being alone with my husband, traveling and having adventures, and I have loved the quiet times Jon and I have had together, watching TV and holding hands on the couch, and I will love the three of us, lying in bed, whispering to each other, our hands touching, my belly pressed into the small of Jon’s back, Alex’s hand wrapped over Jon and onto me.
It’s okay that we aren’t all together right now. Even in my loneliest moments I know that: because we are living our lives and we are encouraging each other to move forward, supporting each other. I want them both with me here always, but more than that I want them to live the biggest lives they can, even if it means I can’t have them next to me: even if it means I have to lose them for a while: because it is only temporary. It is only circumstantial.
And then we will all be home again. Together.
My Best friend, Andrea, is a successful journalist. She writes for places like the New York Times and Huff Post and other big name venues. She gave me one piece of advice when I told her about my Vice article, “Don’t respond to the trolls who are going to attack you in the comments section. Read it if you want. Read all of it if you want. But don’t respond.” She told me to stay out of the conversations that were going to arise. On Facebook and elsewhere. If someone wrote me personally, or on Twitter, and they were being nice, or at least trying to be nice, respond. “But ignore the assholes. They aren’t talking to you anyway.” Andrea has a lot of experience in this. She’s waded into some pretty controversial territory. I trusted her.
And she was right. There have been some assholes. People who want to tell me why my relationship with Alex and Jon can’t work. Why it is wrong. Some talk about Christianity, some talk about exploiting gay marriage. Everyone has an opinion and they feel those opinions intensely.
When I wrote the piece for Vice my goal was not controversy. I was naïve. It didn’t even really occur to me that this piece, about love and friendship: about learning to be happy could possibly be controversial to anyone. I mean fine, besides the gay aspect, which is always controversial to someone, I just didn’t think most people would care.
I was wrong.
There was one scathing comment from a gay guy who lives in LA, someone I kind of know indirectly, who told me I was being selfish. That it was hard enough for him to find one decent gay guy in LA to date (he’s single) and that here I was taking two, and in the process ruining my marriage because there was no way this could work, as well as ruining his chances at finding true love. He told me my whole article was just selfish justification. Another woman said that no one will take gays seriously now. I was proving everyone right: that we were over sexualised, promiscuous, etc. Some people wrote, Ewww, or just Gross.
I was surprised at how mostly these people didn’t bother me. I felt sorry for the gay guy. He seemed really sad. I thought it was strange that he made my being happy about his being sad. But I could almost understand what he was saying. He was lonely. And the woman: well, I don’t really know what to say to her. Yes, I have fucked a lot of guys. Yes, the three of us have fucked A LOT of guys and honestly, I hope we fuck a hell of a lot more guys. Fucking is fun. I don’t know why anyone should feel ashamed of enjoying sex. It’s one of those rare win-win situations as far as I can tell. I’m also not a fan of slut shaming. If you want to be a slut, go be the best fucking slut in the whole world. I am incredibly grateful to some of the sluts I’ve met. I’ve really enjoyed them.
Monogamy is not bad. Trying to build that kind of deep, intimate, relationship is amazing. And I support that. I’m just not sure it’s right for me. I have been in enough relationships where I failed at it, or the guy I was with failed at it, and we all felt betrayed and sad and it hurt. We lied to each other. I became someone I didn’t want to be.
I’ve decided I’m no longer willing to be that person. I know who I am and I can accept that and be happy with it.
When Alex and I first started talking about all this stuff, he said to me, “I really want to honor your sexuality. I don’t want to make you be something you aren’t. I want to share in it.” And that is what we did. We aren’t open. Necessarily. Our goal is a version of monogamy. We fuck other guys together. We have fun. We share our sexuality, the three of us now, together. We explore together. Sometimes, based on circumstances, the rules are looser and sometimes they are tighter. We are fluid. We try to take everyone’s needs into consideration.
Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes it is fraught with peril. But mostly we have found it works, for us.
What amazed me about the negative comments wasn’t that they disagreed with me, or that they were uncomfortable with my choices, but that they were so sure I was wrong. They wanted to hurt me. Tell me we would fail. That I was gross. That my choices, Jon’s and Alex’s choices, weren’t acceptable.
Instead they could have just been happy because we were happy. They could have just believed what they believed but hoped for a better outcome.
But we are all fragile and hurt. We are all scared. Life has a way of breaking us down.
