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.”
To say they fuck a lot in Berlin is to misunderstand what those words mean.
Everything hurt. The day before we left for our honeymoon I did something to my lower back at the gym. A shooting pain shot down my leg with every step I took. My allergies had taken on a life of their own and I was on antibiotics for a sinus infection. Alex had just gotten home from six months in Spokane Washington where he works on a TV show called Znation. We were still re-learning language and who we had each become during those six months. We were relearning each other. And Jon wasn’t coming with us. He had started a new job as a journalist at a newspaper and it was our honeymoon. We had all decided this was an important thing for Alex and I to do alone.
But it hurt. Everything hurt. Physically and emotionally. I felt distant. Cut off from both of the men I loved. They felt like far off stars I could see and wonder at, but could never quite feel.
This is how love is sometimes. Something you know of, something you can say and think, something you can be a part of and yet it is unattainable: the only feeling inside you is emptiness.
In the weeks leading up to our trip I felt empty: the only emotion I really had was rage. And even that felt weak and false: something created out of desperation to remind myself I was alive. There wasn’t actually anything to be rageful at. My life is basically good. Sure there are places I can improve: money, order, defects I can work on, parts of myself that need building and re-structuring, but for the most part I was…I am…happy. But even that was something I only knew, not something I felt. Happiness, like love, like pain, like hope, like despair and excitement, had suddenly become just ideas: philosophical theories with no practical reality.
And so I watched the men I love move through their lives like distant constellations: whole worlds unto themselves: unreachable and unknowable. And I wondered if this is how I felt to them: something beautiful and yet foreign, something they loved and yet could never quite grasp.
This distance: this sense of being cut off from the world around me: is one of the defining aspects of my life: of who I am. I have always known this. Part of what drove me to drugs was a desire to connect: to something, to anything: to find a pattern to life that always felt invisible: a shadow revealed in flashes, but never fully realized. Humanities’ one truth: we are completely alone. We will never know the truth of each other. Or of ourselves. We will always be just a little too in the dark. No matter how much we think we have figured it all out: we haven’t. And we can’t. That is the rule of the game.
That we never get to know the rules of the game. Or even what the game is. We just get to play.
I marvel at my ability to hurt them: Jon and Alex. Without even intending to. With a casual comment, or an offhand remark, a look: somehow without even knowing it I have stepped into their own private field of landmines and I am blowing the place the fuck up. It is unavoidable, of course. We all carry this history: long and dark and painful. We are all filled with buried treasures of past hurts and failures: of tiny wounds grown into great endless expanses.
We trample all over each other, completely unaware.
And these accidental explosions, these meaningless inflictions build up until sometimes we resent each other, sometimes we hate each other, and sometimes we love each other.
This is unavoidable. And it terrifies me.
Our flight to Berlin was at 5:00 am. We had to be at the airport by 3:00. There was no point in sleeping. We would sleep on the plane.
That is a trick I always play on myself. I will sleep on the plane. It is, of course, a lie. I never sleep on the plane. I know this is a lie. Even as I tell myself it I am aware I am being dishonest. And yet…I believe it. I believe in the possibility of it. It is similar to a game I used to play in New York City when I was just getting sober for the first time. If I wanted to get high I would tell myself: You can. You can get high, but you have to wait till tomorrow. If you wake up tomorrow and want to get high than you can. We will go get heroin and whiskey and Chinese food and you can float away into oblivion. Tomorrow. It was a trick. I knew it was a trick. But I also believed it: if tomorrow I still want to get high I can. The thing is: tomorrow I never want to get high. Tomorrow I always wake up slightly grateful that I hadn’t given in.
Another valuable secret: sometimes the best thing you can do is just go to bed and wait for tomorrow.
We had a three and a half hour lay over in Chicago. Alex was fascinated with the toilet seats in the airport: they were encased in a plastic sheeting, and when you were done they rotated, providing new, clean, plastic coverings.
I was having trouble walking. The pain was acute. I remember once, before flying to Rome, getting some kind of a stomach virus, and spending two hours at the Toronto airport puking. I thought I was going to die. When I got to Rome I spent the first day sleeping. I had terrible dreams of apocalypses and strange insectoid people feeding off the flesh of everyone I had ever loved while I was forced to watch.
Sometimes I feel like my dreams are premonitions of a past I can’t remember. Like some distant flash revealing the shapes of mountains without revealing the mountains themselves.
There are moments in a relationship when the world flows like magic. When you feel connected, like one. Where every touch and every glance makes your dick hard and your head spin. There are times when you know exactly why you fell in love: times when you find yourself falling even deeper in love.
And then there are times when nothing makes any sense. You hate yourself. You hate them. You feel trapped. The constructs of love feel barbaric, poisonous: you feel more like enemies than lovers. Every word is an invitation to battle. Every hidden glance, every thought, every touch repulsive and full of terror.
And there are times when one of you feels one way and the other feels another way. You want to believe being in love means being in synch. But this is just another lie we tell ourselves. To help us ride through the empty spheres, those moments when we feel soul-less and untethered, when we realize the fullness of our aloneness.