At first I was mad at the comments. Hurt. I thought, shit, if this upsets them wait till I write about being HIV positive, I’m going to prove them all right: Slut gets AIDS. Than I thought, this isn’t about me. What they are saying isn’t about me. I’m happy. This is my life. And look at how amazing it’s turned out. I got to marry the man of my dreams. I got to date this awesome fucking brilliant guy. The three of us get to live together in this amazing home in this amazing city and we get to share each other’s lives and be best friends and lovers and to explore the world and to grow together, not to cage each other, but to really support each other.
I suddenly realized: I am the luckiest fucking guy in the world.
And I got to do what I love best: I got to write and get paid for it and thousands of people read it. And the most amazing thing, besides the few negative comments, was the outpouring of love and acceptance and wonder. I woke up this morning to 57 emails thanking me and congratulating Alex and Jon and I. Asking me questions. Telling me their stories. Yesterday was 196! On twitter my account has 234 notifications at this moment. These are all wonderful, amazing stories, people saying the most incredible things.
A whole world of other happy people!
I am completely blown away. Straight people, gay people, young , old, people from all over the world. I met a triad who’s been together 11 years. Another who met in high school, all three of them, and they are still together 8 years later. They’ve shared their stories with me, their experiences and their truth: that this does work. That love does actually win if you want it to.
There is so much to hate in the world. And there is a lot of fucking pain and misery. It’s amazing to read these emails and think, Look, these people have found happiness, they found joy, they found a way to carve out a life of their own. Because this is our life. This is fucking it. And man, terrible things will happen. I talk to my mother, who has stage IV Cancer every day, and every day I get off the phone I sob. I literally sit there and cry almost hysterically. It isn’t fair, I think. That this amazing woman, this beautiful person, should suffer.
And then I think about all the amazing friends she has. About her partner, and all the people who come together and visit her and take her to lunch. All the love she has in her life. My mother would never say that it wasn’t fair. She says she’s lucky. That her life has been filled with love and friends and happiness.
She loves to ask me questions about Jon and Alex. My mother has no problem asking me intensely personal questions about our sex lives. She likes to hear me tell stories.
When I found out I was HIV Positive my friend Kevin drove me straight to Alex. I walked into the house and before I could even speak I was sobbing. I had no idea what was going to happen to me. To him. To us. To the world. And he held me. He wrapped me in those big arms of his and just held on, keeping me safe. And he cried with me. And he told me, over and over, “This is okay. We will be okay. We can do this. Together.” And he was right. We did. He went with me to my doctors appointments. He reminds me to take my meds. And he still loves me. I was safe. Even in all that fear about what was going to happen now: I was safe and he was with me, and together we were going to be fine.
There are no guarantees in this life. Life is exactly what it is. Maybe I just got a bigger, sweeter piece of the pie. Maybe Alex is right and I am eternally optimistic.
But one thing I do know, it’s something my mother once said, “You can’t control the shit storm that life is, so you might as well have as much fun as possible while dancing in the middle of it.”
I am definitely having fun. I got the biggest, sweetest piece of pie ever. And I have two fucking incredible men to share it with. And this whole thing, all of you out there, have just reaffirmed that for me.
Thank you for all the amazing emails and letters and comments. You have made my life just that much better. We are all fucking awesome.
People want to know about the sex, or the sleeping, or does Jon actually live with us, and does he have a say in things? Who is primary? How does it work? All these questions are complicated, but they all seem to come back to an important idea: intimacy. How does it work. And to be honest, I have no fucking clue. I just know that it does work. Sometimes amazingly well, sometimes not very well at all, but it does work. I tell my friends, sure, three-way fucking is great, but three-way fighting sucks. One plus is that we have more money. There are three incomes, three people able to contribute. It means we can stay at nicer places, take more trips. It also means that sometimes we can’t all get seats together on the plane, and splitting deserts and cupcakes is a little more complicated, and we have to stay somewhere that has a queen size bed (this is my issue, really, I just need a lot of space when sleeping, and I’m a lousy cuddler), and it isn’t always easy to explain: people are more open now to the idea of a gay couple, but a gay triad? Seriously, we are pushing the boundaries.
Sleeping is a big issue for me. Lately I’ve realized, some nights, I just might have to go into the guest room to sleep. Not because I am mad or don’t want to be around them, but because sometimes I just want my own space, my own time, and one thing about being in a relationship that pushes the boundaries is, you start to realize: my needs are okay, even if they aren’t conventional. If I need space I get to take space. That’s okay. I like to say I’m going to the Spa for the night, even if really it’s just a tiny guest bedroom we have that has a futon and a bunch of books on magic and spirituality and philosophy. I like to go in there and read. I go in there to escape. To find quiet: because it’s not just the sleeping: it’s finding that time that is mine. That is hard enough to do with one other person, with three of us it can feel like an almost impossible challenge.