It makes me think about God. Or whatever it is you want to call that word. The Universe. Spirit. Nothingness. It makes me wonder about meaning and transgression: about destiny and failure.
It makes me wonder if I am capable of evening knowing myself, let alone another human being.
There are days when the three of us sit quietly on the couch, each locked in our worlds, our heads, our existences. I look at them and I realize that maybe I will never know what they are thinking, what is happening inside them: like all of life the things I know are just projections of what I believe to be true, having nothing to do with truth itself.
But it is still comforting. To see them. To feel their warmth.
I often think about what will happen when I die. They are standing over me. Alex will be crying. The look of loss on his face will be huge. Unprecedented. Alex is larger than anyone I have ever met. Sometimes I wish I could tell him none of it is his fault: its just part of being human. We were the lucky ones: even in the pain we loved each other. Even in the disjointed moments when nothing made sense we were soul-mates. Jon will be trying to comfort us both because that is what he does. He takes care of us. He will cry in the bathroom later, or when he has turned away: hidden. He is always telling us later that he cried. The only evidence we have is his testimony. I wish I could tell him that he is worth it: even if he thinks he isn’t: he is one of those rare and beautiful gifts: something most people will never get, and Alex and I are two of the luckiest people I know. The three of us are. I imagine, like a failed actor practicing his Oscar speech, what I will say to them. I imagine how they will look, how they will hold on: I imagine myself finally slipping away, utterly alone, without them.
It’s funny. When I sat down to write this morning I thought: today will be about orgies. About Berlin. About darkened skies that remind me of heroin and poetry. It will be about kissing the sexy Argentinian, holding him in place, while Alex fucks him, or about the grey haired British dude who fucked me while Alex talked dirty to him, cheering him on, about all the sex. The endless sex.
But instead I have found myself here. Jon is sitting next to the window. The wood slated blinds pulling in sunlight and creating shadows around him. Alex is lying on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed and beautiful, Ash, our cat, at his feet. Paco is in his bed, two days ago he jumped from a high spot onto the floor and fucked up his spine, he can no longer walk, we have to push on his bladder to make him pee, we spend hours researching doggie-wheelchairs: and all of this reminds me of how frail we are. How suddenly it will all be gone.
The words: one day I will die: have no real meaning. They can’t. Because like everything else they are unknowable. Untenable. The reality of them unattainable. But the truth is, whether I understand it or not: one day I will die. And so will they. And so will you.
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.
THE STORY OF US PART FOUR
It is important to explain that Alex had been gone for six months. He came home, in October, from Season One of Znation. Our focus was supposed to be on our wedding. That was supposed to be the only thing we thought about.
We decided that I would fly to Spokane and meet Alex and we would drive North to Vancouver and then slowly, over three weeks, back down to LA. It was a strange period in my life. It was almost a year ago that I had found out I was HIV positive. Alex had been gone for six months. I would be getting married. Life was changing in strange and mysterious ways. Just three years ago I was still a drug addict. October is a heavy month for me. It is the month I got sober and the month I found out my status.
In a strange way I like to link these things to Rosh ha Shanna and Yom Kippur. I am not religious and I certainly don’t believe in the kind of God described by Judaism, but there is something healing in the idea of a new year and redemption, forgiveness.
I once asked a Rabbi why the Jews blow the shofar at Rosh ha Shanna. He told me the Jews have a contract with God, and every year, for Rosh ha Shanna, we renew that contract. That each year mankind’s fate hangs in a sort of existential balance. Will this be the year God finally gives up on us? Or will he find something beautiful, something worthwhile in man, and be our King for one more year?
One of my favorite things to do is go listen to the Rabbi blow the shofar. The sound does something to me, conjures something up inside me: it reminds me of something I think I have forgotten. There is a magick to it. The Rabbi told me that we blow the shofar in order to cry out to God, imploring him, reminding him that we are worth another year of existence. Begging him not to give up on us: to renew the contract between man and deity. But it is also the cry of humanity into the great darkness, the void, the endless scream, howling for our creator: because we have been severed, cut off from the source, and the cry of the shofar is the cry of our pain, calling out to God to know us. To believe in us. To have faith in us.
In some strange way I believe this. The sound of the ram’s horn blowing, the Rabbi standing there, dark and mysterious and wrapped in cloth: it is desolate, full of despair and pain, full of loneliness and terror: the sound pierces me. For one brief moment, wrapped in that wail, I am the one standing alone, trembling, shaking, waiting for God to decide: am I worth it? Am I worthy of this existence?
In Seattle we fucked a sexy bartender we had met on Scruff. We had spent the night wandering around Seattle’s Capital Hill, eating dinner, checking out all the bars: we flirted with a sexy bear couple, watched a drag queen do karaoke, sat on stone walls and watched as people walked by, the endless parade of humanity that fills cities on weekend nights: are we happy? Is this fun? Is this it? Is this everything? Is there more? Can I be more?… a silent chant flickering in the eyes of everyone we saw.
We had seen the bartender at one of the many gay bars we had been to. I was unclear on how sexy I thought he was until he sent us a picture of his ass: he had one of those asses that you don’t say no to.