And that is the other thing. Whatever is hard for two is just that much harder for three. But, the opposite is often also true: whatever is amazing for two is sometimes that much more amazing with three. Again, I think about the sex. But then, maybe I’m just greedy. Fine. I’m greedy.
We have a queen size bed. I’m insisting that we get a California King. My original idea was two king mattresses and empty the bedroom of all furniture. Just mattress. Lots of space for me to kick and thrash. And space for those times when we have a guest. Because, like I said, I’m greedy, and sometimes a little more is just a little more fun.
There is the intimacy. I learned a word recently: it’s an ugly word with a beautiful meaning: compersion. The Urban Dictionary defines compersion: “A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship.”
A lot of things I have read on triads and polyamory talk about jealousy. How you have to overcome it, or that it is bad. There are a lot of personal essays I read where people say they aren’t jealous. They’ve evolved beyond that. I am jealous. I have not evolved well in this category, but remember, I am greedy. I want everything for me. And sometimes, it isn’t for me. Sometimes it isn’t about me. Sometimes it is about them. That is the hardest part, and the most beautiful part. The times when it isn’t about me.
When I tell you Alex is my soul mate, I am not doing justice to the truth. I have never loved or felt for anyone the way I feel for Alex. I have seen him fuck a lot of guys. We have shared a lot of adventures. But watching him fall in love, watching him be afraid or insecure, watching his eyes light up or the way he smiles when Jon walks into a room: this was new. This was beautiful and painful: it was devastating and gorgeous: it was beyond anything I knew how to feel. And falling in love with Jon, all that new dating, new emotion, new love feeling coinciding with my relationship to Alex, planning our wedding, our honeymoon all while falling madly in love with Jon: none of it made any sense to me.
I’m not completely sure it does now.
I fought against it, a lot, in the beginning. I was furious. I wanted to love them both and I wanted them both to love me but I didn’t think I could handle them loving each other. I remember a very dramatic moment in Vancouver when I fell out of bed and then flew into a rage, storming around the apartment we were staying in, going so far as to walk out, all the way to the elevator, furious and lonely and angry. I broke up with them that night. It didn’t last more than a few hours. I can be childish like that. I remember long, overly logical conversations I would have with myself, lying next to them as they cuddled in their sleep: trying to convince myself that everything was okay. I was okay. This was okay.
It wasn’t until I realized maybe it wasn’t okay that I was able to start actually finding my way through all those feelings. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Yes, maybe one day they would fall so in love with each other that they would have to leave me. I’m also 17 years older than the two of them. My favorite game of torture to play is: what happens when I’m 57 and they are 40 (7 years younger than I am now). Some days I am aware of all the moments I don’t share with them. All the jokes that are theirs only. The private moments. The things that, again, have nothing to do with me.
It is possible all the worst, ugliest things might happen. I mean, that is life, right? Sometimes bad shit happens.
But then I remember: Alex loves me. Jon loves me. And when we leave the house together we all huddle, arms around each other, and I can breathe them in: I can feel them. I know them. They are mine. And I am theirs. Together and independently. We belong together.
And that’s it, right? That is all that matters. The thing about being a grown up is knowing: maybe it will work out. Maybe it won’t. Either way, in the end, I will be okay. This isn’t always easy. But then, nothing really is. It takes work. It takes sacrifice. But, it also takes less work and less sacrifice than I think it should. If I can just shut up and stay out of the way it is way less complicated and hard than I think it is. Sometimes it’s actually kind of easy. Natural. I mean, really, it’s just me and Alex and Jon.
The day I found out I was HIV Positive I was working security at the Faultline for a Sunday Beer Bust. It was October 13, 2013. I’m sure there is some kind of numerological magic to the date. A testing truck was parked in the parking lot. I don’t know what made me think to get tested. It just seemed like the thing to do. The tester was bored. He wanted to be inside getting drunk. He looked at the results and then at me and he said,
“Oh, I’m really sorry.” Then he looked outside and waved to someone in the parking lot.
“Excuse me?” I said. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so surprised. There had been clues. Choices made that should have made this less of a surprise, but still…I just didn’t think I would find something like that out from such an uninterested asshole in the parking lot of the Faultline.
I think it was the banality that upset me more than anything else. And the fact that he was so unattractive. It just didn’t seem fair.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and kind of shrugged. “The results are positive. Would you like me to make you an appointment with someone?”
“Other than you? Yes. Please.”
I made up some excuse to leave work. I think I said that the sink exploded at the house, or that Alex had set himself on fire, something outrageous. I had to get home. Away. Just for a few minutes. I had to see Alex.
If I could just see Alex than maybe this might make some kind of sense.
And I had to know if he would still love me.
We had guests staying at the house. I told Alex I needed him to come outside. I needed to talk to him. And I stood there, on our front porch, and I looked at him and my heart broke. I burst into tears. He wrapped his arms around me, holding on to me and he kept saying,
“Baby, what is it? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to answer. I just wanted to stay like that, wrapped in his gigantic arms, forever, safe.
But if I have learned anything in life, it is that the world will keep going: life will keep flowing, and that we are never safe from the inevitable. When I found out that my mother had cancer I learned about inevitabilities: everything I love, everything I hold dear, everything that I find beautiful and wonderful will one day die. That is inevitable. It is a rule of life. When I found out I was HIV Positive I learned that I too will die. Like everything else. One day I will die.
But I also learned something else. I learned that Alex did not pull away from me, he did not tell me to leave, he didn’t yell at me and he did not reject me: instead he held me tighter, and he cried with me, and then he said,
“Okay. We will be okay. We will take care of this.”
And we did. We found me a doctor. We learned that HIV never really leaves the body, it just hides out, in the belly or the brain, always vigilant, so I have to be vigilant too. Every day I have to take my pills. Every day at two Alex sends me a text to remind me. He has been doing this for a year and a half. Together we are vigilant. Together we stand guard.
And I made a decision: that day, October 13, 2013, will have power for me. It will have meaning for me. This thing that lives inside me: it will matter. I will let it change me. I will let it affect me and alter who I am: I will take my inevitable death and I will do something with it: because what is not inevitable is happiness, or success, or beauty: I could fail. It is possible to lose everything. To end up alone. I might relapse, shoot dope, become homeless: these things are all possible with a man like me. But I decided that the world would be different for me: even if I failed I was going to try, I was going to succeed in the doing: my life would have meaning because I was going to give it meaning.
I hear a lot that being HIV positive in this day and age doesn’t mean anything: it’s manageable, it’s not important: it doesn’t mean I will die or get sick, not anymore, and they are right. I am healthy. I am strong. I am not sick, and for today, I am not dying.
But it does mean something. It is like a sign along the way: a reminder: none of this is forever. My mother will die. Alex will die. Jon will die. You will die. Everyone will die. It sounds like such an obvious thing. Of course. But feel it. Really know it. And it changes you. At least it changed me.
I am lucky. I have always been lucky. I have a beautiful life. I am surrounded by love. I’m happy. Happiness is one of those things that comes easily to me. I want to be happy. I like it. It feels good.
Recently, when the three of us are all together: Alex is gone right now, in Spokane, working on season two of the TV show he is on: But when we are all together I like to lay in bed and listen to the two of them while they sleep. Their breathing encases me, it wraps me in warmth and love. There is a magic in those moments, a power, that is another one of those signs along the way: Yes, you will die, but you will also live. This is living. This is it. Right now.
Sometimes all we are doing is watching TV. Sometimes I am sitting at the desk writing and they are on the couch showing each other stupid tumblr cat gifs and giggling: they do that a lot: look at cat gifs and giggle, sometimes we are arguing or we are fucking, sometimes we are eating ice cream and pop tarts till we are sick, sometimes we are cleaning up cat piss or dog puke or stressing the fuck out or going for a walk: sometimes we are doing nothing and I will see them, or I will catch the light as it falls across them, and I will think: I am the luckiest man alive.
This life is a kind of magic. It is a spell: we are like magicians: conjurers. My mother once told me, you have two choices in life: You either believe in magic or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it is real. Just choose. Which seems more interesting to you?
Three weeks before we got married we asked Jon to move in. This, in retrospect, seems like a strange choice. Maybe we should have waited a few months, let married life settle in: not just for us but for our families. But things were moving: life was moving. So we kept going with it.
We decided that we would introduce Jon to our families at our wedding. This made a kind of sense at the time: I wonder though, if maybe a pizza night before hand would have been easier. I can still see Jon, in a corner, surrounded by all our family and friends, a little lost, so handsome, and people asking him, “How do you know Jeff? How do you know Alex?” And he would say, “I’m Jon. I’m their boyfriend.”
…TO BE CONTINUED