It was four am. We were staying in a studio we had rented on airbnb. Alex was drunk. I told the guy to come over, get naked, bend over the couch, and just let us do what we wanted. He seemed to like that idea. I went down stairs to let the guy in. When we came back, Alex was sitting on the couch, a drunken silly-sexy smile on his face, completely naked, hardon sticking up proud as ever. I fell so madly in love with him in that moment. He was outrageous and funny and ridiculous and stupid sexy all at the same time.
We fucked that bartender with the amazing ass until none of us could stand, and then we sent him home, Alex and I curling up in the small loft bed, the sun coming up, birds loud and obnoxious out the window, and held each other as we fell asleep.
I tell this story because it stands out for me as a visceral and gorgeous testimonial to my love for Alex. He was the first guy I was ever able to truly be myself with. In all aspects. I didn’t have to hide my sexual sides: the dirty dog who wanted to fuck some dude bent over the couch at 4am and than send him home, barely speaking two words, and then cuddling with my lover, wrapped in sweat and cum and ass funk, and laugh at how amazing our lives were. I could be vulnerable with him and stupid with him and scared: he has never rejected me, never looked at me like something was wrong inside me, never found a flaw with my desires or fears or insecurities, he has never made me feel dirty or unworthy. And it makes me think of that shofar: the two of us standing on a mountain top, the world vast and endless, the sky above us eternal: infinite in its alien intelligence, and suddenly I no longer feel so alone: together we will wail and scream and howl at the world, at God, at the terror: and together we will celebrate ourselves: in all our dirty, shit mongering, diseased, beautiful, disastrous ways.
And it will be okay. We will all be okay.
The next day we drove to Vancouver. We had rented an amazing one-bedroom apartment at the End of Davie, at the sea-wall, on the 18th floor overlooking the beach and the ocean in one direction, and the city and the mountains in the other. We spent three days in Vancouver eating bagels on Granville, wandering the City, meeting new friends and fucking on the couch overlooking that incredible view.
Then we drove the long drive to Portland: I don’t really get Portland as a City. It feels strangely detached and cold to me, sexless in an oversexed way, but the food was fucking amazing. Seriously, I’ve had some amazing meals in that town.
In San Francisco we became friends with our Uber driver: I still regret not inviting him up to our apartment and fucking senselessly: it was so obvious we all wanted it, but it just didn’t happen. He did meet us later that night and we’ve all become friends, but have no doubt: I plan to fuck that Uber driver into the ground the first chance I get (or maybe let him fuck me into the ground, Alex and Jon holding me down). We made out with a sexy bearded man at the Eagle, and stayed up all night sitting on the balcony of the house we rented in Twin Peaks and watched as the fog devoured the City, enshrouding it in a kind of ecstatic gloom. During the day we drank Phil’s Coffee and wandered used book stores and magick shops and bought a new dildo for me: I love the reverence Alex shows towards my ass, an idolatry toward it: this makes me want to show it off for him, put myself on display: offer myself up to him: when it is just us my whole being becomes focused on his pleasure: submissive and hungry and madly in love.
We decided on a wedding date. February 21. I had grand ideas about our wedding at first. I thought about renting a house in Cambria or Big Sur. I considered Ojai and Idylwild. Moroccan estates in Palm Springs. Beach front properties in Malibu. Then we decided maybe just have it at the house. We have this tiny but amazing 1910 craftsman with original detail in Hollywood. A cute little back courtyard. Why spend thousands of dollars on a wedding when we could save it all for a grand honeymoon adventure…we love travel adventures.
The future was open. We thought we knew the course of things. We had no idea that in a few weeks we were going to meet Jon, fall in love, and invite him in to our adventure.
The Rabbi told me another story. This is when I was 22, in the midst of a dark and heavy heroin addiction. I had been sent to him for counseling. Rehab and AA and therapy hadn’t worked. Maybe a man beholden to a mythical God could save me. He told me about a boy in a small Russian village who had been very sick and was dying. His parents went to the Rabbi and asked for his help. The Rabbi prayed and prayed to God, and still the boy was sick, dying. He brought together all the elite holy men of the village, and they prayed to God, begging for a reprieve, but the boy only got sicker. Then the Rabbi went to the other side of the village, where the thieves and murders and whores lived and he brought them to the boy’s bedside and together, with those thieves and murders and whores he prayed to God. And the boy got better.
“Sometimes, Jeff, it isn’t the good or the holy who save the world. Sometimes we need a thief to break into the kingdom of Heaven and get God’s attention. Sometimes we need a whore to remind God how beautiful we can be. This path you are on, it is your path. We can not judge you for it. We can not condemn you for it. It is the path that you must walk with your Creator. Find a way to make it wondrous, find a way to make it a testament to God.”
When people ask me why I write I think back to that Rabbi, and I think, this is my testament to God. Together my Creator and I wallow in filth and debauchery, in sex and in vile beauties, and together we redeem ourselves, and together we grow: hand in hand, each of us completely dependent upon the other.
TO BE CONTINUED….
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